As Illinois days grow shorter and cooler, when we step onto the trail at May Watts Park, we’re mindful that the colorful landscape surrounding May Watts Pond is a natural tribute to former Naperville resident, May Theilgaard Watts.
Born in Chicago to Danish parents, naturalist May Watts (1893-1975) is remembered worldwide for her ideas and dedication to the Illinois Prairie Path when she lived at 227 E. Jefferson Ave. near North Central College.
Watts enjoyed a passion for preserving, writing and teaching about the great outdoors at the Morton Arboretum. Even more, in 1963, the mother, activist, and visionary, wrote a letter to the Chicago Tribune, proposing the first rail trail in the U.S.
All these years later, the park, trail and District 204 elementary school bordered by Countryside and West Wind subdivisions in the heart of Naperville are a tribute to her devoted efforts back in the 1960s.
Visitors can enter May Watts Park to trek its .89-mile trail through the park and around the pond from Oakton, Whispering Hills and Sequoia roads.
Be prepared to see anglers, seagulls, great blue heron, egrets, double-crested cormorants, ducks, geese, squirrels, chipmunks, coyotes and maybe even a muskrat among the wildlife and many native Illinois birds that don’t migrate.
Buddy up with a friend to hit the trail and note the new playground behind the school with a bright yellow buddy bench that’s inscribed with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Naperville is blessed with more than 130 natural park settings throughout the city where every season provides time to observe wildlife during peaceful walks through neighborhoods or along the Riverwalk.
Just remember, whatever the season and whatever the park, let wildlife be wild. Let the ecosystem thrive. Keep waterways clean. Pick up after pets. Encourage natural migration by keeping human food and snacks away from wildlife—especially ducks and geese.
Seize the moments to see nature run its course this autumn, this winter and then some.