It is with mixed emotions that the Park Ridge Park District announces the retirement of its Executive Director, Gayle Mountcastle, after 39 years in the parks and recreation industry. Gayle informed the Board she will retire May 17, 2024 to enjoy more time with family and friends, and to continue to enjoy life.
At the time of her retirement, Gayle will have led the District as its top executive for the past 13 years. Gayle has spent almost half of her career at the Park Ridge District, previously serving Park Ridge for six years as the Superintendent of Recreation. Prior to joining our District, Gayle was the Superintendent of Recreation at both the Des Plaines and Streamwood Park Districts, as well as starting her professional career at the Skokie Park District.
“I am extremely fortunate that I have spent my career in the parks and recreation industry,” stated Gayle Mountcastle. She continued, “It has been an incredible honor and privilege to have served the Park Ridge community. It is so rewarding to witness the residents utilizing our recreation services, especially after the opening of new park amenities and facilities. I wish to thank the current and past board members, staff, and community for all of their support during my years at the District. By working together, we have seen the District grow and thrive as an integral part of the community. The hardest part of this decision is leaving the team, but we have built a positive culture of dedicated staff who will continue to serve the District and community. The District is positioned for continued growth, and I am confident it will thrive for years to come.”
As Gayle announces her retirement from the Park Ridge Park District, we reflect on the legacy of her leadership. During her 13 years as the Executive Director she has led major improvements that have resulted in incredible growth in facilities, programs, and acquisition of open space. When Gayle came to the District there were several Park District facilities that were aging and in significant need of attention. Gayle has worked closely with legislators advocating for the District, and was successful in acquiring over $5M in grants for improvements to the parks and facilities. Centennial Pool was the first major renovation under her leadership. The facility is now operating as the Centennial Aquatic Center and is a major destination for the community. Other large initiatives have included the Maine Park renovation, Prospect Park land acquisition and development through a $13.2 million referendum, and most recently the passing of a $33.4 million-dollar referendum to renovate Oakton Facilities and Park. Her recent initiative in leading the acquisition of the property next to the Wildwood Nature Center will allow for expansion of the popular nature programs. Park improvements including renovation of nine of the District’s 14 playgrounds, and planning for three additional in the coming few years. Placing a strong emphasis on looking at the parks holistically has also increased shade shelters, walking paths, and rain gardens along with several unique amenities. The most recent was the renovation of Woodland Park, bringing the residents their first true Pickleball facility with six dedicated courts, and additional park amenities.
Gayle is a strong proponent of recreation programs, and under her leadership the portfolio of programming has resulted in the highest participation in ten years in 2022 with 38,759 program registrants and 325, 651 daily facility attendees. Some of the larger program initiatives under her leadership have included the inception of the popular Beyond the Bell before/after school program, and the collaboration with Brickton Art Center to merge with the District allowing for expanded art programs for the community. Another proud accomplishment is her collaboration with the Park Ridge Historical Society and securing them a home in Solomon Cottage at Prospect Park.
Gayle has served her profession through involvement on State association committees including the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) Legislative Committee and several Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) committees. She is the past-president and current member of the Rotary Club of Park Ridge. She is also a long-serving Board member of the Northwest Municipal Federal Credit Union, serving public employees in Park Ridge and Des Plaines.
Park Board President, John Tunnell speaks of Executive Director Mountcastle’s time with the District stating, “Gayle's dedication and commitment to enhancing the quality of life in our community has been nothing short of remarkable. Her vision has transformed our parks into vibrant spaces of joy and community interaction. Her leadership has been a beacon, guiding us to reach new heights, always with a keen focus on inclusivity, sustainability, and community engagement. As she steps into her well-deserved retirement, we will strive to uphold the high standards Gayle has set, and we thank her for her tireless service and enduring impact on the Park Ridge community.”
At last night’s Board Meeting, the Park Board approved a proposal with GovHR USA for recruitment and selection of the Park District’s next Executive Director. Further information regarding the search will be posted at prparks.org when available.