Milham Park opened in 1911. The first day it was open, more than 5,000 people visited the park and its popularity has continued ever since.
The 49-acre park, carved by an oxbow in the Portage Creek and dotted with hundreds of shade trees, has a colorful history. It once had a zoo, a reptile house run by a 16-year-old herpetologist nicknamed “Jungle Larry” and was the site of a Depression-era squatter’s camp and a life-sized Lincoln Log cabin. Today joggers, family reunions, birders and anyone interested in playing outdoors share the space.
Milham Park is a favorite spot to explore for our playground experts, Emily Sykora and her 4-year-old son, Olo. Emily loves to bring Olo to this park after his morning preschool classes and to run around together until dinnertime.
The main playground, accessible from Kilgore Road, includes multiple slides, a suspension bridge and enough room for Emily and Olo to play a rousing game of tag. Emily noted that all of the playground equipment looks up-to-date and refurbished.
“My favorite part is the monkey bars,” declared Olo.
“What about the trails? Don’t you like riding your bike on the trails?” asked Emily.
“Oh yeah. My favorite part is riding my bike,” Olo decided.
Emily convinced Olo to migrate from the playground and picnic area closest to the parking lot on Lovers Lane, toward the WPA-era stone bridge crossing Portage Creek which leads to acres of walking trails. Just then, wind funnels of autumn leaves swirled up and around Olo and he chased the center of the whirling colors across a slightly flooded field, laughing uncontrollably.
“That’s really cool. He’s so happy,” said Emily.
With his shoes and socks soaked and the warm autumn sun beating down, Emily consented to let Olo go barefoot, roll up his pant legs and tiptoe ankle-deep across Portage Creek to a small island. There he stacked rocks against a log and decorated his rock tower, choosing only the brightest of yellow leaves.
As Olo hunted for rocks and leaves, Emily said, “We love to come here in every season. It’s just so beautiful and there’s so many little places to explore.” She also said it’s a place where she and Olo can get out any frustrations by just running around.
The sun began to sink west and Emily started the often-arduous process of transitioning a preschooler from play to dinner.
“I don’t want to go,” said Olo.
“It’s OK,” said Emily, “we’ll be back soon.”
Reviewed by Olo, age 4, and mom, Emily Sykora as reported by Emily Townsend