As March is Women’s History Month, let’s look at the women for whom these three Naperville parks are named.
A neighborhood park near North Central College is named for Sally Benton. Benton and husband Lou were very involved in community pursuits such as the Heritage Society. In the early years, the Bentons chaired an annual Antiques Show that raised funds for what would become the Naper Settlement.
Benton’s sudden passing while helping to develop this park prompted the dedication in her name.
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Dorothea Weigand was another local who devoted herself to community service. She served as secretary to the Mayor, to the City Clerk, to the Plan Commission and to the Police and Fire board. She was herself named Naperville City Clerk from 1959-1963 and was the only woman on the first Board of Park Commissioners when the Park District was formed in 1966.
A lovely swath of park on south Washington Street along the DuPage River is named for Weigand.
May Watts Park adjoins May Watts School and both are named for the woman who started the “rails to trails” movement that includes our local Prairie Path.
Watts was an educator, scientist and author who collaborated with famed landscape architect Jens Jensen, spent years working at the Morton Arboretum and published botany books with husband Raymond.
It was after her retirement from the Arboretum that she inspired the movement to retain old, unused railroad tracks as green spaces for hiking and biking.
Watts was 70 years old in 1963 when she wrote a letter to the editor at the Chicago Tribune laying out her plan for the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin railroad right of way, launching a movement that continues to spread across the nation and the world.