Lakefront Development Study Notes for March 31st

Just a reminder that the Lakefront Development Study for the community is tonight at the Scovill Banquet Center (I hope that’s what it’s called) at Scovill Golf Course.   Tonight’s meeting will have the first drawings of proposed ideas for the development.  It’s from 6-8.  I’ll be going, dragging my kids with me!


Okay, back from the meeting.  I was really impressed with many of the ideas and wasn’t repulsed to the point of convulsions by any of the suggestions, so that’s a start.  😉  There were three “themed” plans.  I liked elements of each plan but was most impressed with the “adventure” theme.  This had an indoor/outdoor waterpark, white water rapids, which would follow the same ravines as the park now, and a tall climbing wall. This theme probably had the least amount of residential development proposed.  Residential development anywhere in Nelson Park is probably going to be the toughest sell to the community, though there were some suggestions that I could live with.  None of them involved sub-divisions or a massive amount of residential development.

Probably the most substantial plan for residential development were the twin 8-10 story apartment buildings, which would be located not far from the sail boat club.  There was also a proposal of getting rid of the current mini-golf area, knocking down that hill and construction small residential dwellings.  I think of all the plans, that one went over like a lead balloon with me.  I’d really prefer the center of Nelson Park to remain something everyone can enjoy.

Of course, a bike trail going around the entire basin is popular with pretty much everyone.  I was really intrigued by the idea of floating boardwalks.  Two of them would be constructed – one near the 36 bridge and the other by Lost Bridge Road.  This would be much more affordable than building a pedestrian bridge across the entire basin.  A portion of both boardwalks would be a raised bridge for boats to pass under.  I really think the boardwalks, in all of the proposals, are going to be the major attraction, for anything we do down there.  They really make what Decatur is trying to do unique.

Another idea I really liked and could be done this year, if we wanted is planting native plants and flowers in the Chandler Park area.  Currently this area isn’t used by anyone, except some squirrels.  It sits directly across from St. Mary’s Hospital.  A big benefit would be a cost savings from not having to mow this area any longer.  Trails could wind through the park and the native plants would attract birds and butterflies.

There’s many more ideas I haven’t even discussed!

Of course, pictures tell more than a thousand words, so I’ll just let you take a look at the plans yourself:  (Click on the photos for a larger view.)

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17 Comments, RSS

  1. Sue Barnhart April 2, 2010 @ 1:44 am

    I was pretty impressed as well. I LOVED the rental row boats. The board walk is cool. While I want it to stay public and mainly green space – I like the resturants with outside seating. I love the sledding hill and the ice skating – kinda sentimental for me cause those are the types of activities I remember around that area as kid.

    Honestly – even though I thought I would – I did not dislike the residental. The way I understand it the land all stays public and the highrises – say that choice was made I believe are located by drop off where they would not really block much if any lake view from LSD. So long as all of it is done modestly and not too many trees taken out and lots of new ones put in.

    Personally I kinda like the smaller water park better than the giant one. And honestly if I’m correct on the high rises not blocking the view – I kinda thought that was cool idea. Because they take away less public space and they would not compete in anyway whatsoever with the small homes in the nearby neighborhoods. So I think they would do more to bring the value up of the surrounding neighborhoods. Just my thoughts. They meet a completely different type of need than houses do and we currently have too many houses.

    I love the gardens the one plan had as well. But I wouldn’t want it to be just that. Of course walkng/bike trails. We want thing that will attract kids to come back after college and want to raise their families here but also another type of demographic is looming large in our future – retiring baby boomers.

    As our population ages we need to make this very accessable for the older folks too.

    Finally I really do not want us to forget our fishermen. I love walking the lake front pasted the fishermen who seem to me to be actually meditating.

  2. Sue Barnhart April 2, 2010 @ 1:50 am

    Oh, I forgot to say what thrilled me most of all – the bike/walking trail around the lake basin AND they future trail extentions through the neighborhoods I’d like to see benefit from this – past EHS to Lions park and then over to Johns Hill park. Which if anyone has not been near those lately they are still very nice looking parks. A good group around Lions is working to keep that good. And actually Johns Hill park is beautiful (there is a kid a pick up often from by there)

  3. Sue Barnhart April 2, 2010 @ 1:51 am

    Great seeing you there Kris!

  4. Kris

    Kris April 2, 2010 @ 3:12 am

    It was great seeing you there too! I think the apartment buildings would be cool. I was envisioning them in a different spot along Lakeshore. If they’re proposed to go where I think they’re going to go, I’m okay with it and they’d be very popular with people of all age groups. I really don’t want to see the mini-golf course hill removed and a housing village go there. I’d rather have the housing somewhere else.

    I think a mixture of residential, adventure and retail is the best bet.

    I kinda like the bigger waterpark. They’re fun! I’ve been to a couple and they are major draws for tourism. I’ve never been to one like the one they’re suggesting. It would be awesome!

    But one thing that concerned me, which we spoke about at the meeting, was all the walking that would be required. It’s nice to take out some roads but for older folks, and lazy folks (cough, cough), we don’t want to make every attraction a two mile hike.

    And another major concern is the water quality of the lake itself and the fact that it doesn’t look so great during droughts. I think those issues are being considered. We really need cleaner water if we expect people to want to go out and really use the lake. I swim in Lake Shelbyville and Clinton Lake but there’s no way I’d swim in Lake Decatur. And then I worry about what visitors are going to think about our unique smelling city. 😉

  5. Kris

    Kris April 2, 2010 @ 3:16 am

    Oh, and I want to add LOTS OF GREENSPACE! There’s nothing we could do that would outdo what nature has already provided us with. The landscape of Nelson Park should be enhanced, not buried.

  6. Anonymous April 2, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    Me too Kris. Regarding our smell you know my solution has always been education. I think the city needs to partner with ADM and Tate and Lyle and put up digital signs around town that say: “What’s cooking today:” french fry oil, sweetners, doggy food..(pardon the smell but we like doggies)

    It’s food processing how bad can it really be? I think reminding people of that would help.

  7. Kris

    Kris April 2, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

    “It’s food processing how bad can it really be?”

    It can be bad! Some mornings I wake up feeling sick and I don’t know why until I step out the front door and take a whiff. “Oh, that explains it!” It makes me nauseous and gives me a splitting headache – depending upon what they’re cooking. But I feel that way walking down the detergent aisle at Kroger’s. I’m very sensitive to smells and pollutants in the air apparently.

    But I was just thinking about what reviews people would leave on vacation sites. “It looked great and we had a great time but the smell – gag!” That may turn people off.

  8. Sue Barnhart April 3, 2010 @ 5:56 am

    Kris – the above post was me – not sure what happened to my name!

  9. Park April 5, 2010 @ 5:45 am

    In the H&R opinion article today it said some of the cost of the lake development will be paid for by leases to developers. Is this not selling park land? There is such a thing as a 99 year lease. How will this benefit the park district, they would no longer have control of the land if it is leased. Would they get a monthly fee for the leases? Will the developers with the leases have to pay property taxes to the city?
    It just saddens me to think housing will go on park land which people, many years ago, worked so hard to put together. There are elements of the designs I liked, mainly the ones which maintained the park as a park. Does housing belong in a park is the big question. It is just plain sad.

  10. Kris

    Kris April 5, 2010 @ 8:03 pm

    Park, I totally understand your concerns about the residential development. When I first saw the plans for the two big apartment buildings, I wasn’t too impressed but after thinking about it, I’d prefer them over a long row of condos along the lake show or a condo village in the middle of the park. (EEK!) The 8-10 story apartment buildings would have a much smaller footprint upon park land and be located in a less used portion of the current park. Right now it’s mostly private docks.

    Sue and I talked at the meeting and she brought up a good point that most of the lake is already residential – which it is. The complaint has always been that there isn’t enough public access to the lake – not that there aren’t enough homes. There’s more than enough. And I don’t buy the argument that condos are going to attract the younger crowd. Mostly older, retired couples purchase condos. Decatur has plenty of old people. (No offense to our senior citizens =)

    I think residential development is going to be a part of any plan down there. We’re not going to stop it but if it can be contained to a small portion, that’s probably the best we’ll be able to do.

    The worst idea I’ve heard is having a major retail outlet build their store there, like Kohl’s. That’s been mentioned on Byers’ show. (Not Kohl’s specifically but a store of that size.) That’s awful! I’d rather saw down every tree, fill in every valley and drain the lake than turn Nelson Park into Northgate Mall.

    And yes Decatur needs MORE greenspace. I don’t count weeded vacant lots on Condit Street as greenspace. Nelson Park has a unique geography to the area. It’s beautiful. I don’t want to see it buried under development.

  11. Park April 5, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

    I agree the two big buildings would take up less land and would be at the far end. I just wonder what St. Mary’s will think about their view being the top of these buildings. I just remember the first meeting they had you put red dots for the things you disliked and green dots for the things you liked. Residential housing had a lot of red dots. I think they have decided on housing and that is that.
    I had heard the comment about a big retail store too – how ridiculous. This has to be from someone who hasn’t been down there in January.
    There were elements I really did like. The water park, zip lines…etc, gardens, I lean towards things a family could do together. I wasn’t crazy about the driving range, if you don’t have a golf course to play on afterwards what is the point.

  12. Kris

    Kris April 5, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

    I have video of the lake from this past winter and it looked like the polar cap. It wouldn’t be a pleasant walk. The breeze coming off of Lake Decatur in the winter is bone chilling!

    I love the water park, gardens, boardwalk, bike trails, mini-golf and I’m with you regarding the driving range. We already have one at Scovill. It’s not going to draw people from out of town.

  13. Galen April 8, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

    These are very impressive drawings and I am sure they cost all a ton of Tax Dollars. The Park Dist. can’t afford to maintain what they already have, how much more tax will this cost. The School Dist. wants to spend 100M on High Schools alone. Oh, we need a new Police Station, all our roads need fixed, where will it all end. With the Federal Government budget in a deficit and State Government broke, City government broke, School Dist. broke, are we seeing a pattern here? How will this all be paid for and Maintained? I am not a pessimist but the reality is, We can not afford this plan. To attract people to your City you have to have good schools, low crime rates, affordable housing and low tax rates. This should be a low priority for the people of Decatur.

  14. Tony April 8, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

    I think that the things that would be available to the public for their recreational use are good ideas. Some of them have been tried and failed and should be left out. We had a disk golf coursse and it is now a dog run whoops park. Ithink that the park district should get back to providing the people good high quality recreational spaces with things for the tax payers to do for free or at aminor cost. They should get back to parks and recreation and out of the business of economic development. The hiking/bike path is a good example of what works.

  15. Park April 8, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

    Go to:, click on Project Summary and scroll down to Preliminary Design Concepts. After looking them over you can go to comments and say what you like and don’t like. If I am not mistaken less than 100 people submitted their ideas for Nelson Park at the beginning of the process. If you want to have a chance of stopping housing or anything else you don’t like on any of the designs you need to submit your comments on the above site.

    I believe the cost of the plans was $295,000 shared between the park district and the city.

  16. Kris

    Kris April 9, 2010 @ 1:03 am

    Money is going to be a big issue, no doubt. We have to be careful about what we plan because things can and do flop, even with the best of planning and intentions. If we go too small we won’t see an economic benefit. If we’re unrealistic then we’ll spend more than we’ll make back.

    The way I see it, I think residential is part of the plan. I think it always has been – not that I think it needs to be but I think they see it as a less risky investment. However, the more I think about the condos, the more I am against them. At the meeting they spoke about, “Well, there would still be public access because there will be a boardwalk over the water in front of the condos.” (Those aren’t exact words but that’s pretty much what was said.) That’s not good enough for me. It is a park. Walking in front of a row of private homes isn’t my idea of a public park. Of course, the situation right now isn’t that wonderful either. It’s lined with private docks and there’s few area where the public actually has access to the water for fishing or just sitting, meditating and watching the ducks swim by.

    I believe the bike trail / boardwalk, nature area in Chandler Park, small shops and restaurants and an upgraded miniature golf course would go over well. I don’t see those ideas as risky or overly expensive. We already know they’d work. Some of those things already exists in Nelson Park and have been successful for many years.

    I can see where the water park might be viewed as risky. But if it’s built the way that they showed, it would be something! It could bring in thousands and thousands of people every year and millions of dollars in tax revenue. That’s the whole purpose of the development – to bring in revenue to pay for the basic services that we’re having a hard time paying for now. It takes money to make money. I’ve been to two water parks, one in Wisconsin Dells and the other at Santa Claus, Indiana and they were packed – total tourist magnets. People will drive 5-10 hours to go to one.

    But definitely get your two cents in at, whether you agree with me or not. Whatever you’d like to see or not see, let them know!

  17. Anonymous April 9, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    I think if there is a necessity for the park district to sellor lease park land for condo’s or any other housing that the besst location would be at the corner of Lakeshore dr. andMartin Luther King,the current location of the park district offices. They are just in a couple of small biuldings and could be relocated into some of the hundreds of other properties that they own. All of the public utilitiess are right there,including 2 4lane main roads. Thers a lot of land there not including Muller park. I think that it would be nice to have an overnight camp ground at the old boy scout camp. The park district has a lot of other properties to use to generate revenue without violating all of Nelson park.

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