Decatur Issues

The Decatur Park District has put up a RFQ packet on its’ site to attract a professional planning firm with the qualifications to create a master plan for Nelson Park.  Reading through the packet, I haven’t come across anything new.  Residential development is still being considered.   Just about every part of the park is under review but for Nelson Park Pavilion #1 and the beach house, which were both built in the late 1930’s as WPA projects.

One site that I haven’t discussed, (there’s actually something I haven’t discussed yet), is the miniature golf course at Nelson Park.  It is also under review.  I can’t think of a better use for that site, though the golf course is dated and could use some sprucing up.  In Wisconsin Dells and Myrtle Beach, I drove by and played, on some of the newer miniature golf courses, which are major attractions for these areas.  In Wisconsin Dells alone, many of the golf courses were themed.  One had a volcano which shot out fire, while another one had crashing waterfalls and rocky cliffs, reminiscent of Disneyland.  Some of those ideas might be over the top for Decatur but modernizing our miniature golf course isn’t a bad idea.

The thing that gets me still, is the closure of the Nelson Park golf course.  It seems to me, if Decatur wants to market the Nelson Park area, a nice golf course would fit into the plan.  What else are we going to use all that land for?  At one time, I wasn’t against some residential development on a portion of the golf course, but I’ve changed my mind on that.  Green space has value too and once you destroy it, it’s gone – at least for our generation.

Another thing that really irks me is the insistance that the closure of the golf course had nothing to do with any future development plans.  Uhm…

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Nelson Golf Course

Nelson Golf Course

So the Nelson Park Golf Course is officially closed, but the land still remains, but what do we do with it?  One idea, is to create a park similar to Fairview Park near Millikin University.  Add walking/bike trails, picnic areas, athletic fields, butterfly gardens, small fishing ponds, conservation areas, etc.  Preserving the green space is incredibly important in this part of Decatur.  It is a sight for sore eyes after a tour down Eldorado (US 36) or industrial 22nd Street.

Nelson Swimming Pool overlooking Lake Decatur

Nelson Swimming Pool overlooking Lake Decatur

As I’ve stated in a previous post, I’m not totally opposed to new development in Nelson Park, as long as it keeps the character of the park intact, and doesn’t consume  it.  Possibly, a partnership between the park and developer(s), would have a portion of the profits,  go towards park improvements and nearby neighborhood improvements.

With a smart plan, we could create something very unique and desirable in the Central Illinois area.  A big must for me, in any deal, is to see those improvements spill over to the existing neighborhoods in the Nelson Park area.  These homes face many of the same issues that all older neighborhoods face.  Some homes need repair; they’re showing their age, but there’s many well-maintained, well-constructed homes that are great for senior citizens and young families.  Crime has been a serious concern, but the neighborhood is composed of people who are diligently combating the problem.  (See:  Nelson Park Addition Neighborhood Watch)

At any rate, I hope the park district will be forthright with the public, when and if, any development takes place.  I hope it all hasn’t been decided for us behind closed doors.

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The City of Decatur will hold a goal setting session on Wednesday February 4th at 5:30 PM.  Residents can express their opinions by attending the meeting or submitting their suggestions online @ http://decatur.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_eEejzMJHmHN5wr2&SVID=Prod

Here’s a copy of the comment I sent:

I would like the city to focus on redeveloping the area of Rte. 48 and Grand Ave. near Walgreens.  There are several vacant commercial buildings in this highly visible area which are eyesores, and would likely dissuade any commercial development or redevelopment in the area. I don’t know if these building are on the demo list or if the city is in contact with the owners, but these buildings need to go – especially the former liquor store in the center of the intersection. Possibly the city should consider buying some of the worst structures in order to demolish them quicker – as it is now, the area isn’t marketable and reflects poorly on the community.

I would also like to comment about the two gas stations at the Oakland (Rte. 48) and Ravina Park intersection.  I would like stricter code enforcement for litter and building/grounds upkeep for these two buildings.  They reflect poorly on the Ravina Park / Home Park neighborhoods. I would encourage the city to focus attention on both of these properties and encourage the owners to improve their properties for the value of the neighborhood.  At one time, they both were well maintained assets to the neighborhood, however lately both gas stations have gown downhill with neglect.

Lastly, I would encourage the city to install new sidewalks on McKinley Ave. between Oakland and Monroe. This is a very busy shortcut for DMH employees and other drivers, and I’ve personally seen a woman pushing a baby stroller fall and sprang her ankle as she moved to the side of the road to allow traffic by. It’s too narrow for the amount of traffic it gets and is very dangerous for pedestrians.

Thank you for considering my suggestions.

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The city of Decatur’s Web site has a copy of the Macon County/Decatur Comprehensive Plan Draft, which has several ideas for improving Decatur and Macon County.   This is a 136 page PDF file that tackles economic, park, conservation, historic, transportation, and residential issues facing Decatur.  Much of it focuses on beautifying some of Decatur’s main corridors and older neighborhoods, while ensuring future development is in synch with exsisting development.  There’s much to digest in the document but the “Decatur Landing” proposal caught my eye.  Decatur Landing refers to the Nelson Park and Chandler Park areas along Lake Decatur’s shores.  City leaders and developers have tossed around ideas for this area, however I hadn’t seen an actual sketch of what is being considered until I browsed through the plan document.  (See page 114 of the draft.)   A new hotel, beach and amphitheater is in the draft and would fill what is now Chandler Park,  situated directly south of St. Mary’s Hospital and on the corner of Lake Shore Drive and Lost Bridge Road.

Personally, I’ve always thought the Chandler Park area was underutilized and an attractive area for  development.  I’ve discussed development in this area before on this blog but being a visual learner, it helped to actually see what is being proposed.

I’d encourage every Decaturite take a look at the plan draft to get an idea of what city leaders are considering for the future.

http://decaturil.gov/citygovernment/citydocs/compplandraft.pdf

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You’ll find a proposal in this week’s city agenda packet with detailed drawings and conceptual renderings of the proposed new Decatur Police Station.  It certainly helps to actually see what the building may look like, if the city can find funding for the project.  The new station is expected to cost between $15,490,000 – $17,436,000.  The new police station would be located just west of the current law enforcement center on the corner of E. Macon and S. Water Street.  The city council will be discussing this proposal tonight during the city council meeting.

http://decaturil.gov/citygovernment/council/packetinfo/policeproposal.pdf

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