This morning I had a discussion with Decatur Park Board Commissioner Chris Riley, regarding the closing of Big Creek Riding Center. I had expressed my concerns over the closure of the facility.
I sensed that the park board has abandoned the idea of a horse stable working there and see the site as a prime location to generate revenue by leasing the land for private development. That was what I was fearing. He didn’t come out and say that. That’s just what I came away with, so take that for what it’s worth.
Another idea that Riley tossed out but didn’t seem confident would happen because of the lack of funds, would be to develop a facility similar to the Decatur Indoor Sports Center at Big Creek. Personally, I love that idea. There isn’t anything similar on the east end of Decatur.
If it were up to me, I would be pushing for that option.
Regarding my suggestion of transferring the land to the conservation district, he thought that the park district would be giving up an asset for nothing in return. I can see his point however, it’s public land and as part of the public, I want it in caring hands. I don’t care if the park district or the conservation district has it; I just want whoever has control of it, to protect and preserve it. Yes, I’m a tree-hugging conservation nut, and I always will be.
As far as the maintenance of Big Creek after it closes, he told me that it will be mowed in the summer and all the utilities will be turned off. It could be rented out for events.
Even after our discussion, I would have not closed Big Creek. There are other parks and facilities that are costing more, and offer little to no revenue to the park district. At least the stables brought in revenue. I would have kept the stables open until a concrete plan, favored by the public, was in place.
I respect Riley’s opinion, and I appreciate him speaking with me. I do share his opinion and vision about other things going on in the park district. I thank him for being willing to sit down and talk.
We spoke about lakefront development and I’m happy to see that moving forward. The new penguin exhibit in Scovill Zoo is loved by many. Otters will hopefully be coming in a couple years. I’m excited about the Beach House renovations and the new miniature golf course that will open in the spring of 2014.
The park district has many excellent programs and I share his passion for seeing that the park district keeps improving, even with a shrinking population. We probably disagree on golf courses but as we talked about, everyone has different interests. I just care more about horses than I do golf courses! That’s just me.
Others love golf and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as neither side takes away the other side’s enjoyment. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice programs and facilities to cater to smalls groups of people. There has to be a balance.
Regarding Big Creek, I still don’t see the urgency of closing it, or why it was chosen over other park owned sites, unless some type of development is in mind for the location, and that’s what worries me. Again, Riley said that there isn’t anything in the works, so I don’t want to give the impression that he told me anything of the sort. It’s just my intuition.
Again, I would push for a sports center over private development any day of the week. I would incorporate the horse trails and maybe even a stable for the site. After all, it’s already set up for it. It’s a beautiful location and I want whatever its future purpose is to continue improving the quality of life of Decatur residents.
I think everyone on the park board wants what is best for Decatur and we’re not going to agree 100% of the time how to do that. There’s no good guy or bad guy; we just disagree. I think I could turn that into a song!