Image shows the cost savings of using native plants in our parks.
Decatur Park District’s Master Plan public meeting was last night and there were no surprises in what Greg Weykamp unveiled is his presentation to the public and park officials.
Decatur’s population has declined 20 percent since 1980. The percentage of kids has declined even more steeply by 35%. What has remained relatively the same are the number of seniors in our population. The demographics play a roll in how our neighborhood parks should change to suit the needs of our changed population.
The city has about 2,000 acres of park land and it’s very expensive to mow and maintain, so I was glad to hear that it was suggested to use native grasses and wildflowers to cut mowing costs by as much as $1.5 million dollars a year. It would also create habitat for wildlife and make a more attractive setting for walking and nature trails.
The size of the individual parks would not be changing. That’s important to note. The suggestion is to reduce the amount of land that is mowed. That doesn’t mean just abandoning the land to weeds but replacing the turf with native grasses.
The number of park employees would not go down, however if their mowing time is cut in half, they would have more time to attend to other needs of the parks.
Weykamp also suggested creating holding ponds in Nelson Park, and possibly other places, to help filter out harmful contaminates from the runoff of roads and parking lots, before the water reaches the lake or water treatment facilities.
We don’t golf nearly as much as we used to, as a country or as a city. The less a family earns a year, the less likely they are to golf and Decatur doesn’t contain an affluent population by any means.
It wasn’t suggested what the park district should do regarding its golf program or golf courses but it is expected that golf participation will continue to decline.
We currently have three golf courses: Red Tail Run on the south side, Scovill near the West End and Hickory Point in Forsyth, well not really in Forsyth, just surrounded by it on three sides and primarily benefiting Forsyth. In fact, Forsyth just pledged $50,000 towards a tournament to be held there. I doubt they would do that if they didn’t think of Hickory Point Golf Course as their own.
It should be easy to pick which golf course we could repurpose to benefit the city more but that’s my opinion.
Macon County has the distinction of being the fattest in the state. Our obesity rates are very high and in fact, we on average, live two years less than people living elsewhere.
Obviously, creating programs and parks we’re more likely to use is of great importance to our health.
Our populations south of Lake Decatur and in our West End are doing better than the other two-thirds of Decatur, whose populations aren’t nearly as active in sports and other park related activities.
It directly correlates with income and sometimes the lack of nearby park facilities. The northwest portion of Decatur isn’t low-income but it doesn’t have much to offer in the form of parks or park activities.