Park District

On our travels through Wisconsin, we came across several small towns as we drove to the Cave of the Mounds from the Wisconsin Dells.  Many of the little towns along the two-lane winding road impressed me.  When I’m out and about in different parts of the country, I tend to look at what other places are doing well, and could be applied here.

This week the city council agreed to get the permit process rolling along quicker for several Lakefront development projects.  One of the improvements includes making our bridges spanning the lake more pedestrian friendly, to allow a path to connect from Nelson Park along the shores of Lake Decatur to Scovill Zoo.

We drove across this bridge in one of the little towns we came across.  There were several other small towns that had similar bridges with the same wrought iron details.  They sure beat our homely railings that make it difficult to even view the lake while driving.

Anyway, I thought I’d share these photos in hopes that the same kind of detail will be put into this aspect of the Lakefront Development plan.  It might already be part of the plan but I haven’t seen the actual details for the bridges.  If I run across those plans I’ll share them.

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Wider bridge with attractive concrete barriers.

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Wrought iron railing detail that allows scenic views.

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A view of the riverfront shopping district behind the railing.

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Classical lights add to the charm.

 

 

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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.

Golf

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.

We’re Fat

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.

Not Equal

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.

 

 

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Muddy parking lot in Garman Park.

Tomorrow evening citizens will have the opportunity to hear about Decatur Park District’s Master Plan from Consultant Greg Weykamp. Public meetings and surveys began in January regarding changing needs for park services and facilities.

The meeting will be held at the Scovill Banquet Facility at 6pm.  It’s free and open to the public.

I have a feeling we’ll be hearing the term “pocket park” a lot more in the future.  Pocket parks are much smaller than what most of us are used to in Decatur.

After ADM acquired Spencer Park for an expanded railyard, the park district entered into partnerships with a Parkway Church of the Nazarene,  Decatur Memorial Hospital’s Shore Facility and Robertson Charter school to build small parks or improve parks on or near their properties.

A big advantage to pocket parks are cost savings.  Not having to mow several acres of grass can translate into dollars saved and possibly park land could be used for something to benefit the community in a greater way.  It’s all a case-by-case analysis, of course.

My Neighborhood Park

Garman Park probably isn’t known to many in town.  When we had a neighborhood meeting there a few years ago, I had to explain to my neighbors where it was located, because most of them didn’t know, even though they had lived in the area for several years.

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Garman Park playground equipment. The parking lot has been in bad shape for several years and is full of huge puddles after it rains.

The park is out of the way and probably underutilized.  It’s best feature are its trails through several acres of  towering oaks near Stevens Creek.  The pedestrian bridges that once crossed the creek have long ago washed away, leaving little evidence that they once were there.  It would be nice if a new bridge could be built.  My daughter and her friends go there often in the summer and enjoy it.   You really feel like you’re in the middle of the deep woods when you’re walking its trails.

It’s great having an area like that in town and I definitely want to see the wooded area forever remain protected.

However, I think there are better uses for some of the land.  There are large areas of grass that aren’t used for anything. Planting prairie grass or native grasses would support wildlife and enhance the natural beauty of the area.  There is quite a bit of wildlife in my neck of the woods including: deer, owls, hawks, wild turkeys, pheasants, falcons, rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, beavers, racoons and all sorts of critters that I probably never see.  They need space too.

It seems kind of silly to mow land that isn’t used for anything.  Mowers aren’t the most environmentally friendly machines.  Why send more pollution in the air when we don’t need to?

So that’s my suggestion and maybe there are other parks in Decatur that could benefit from such a plan.  Cost savings are important but just being smarter about how we use land is equally as important.

 

A house the park district owns in Garman Park. The garage collapsed years ago and still lies in a pile near the house.

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Shaded area is the Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur city limits.  There’s also a good chunk of land to the west of the golf course that is in Decatur city limits that sits undeveloped.  The blue lines indicate city borders.

I have a proposal for Hickory Point Golf Course: Develop the land for residential use and use that money for lakefront development.

Hickory Point Golf Course is in Decatur, though it’s hard to see how since it is surrounded by Forsyth but technically it is.  I wouldn’t sell the golf course to Forsyth but keep it in Decatur and develop it for residential use so revenue will always come to us for years and years to come.

I can’t even think of a major subdivision built in Decatur in the last 20 years.  This could be our chance to have high-end homes generating major tax revenue for the city of Decatur, our park district, our school district and other taxing bodies.  Plus it sure would be great to have new homes built in our city for a change.

Map indicating flood zone areas and ponds.

I don’t know how many homes could be built there, since some of it floods but it’s still a large amount of land in a very attractive setting.  Perhaps the flooding could be minimized if the creek was made wider and deeper.  My old neighborhood had the same issue of frequent flooding on Spring Creek but the flooding issues disappeared with the creek was widened.

I’d like to see more affordable homes built there too for regular ol’ middle class folks like myself.

I’m not making this suggestion to be mean to Forsyth or because I hate golf.  I love playing golf but I just can’t afford to play it very often and neither can most residents in Decatur.  We need the money from that land to improve our city.  That’s not the most romantic way of putting it but it’s the truth.

So that’s my proposal.  It’s short, to the point and I think it makes a lot of economic sense.  That’s why it’ll probably never happen but that won’t stop me from suggesting it.

 

 

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I went to the lake yesterday to see the progress on the docks near the Beach House.  Construction workers were adding the finishing touches, adding ladders, lights, lifts and it looks like plumbing.  I’m not sure how much work is left to do in this phase.

The sidewalks was stained to a more earthy tone and planting areas have been added for landscaping.

I didn’t see any progress on the Beach House itself.  A new outdoor dining area is in the works.  I’ll have to go back to my notes to see when that part is supposed to be finished.  Surely by next year.

Lakeshore LandingLaddersNew DocksPlanting Area
LiftsFinishing TouchesUnder ConstructionNew docks
Pier
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