Park District

Here are photos taken on September 24, 2012 of the construction of the boardwalk and pier near the Beach House in the area now called Pier 36.  Note that the pier is much higher above the water than  it would normally be due to the low water conditions of the lake.  It would be quite a climb out of your boat and a jump back in right now!

There’s also some photos of the old shoreline for comparison.

The best thing about the wooden boardwalk is that it covers the rough concrete shore that isn’t too pleasant to walk on.  The boardwalk extends over the water as well and it’s a nice effect to hear the water splashing below the deck.  Benches will be installed later and work on the Beach House isn’t yet complete.

Here’s a view of what the Beach House will look like when finished:

Beach House Redesign

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Here is a short video provided by what is now called Lakeshore Landing.  The project timeline for the next 0-3 years are the completion of:

  • ADA-accessible Fishing Dock
  • Beach House Renovation
  • Chandler Cove – Housing development in Chandler Park
  • Pier 36 –
  • Great Lawn
  • Pavilion #2 Restoration
  • Miniature Golf
  • Children’s Playground
  • Amphitheater

For the full project details download this PDF file:

Once I have some time to look it over, I’ll break it down and share my thoughts.  Looks exciting!  However, I haven’t heard how it’s going to be funded yet.  I’m not sure if that information is in the package but I’ll look.


Okay, I’ve had a little time to look over the presentation and these are some notes I took.

The project has five identified areas for development: 

  • Historic Nelson Park
  • Chandler Cover
  • Pier36
  • OverLook Adventure Park
  • Scovill Park


The architectural styles of each section are planned out and examples are given as illustrations and photographs.  Historic Nelson Park will retain a classic style.  The architecture of the existing buildings I think played a big role in that.  The large pavilion, which was built during the Great Depression years and the Beach House both have a similar look. Stone, concrete, exposed wooden and metal beams are to be  reflected in the design.

Style & Design

Pier36 is to take on a more contemporary style.  OverLook Adventure Park is wanting a “wow” factor in its design and similar to lakefront resorts found all over the country.  Examples given are 40′ tall plastic buffaloes and King Kong size red pumps.  I like the animal theme but I’m really not into sitting on a size 400 shoe.  If I can make a request, I want a 100 story squirrel. Seriously, the Adventure Park would probably be very similar in style to resorts found in the Wisconsin Dells or other nearby large waterparks.  If I can make another request, contact Great Wolf Lodge.  I think their style would fit in wonderfully with our park.


There’s also going to be opportunities for local artists and benefactors to donate art pieces.  Each piece and donation will go through a selection process to ensure it goes with the overall theme of the park.


Even the benches in each designated area will have their own look.  Historic Nelson Park will have classic park benches.  Pier36 will have deep blue for “people watching”.  I guess blue is the color for stalkers? Playful red benches will be found in OverLook Adventure Park if you can catch up with them.  🙂

What’s First

Some of the first changes and projects we’ll see will be in the historic Nelson Park area where an amphitheater will be created, I believe next year, if I’m not mistaken.  Also the current Beach House restaurant, which is in the Pier36 area, will have an extreme makeover of sorts.  The building is owned by the park district. An image of what the finished project will look like is below.

Beach House Redesign

Other features of Pier36 (I need to find out what inspired that name) are:

  • Restaurants and Bars
  • Shops
  • An Interactive Fountain – Good I was disappointed the splash pad was removed from Central Park plans.
  • A Waterside Pavilion
  • Boat Rentals will also be available
  • Piers, of which some have already been constructed
  • A Boardwalk
  • Beach Activities

Chandler Cove

In Chandler Park townhouses will be built.  They will be 2-4 stories in height I believe, though the document kept referring to building specifications in Pier36, and I’m not sure if that was a mistake or not.  I thought originally taller buildings were planned for this area but maybe that has changed???

Scovill Park

The Scovill Zoo, Children’s Museum and nearby park-owned land will also see some changes.  It looks like some of the wooded areas will be transformed into green open areas for people to more easily use and to also provide an unobstructed view of the lake from the zoo.  There will still be wooded areas for wildlife. Native grasses will be planted to cut down on maintenance costs and improve the visual appeal as well in certain sections.


Okay, here we go.  This is what we’ve been waiting for… and we’ll have to keep on waiting.  The only two sources of funding stated in the presentation were grants that were applied for this summer and an appeal to local corporations in philanthropists to give towards the project.

The rest of the funding is murky.

An Extra Thought

The opening of the presentation had this statement:

“In 1921, the resource most in demand was water.  Today, the resource most in demand is a skilled and educated workforce.”

I disagree with that to a certain extent.  I think our biggest demand is still water.  Without it, there’s no jobs for a skilled or unskilled workforce, for that matter.  Throughout the entire planning of the project it has been aimed at young, white-collar professionals and that’s fine but don’t forget about us blue-collar folks.  We like nice things too! Senior citizens and regular ol’ people, regardless of how many degrees they can plaster their townhouse walls with, also like nice things. Don’t limit the marketing and appeal to just one demographic.

This is Decatur.  We’re still clodhoppers and down to earth folks, no matter how educated we become.  That’s what I love about the Midwest!

With that said, I’m exited about the potential for the project and hope that it happens quickly.  I think it will put Decatur on the map.  If Springfield, Champaign or Bloomington had something similar, I’d make the drive and visit it.  Lakefront restaurants, events and shops aren’t  found in many nearby places and I think it would be attractive to many people in a 75 mile radius.  We have to smart about what we build and who we partner with but I think the overall plan is a winner.


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First phase of construction to be completed before summer's end.

A picture is worth a thousand words. These are screen captures of the presentation given before the city council on the changes for Nelson Park with before and after shots.  I think it helps to actually see what is being proposed.  The first phase of construction will focus on the area in front of the current Beach House restaurant with a new boardwalk, docks and other improvements.

Current shoreline

Proposed shoreline

Current Pier

Proposed pier

One of the current docks

What a new dock would look like

Current dock with narrow out of code walkways

Proposed dock

Beach House Today

Beach House with new boardwalk to be built this year.

View of new docks, boardwalk, landscaping in front of Beach House.

First phase of construction to be completed before summer's end.

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The Decatur Park District is seeking community input for developing their master plan for the next decade.  This covers all park district services and properties, so it’s a great time to provide some input regarding your neighborhood park, recreational needs, the lakefront plan, golf course facility suggestions, Scovill Zoo and more.  The following meetings are scheduled: 


Public meetings/work sessions are scheduled on the following dates at the following places:


6 p.m. Monday, January 23Scovill Zoo Education Center

6 p.m.Tuesday, January 24Scovill Golf Course Banquet Facility 

6 p.m., Tuesday, February 7Hickory Point Golf Course Banquet Facility

If you cannot attend any of these meetings, a detailed online survey is available here: 

Park District Master Plan Survey

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I went through the Decatur Lakefront site last week and couldn’t find the links to the drawings but they’re on their Facebook page:!/photos.php?id=385801071561

I still need to send in my thoughts.  Last week was kind of hectic.  Today I’m pooped.  Tonight I’ll get on the laptop and send my suggestions.  The Adventure concept is looking pretty good to me with some added in concepts from some of the other drawings.

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