• The Decatur Navigator

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    The Decatur Navigator

  • The Decatur Navigator

    The Decatur Navigator

It’s almost Halloween, which means I usually have a blog post about, well, Halloween and maybe I still will but I am absolutely swamped with assignments this week.  I’ve felt overwhelmed before but this quarter takes the cake. Have mercy!

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I also discovered yesterday that I have 6 or 7 additional classes that I have to complete before I can graduate.  What a kick in the gut.  I thought I was going to be done in the spring.  Nope!  I’ll still get to participate in the graduation ceremony in June but I won’t officially be done until the summer, or fall, or I’m still holding out hope for this lifetime, depending upon when the remaining classes I need are offered.

The bright side is, I keep telling myself, is that I’ll be able to gain a lot more experience this summer before I enter the job market next fall, whether it’s an internship or lots of volunteer work.  I’ll be gaining hands-on experience and important professional contacts, which I do need.  I also won’t have to spread myself so thin trying to take on 6 classes a quarter just trying to finish by a specific date.  Still, it’s a major bummer.  I was really looking forward to being done.

Well, it is what is.  I’ll just have to suck it up. I’m definitely not the first college student to find out they have extra classes to finish before they’re able to graduate.  A friend of mine thought she was done and even went through the commencement ceremony.  She cried.  Her parents cried.  It was a wonderful day.  A few weeks later she thought she was opening her official diploma but instead received a letter informing her she hadn’t met all the graduation requirements.  She cried again.  Cue the Price is Right Loser Horn.

I just hope that after all of this work, sweat, tears, years, and debt that it will have been all worth it.  I think it will but there’s days when I question it all.

 

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Hey, Decatur!  Fall is always such a busy time for most of us, including me.  My calendar in October has been full but that’s okay.  I’m still trying to fit in a campfire in my backyard but either I’m not home, or it’s raining, but I’m going to schedule it in this weekend.  I’d feel like a total fall failure if I didn’t roast a marshmallow or two.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the world is a little crazy out there.  Watching the past three presidential debates has made me question humanity.  I read a study a few days ago indicating that many Americans are experiencing significant mental stress, from both sides of the aisle, from the non-stop absurdity that has been the 2016 presidential campaign. I believe it.   And, for us St Louis Cardinal fans, toss in the fact that the Chicago Cubs are probably going to the World Series, and it just feels like the world has been turned upside down.

Luckily, life has continued to go on this fall…

I’ve been learning how to test soil for my soil science class.  It was fun!

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I’ve dug soil pits to expose soil horizons.  The shoveling wasn’t so much fun but I love doing research.

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I’ve discovered funky fungus balls in the forest.

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A met a super cool caterpillar who doesn’t care about politics or the Cubs

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I’ve helped carve pumpkins for Boo at the Zoo

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I’ve harvested seeds from the prairie for Rock Springs and Midewin (pronounced Mi-day-win) National Tallgrass Prairie

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I’ve discovered beauty and tranquility in nature.

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I’ve seen the face of my grandson and it doesn’t get much better than that.

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I’ve realized there’s till a lot of hope in the world and to not give up the faith that  one day things will feel normal again but just in case…  Cursed goat, do your magic once again on the Chicago Cubs (and Donald Trump).  We’re counting on you!

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Amphitheater and Scovill Zoo Train

This past week has been a pretty good one for Decatur.  The Howard G. Buffett Foundation handed over a check for nearly $6 million dollars to build a new amphitheater in Nelson Park and connect Scovill Zoo’s train to the Children’s Museum.  Funds for the amphitheater were hoped to be secured with a state grant prior to Governor Rauner replacing Pat Quinn.  Due to the state’s woeful non-existent budget, the pledged funds didn’t materialize.  Now the Buffett Foundation had pledged to fund the projects without the state.  What a wonderful gift to the city!

Most people were happy for the donation but critics chimed in.  Some believed the money could have been put to better use for other projects and some people just don’t believe Decatur is worthy of such amenities.  I’ve never understood people like that.  If you value Decatur that little, why are you still here?  I for one am thrilled that the Buffett Foundation values Decatur enough to help.  I’m also going to enjoy listening to concerts at the amphitheater and riding that train.  Aren’t we all just big kids at heart?  I am!  I think the amphitheater and extended train route will both be incredibly unique attractions, improving our quality of life and very likely bringing in visitors.  Why complain about that?

Richard Louv Presentation

I attended the lecture given by author Richard Louv at Millikin on Thursday night.  It was hosted by the Institute for Science Entrepreneurship at Millikin University.  Louv is known for bringing to light nature-deficit disorder in children.  The night also celebrated the 50th-year anniversary of the Macon County Conservation District.

Louv spoke about nature-deficit disorder but he also talked about Decatur.  He had visited Rock Springs and the bike path earlier in the day and was impressed.  Louv has visited cities all over the world and remarked that he had never been to a city that had an urban bike trail connect to a conservation area.  He also believed that Decatur could be a leader and example in urban biodiversity.

Decatur Has One of the Best Wildlife Corridors in the State of Illinois

As someone who has spent the past four years studying natural resources, I can attest that Louv is absolutely right.  Decatur has all the right ingredients to be an example to the world for conservation.  Essentially, if you follow the Steven’s Creek Bikeway, you are viewing one of the best wildlife corridors in the state.  The areas that I have studied, Garman Park, which I hope one day is connected to the bike path, to Sanders Park, through Fairview Park, Scovill Golf Course and then finally connecting to Rock Springs is a hotspot for wildlife.  Such a wildlife corridor is incredibly rare in the state of Illinois.  It should be a top priority of the city to improve the corridor and preserve it.  I have personally identified state endangered birds along the bikeway and believe the corridor should be designated as critical habitat.  There’s some areas that need to be improved but it wouldn’t be ridiculously costly or difficult to make those improvements.

Below:  Portions of the Steven’s Creek Bikeway, which is a wildlife corridor

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Aim Higher

An important thing that Louv mentioned was that it’s not good enough to aim to be “sustainable”.  We can do better than just recycle newspapers and aluminum cans or aim for energy efficiency.  We can make Decatur an example to the world for how a city can be a place for both people and wildlife to coexist.  And I’m not just talking about animals but plants too.  After all, most of Illinois’ endangered species are plants.

I don’t go out into Illinois’ barren agricultural landscape to find wildlife. I stay here in the city because that’s where much of the wildlife is.  So, I hope we move to protect and enhance our natural areas within the city.  Decatur could easily be an example for urban wildlife conservation to the nation and world.

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Downtown Decatur Clock

I figured we’d be learning about several individuals interested in becoming a city council member, since petitions are beginning to circulate around town.  Apparently there are a number of people who intend to run for one of the three seats on the city council up for election in 2017.  The mayor’s seat is the fourth seat.  So far, there are only two running for mayor but I expect more.  Mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe is running as well as John Phillips, a regular face in the city council audience and the current president of the Decatur Library Board.

To be honest, I’ve been urged this year by some to run for city council and I have thought long and hard about it over the last couple months but the timing is wrong.  I’m still a full-time student finishing up a degree with Oregon State and will be starting a new career next summer.  I think that’s just a little too much on my plate to devote enough time and thought into a campaign.  Plus, a citizen doesn’t have to be on the city council to have an impact in the community.  I’ve learned that over and over again.  I’ve noticed ideas that I’ve suggested have worked their way into the political process.

Part of me would love to run because because I think I’d be good at it.  It would be interesting to experience.  However, I’m also the pragmatic type.  Possibly in the future, I’ll give it a go but until then, all keep on blogging.

With that out of the way, it seems like the race is shaping up to be what it usually is.  There are the “safe” candidates that have the blessing of the powers that be and then there are the renegades and newcomers who face an uphill battle.

For those newcomers, I’ll give a little bit of advice because I’ve been watching these elections for quite a while.  If you want to win, go positive.  Share your ideas, be reasonable, listen to all sides, and learn.  If you don’t do that I can almost guarantee you won’t win.  The majority of people who show up to vote in Decatur’s municipal elections don’t like negative messages or negative people.  Some voters do but not the majority who show up and vote!  There are certainly legitimate issues and concerns to address but do it without attacking individuals in the community.  Then, you’ll have a shot.

I’m eager to learn about all the candidates we’ll be introduced to soon.  Like I’ve said before, it’s always interesting!

 

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Video gaming, landscaping requirements and paddle boarding… what do they have in common?  Nothing, other than they’re the topics I’m discussing today!

Restricting The Number of Gambling Parlors to 30

I’m glad that the city council decided to limit the number of gambling parlors.  Not that I have spoken to everybody in the city but of those I have spoken to, all are glad as well.  Nobody foresaw such establishments setting up shop in Decatur after video gaming was made legal in the city.

I guess I’m against gambling parlors partially for prudish reasons but for many others as well.  To put it bluntly, I think they make the city look cheap, trashy and desperate.  Plus, I see nothing of real benefit from their existence.  They’re kind of like mosquitoes.  So, I guess I’m record for really not liking them. Ha!

McDaniel On Required Landscaping

Councilman McDaniel suggested a couple week ago during a council meeting that the city should scale back landscaping requirements for businesses.  If we’re getting too nitpicky and ridiculous, okay, but I think the requirements are needed.  In fact, I’d like the requirements to be tweaked.

I’ve noticed that new businesses look great at first but as trees and shrubs die, they’re often not replaced.  I’ve also noticed some commercial properties, after a few years, simply cut down and remove living trees.  So, we end up with the same cruddy looking commercial properties as we had before.  I’m not sure if there is a requirement for continued maintenance (I don’t think there is) but I think such a requirement should be set in place.  Maybe we can require a little less landscaping up front to make it more cost-effective long term for businesses, but continued upkeep should be enforced.

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Dead trees in front of Decatur’s Walmart (North) that need replaced and I think Walmart can afford new trees

This goes for the city as well!  I noticed a lot of the trees planted along MLK Jr Drive north of Mound Road were cut down last year but have not been replaced.  When the road was widened and expanded, the trees with thrown in as a nice gesture to the neighborhood for aesthetic reasons.  That commitment needs to continue.  It’s kind of like letting yourself go after getting married.  Nobody wants to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t even bother trying to look half-way presentable.

Unless we want all of Decatur to look like 22nd Street, we probably should demand a little more!

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Only the stumps remain from trees the city cut down last year on MLK Jr Drive

Paddle Boarding and Kayaking on Lake Decatur

I was happy to read this morning that paddle board and kayak rentals are going to be available on Lake Decatur, at least for a trial run.  Standing Paddle Company is providing the service.  As I’ve vacationed in several other places, I’ve noticed that both of these activities are very popular. Considering Decatur has a lake in the middle of it, it always seemed to me that we should have the same recreational opportunities.  I’m glad someone has stepped up to give it a go and I’ll be trying them out.  Kayaking has been on my bucket list for a long time.  For more information visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/standingpaddleco/?fref=ts or their webpage at: http://www.standingpaddleco.com/

 

 

 

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