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    The Decatur Navigator

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    The Decatur Navigator

It’s a pleasant early March day – the type of days that put a skip in one’s step, unlike the freaky warm weather in February that was nice but we knew it wouldn’t last.  March is that way too.

Amazingly, I’m caught up with my homework for the week and only have a few little things left to do.  I knew taking six classes in one quarter was going to be a big challenge and it has been.  I still have a couple more weeks to endure – finals and term projects, but it doesn’t seem as daunting as when I began.  I didn’t know if I’d become a mess of frazzled nerves and feel like crawling into a hole and crying myself to sleep.  Although, I have been very close to both, so far I’m keeping things together.  No promises as finals approach.

I’ve registered for my last full-time quarter at Oregon State.  I am so happy to be so close to being finished.  Although I’ll have a couple classes to finish this summer after I go through commencement in Corvallis in June, a big weight will be off my shoulders.  I’m most looking forward to visiting the Redwoods in California for my graduation present to myself.  It’s only about a 5-hour drive from Oregon State.  The picture below doesn’t begin to do the giant trees justice.  Hopefully, I’ll come back with some amazing pics.

Redwood National Park, fog in the forest

When I’m finished I’ll finally get to do a lot of things that I haven’t been able to over the past 4 1/2 years.  I’ve missed so many weekends, family events, community events, blogging, and have stretched myself thin when it comes to all my other obligations.  Not that I’ll be footloose and fancy-free after I graduate but compared to college, I should have more time for many of things I find meaningful in life.  Writing about Decatur is definitely one of those things.  I absolutely love blogging.

I’m planning to do some new things with the blog this spring and summer and I’ll actually have enough time to do them.  And I purchased a kayak!  My husband doesn’t know about it yet. Right now, it’s hidden in the basement.  It wasn’t expensive but I can just hear him now.  Sometimes I wish I was single so I could be as crazy as I want without someone telling me I’m crazy.

Yeah, I don’t think my kayaking trips will look like this, unless I go over the Lake Decatur dam!

Remic Rapids, Ottawa, ON (14018430256)

Kayaking has been on my bucket list for a while and I think I’ll love it.  Hey, at least I didn’t go out and buy a motorcycle or a convertible sports car.  My kayak is carbon neutral and will be great exercise.  I’m not too crazy about the idea of kayaking on the Sangamon River.  Weldon Springs State Park and the quiet basins of Lake Decatur and Lake Shelbyville are more my speed.  I just have this phobia about rivers.  Maybe I drowned in one in a past life.  Who knows.

Well, here’s to hopefully good times ahead, or at least a heck of a lot less stress.  And no, it wasn’t easy hiding a kayak in the basement.

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It’s been a little over a month since Donald Trump became president and for non-Trump voters it has been a scary, nauseating, upsetting, disturbing, anger-inducing ride.   I can’t list all of the things Trump has said or done to upset me over the past few weeks because I’ve lost count.  But as someone who cares about the environment and wildlife, I’m sickened to think Republicans would like to either cripple or get rid of the Endangered Species Act, silence government employees from speaking about climate science, and approved the appointment of a man to lead the EPA who doesn’t even believe in its’ purpose.

Trump’s Russian ties are deeply disturbing.  More disturbing is that most Republicans don’t care about it for partisan reasons, even though they practically wanted Hillary Clinton burned at the stake for having a private email server. Compared to possibly consorting with Russians to disrupt our democratic process, Hillary’s “crimes” seem on the same level as cutting off the “do not remove tag” from a new pillow.  Most disturbing is that a white supremacist is a top advisor to the president.  That should be an impeachable offense.

Quite simply, Donald Trump represents everything that I’m not.  He and his actions are contrary to the core of my being.  He and his agenda has definitely put a strain between Trump supporters, of which some are people I know and care about, and myself.

Some friendships have been lost.  Relationships with some of my family members has been deeply strained.  This was not your typical partisan presidential election.  It went way beyond anything so trivial.  This is a defining time in American history, on par with the social and cultural changes of the 1960s and even the 1860s.  This is about our culture and our values.  These are very trying times and keeping the peace and any sense of sanity, requires a lot of self-control and biting of the tongue.

The tension is thick.  When I’m in the company of a family member or friend that voted for Trump we still laugh and carry on like nothing has changed between us but then there are those honest moments when our eyes meet.  Then suddenly, I know that they know that I know how they know how I feel about you know who.  It’s awkward but worse than that our friendship has been crippled by it.  It’s become a bit of a silent civil war.

I find it unbelievable that others can’t see the threat Trump is.  How are they okay with him appointing a neo-nazi as an advisor?  How are they okay with his unstable, hyper-arrogant, and obnoxious behavior?  How are they okay with him possibly having ties with Russia?  How are they okay with him insulting and demeaning those that are critical of him?  But then it’s easy to see how they don’t see what I see.

Right-leaning and left-leaning news sources tell very different stories.  We’ve been isolated from each other for so long politically that we have evolved into different kinds of Americans.  As someone who studies ecology this is quite familiar.  When members of the same species are separated from each other long enough, eventually through natural selection different traits are favored to match their respective environments, and then we have two new species from one.  The one no longer exists.  Well, in the United States, we have essentially become two different critters, ideologically speaking.

About 35 miles from where I’m sitting, Abraham Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech and it still holds true today.  We can’t go on in one country as two different populations with two different value sets and ideologies.  We have to agree on the most fundamental and foundational aspects of our democracy.  I don’t think we do anymore and that can’t go on forever.  I know that and you know that.


Photo Credit:  By swatjester – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3256256

The Grand Army of the Republic Monument stands in Washington D.C. The organization was founded in Decatur.


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The municipal election is coming up quickly and it’s getting time to take a look at all of the candidates and figure out who will get my vote.  This year the mayor and three city council seats are up.  There are also other local offices that we’ll be voting on including school boards and park commissioners.  I’ll be taking a look at those separately. I’m much more familiar with the city council (and to a lesser extent the park district) than the others.

As of today, before I have listened to any of the debates or interviews (though I have read each candidate’s thoughts about a variety of issues elsewhere), I am leaning heavily towards certain candidates but I’m going to wait to make my final decision until I’ve learned more, which I think is wise.  Speaking of that, this would probably be a good time to present an abbreviated version of Decatur Government 101 because a lot of people seem to be confused about what our mayor and city council does.

Our Mayor Is Just One Vote…plus some extra stuff

Our mayor is just one vote on the council.  He or she doesn’t run the city on a daily basis.  They usually have other full-time job and they aren’t paid much to be mayor.  The last I heard it was $8,000 a year, so they’re hardly cashing in on taxpayer expense.  Our mayor and council members do not run as Democrats or Republicans, which is refreshing, considering how politically divided the country is along partisan lines.  It makes our form of government much less politically toxic.

Our city manager is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the city and he or she (I don’t think we’ve had a she yet), is hired by the city council. The council has the authority to decide to retain or dismiss the city manager.  The most important role the mayor plays is probably in the council chamber where he or she oversees the meetings and basically makes sure it doesn’t devolve into mayhem and disorder.  Believe me, it’s come close over the years!  I recall people getting irate when once-a-week garbage pickup was implemented.  The National Guard almost had to be called in.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but not by much!

Most of all the mayor sets the tone for the council and the city as a whole and that tone can be cooperative or very contentious and unproductive.

The City Council Does Not Have Control Over Our Parks

Another big misconception many residents have in Decatur is that the city runs the park district and is responsible for what is happening in Nelson Park or at the lakefront or any other park property.  Decatur has a separate park district that does not fall under Decatur city management.  They have their own elected commissioners.  However, the city and the park district often tries to form a singular vision for large projects.  For instance, the park district owns Nelson Park but the city owns the lake and the docks.  So, development along the lakefront will require cooperation between the two.  For example, not too long ago the city helped chip in funds to renovate the beach house.  So the city and park district can work together but they are separate governing entities.

I thought it was important to explain these things because I read a lot of social media comments that reflect people’s misunderstanding of our form of government and who is responsible for what.  Now back to the council race…

Who’s Running For Decatur City Council?

For the three seats up for election on the city council we have six candidates.  The only incumbent running is Pat McDaniel.  The others vying for a seat are Chris Riley, Chuck Kuhle, David Horn, Andrew Apel, and Marty Watkins.  Riley is currently serving as a commissioner for the Decatur Park District.  Kuhle has served on the Macon County Board in the past and is currently the tennis director for the Decatur Athletic Club.  This is the second time Horn has run for city council.  He is a biology professor at Millikin Univeristy.  Marty Watkins is an ordained minister and Apel is a local businessman.

At this point I’m fairly certain of two of my votes for the city council but I’m still undecided on that third seat.  I encourage anyone interested in the election to learn about the candidates.  The Herald & Review and local radio talk shows are good places to learn more about the candidates in their own words.  That’s what I’ll be doing.

In the meantime, here are links to the each candidate’s Facebook page and/or website that has either:

Andrew Apel

David Horn

-Website: http://hornfordecatur.org/

Chuck Kuhle

Julie Moore-Wolfe

John Phillips

-Website:  http://johnphillipsfordecatur.com/

Chris Riley

Marty Watkins





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It’s Monday morning, which means I have about an hour to devote to something other than the six classes I’m taking this quarter before I have to begin on the new week’s assignments…

I’ll be graduating in a few months and I can’t tell you how ready I am to begin the next part of my life.  I’ll be earning a B.S. in Natural Resources and everyone asks me what I plan to do after I graduate, especially since I live in Decatur.  After all, majoring in natural resources and living in Decatur, Illinois provides about the same number of job opportunities as if I had majored in volcanology.  I knew that before I began.  The opportunities are slim here for both vocations, unless a magma plume builds up beneath the lithosphere of Central Illinois.  In that case, I should have majored in volcanology.

I plan to start a business.  Actually, that was my plan when I went back to school in the first place.  I wanted to have the credentials and know-how to offer the services and products I wanted to provide then.  Then I got sidetracked and thought maybe it would be easier to get a government job and live on easy street but I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur and enjoy the challenge. I’ve been modestly successful at businesses I’ve started before but I tried to do things that really didn’t fit my personality or strengths.  That never works out in the end.  So, that’s what I plan on doing and I have a lot of ideas in the works.  Now I just need to print this on a business card and hand to everyone who asks.

Of course, you might ask what kind of business but you’ll have to wait for that.  I know but I’m not sharing yet.  Ancient Chinese secret.

Next time I try to look cool on the trail, I probably should lose the dork glasses. Who am I kidding? I’m a dork and proud of it!





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The Decatur Park District announced yesterday that Scovill Golf Course, located on Decatur’s west side will be closing at the end of October of this year.  I don’t think anybody was shocked by the announcement because the closing had been discussed and postponed over the last couple of years.  Some people are upset and most are very concerned with what will become of the land and buildings after its closure.  Of course, I have ideas, as I’m sure others do as well.

First, I think it’s important for the park district to consider recreational activities that people today are most interested in that don’t cost a lot of money to provide.  I think last year I wrote about activities that people all over the country are most interested in and the top activities included adventure trails, hiking, biking, disc golf, wildlife viewing, nature photography, and other activities that generally don’t cost people a lot of money or time to participate in.  I think Scovill would be ideal for such outdoor adventure type activities.  It’s located along a wildlife corridor in Decatur and Macon County and linking it to nearby  Rock Springs Conservation Area, and the bike trail, would make a lot of sense from a conservation and recreational standpoint.

Below shows the flood zone area that encompasses part of the golf course and the above satellite view shows its proximity to Rock Springs and the Sangamon River, which is directly to the south of Scovill.

Of course, I am a conservationists, so I’m going to be pushing for conservation improvements to be incorporated into whatever is to become of the land.  The golf course is in a beautiful natural setting with rolling hills, a large pond, and the Sangamon River to the south.  Much of the infrastructure is already there for trails, such as bridges.  I believe the banquet hall should remain open and available for rental.  It’s a popular place for wedding receptions, special events, and meetings.

Most of all, I would like the public to decide what is to become of the land.  I think there should be meetings, similar to the type that District 61 held when the options for high school renovations were brought before the public.  The public was very instrumental in making those decisions.  Options should be placed on a table for all to see and comment on.  It shouldn’t be up to just the park commissioners.  An involved public is going to be much more supportive of whatever decision is made, as long as they know that they truly influenced and shaped that decision.  Also, the public can bring great ideas!  Lastly and importantly, we’ll find out what recreational options people in Decatur truly want instead of guessing.

So I am imploring the Decatur Park District to open the discussion and planning to the public.  It is in your best interest and it is in the best interest of the city.  Let’s get this right.

Satellite pics courtesy of Decatur Digital Atlas

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