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Well now that the election is over, for better or worse (don’t get me started) I’ll turn my focus once again to good ole Decatur.

Overlook Adventure Park New Aquatic Center

On one hand I’m happy that the park district is moving ahead with an aquatic facility for Nelson Park, aka Overlook Adventure Park.  With the amphitheater coming soon, it makes sense to get much of the original vision coming together in a timely fashion.

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The new aquatic center is going to be located adjacent to the miniature golf course.  Looking at the conceptual drawing the plan looks okay and that’s the problem – it’s just okay.  If it’s trying to be marketed as a waterpark then it really needs to have waterpark features.  Probably the two most important ones are a lazy river and a wave pool.  They did leave the option to add a lazy river in the future, so I guess that’s good.

I’m also not thrilled with closing Fairview’s Pool.  It seems like such a waste.  I’d rather it be leased to a private club than just have it sit and decay or be demolished.  Having both facilities would ease overcrowding.  I stopped taking my kids to Fairview a long time ago because it wasn’t enjoyable.  It was always too crowded to truly swim and I spent most of my time frantically keeping an eye on my then young son hoping he didn’t get separated from me and drown.  Honestly, I think Decatur needs both facilities open to ease overcrowding and leave an important amenity for the West End.

New Playground

I hate to be a party pooper but I’m not really all that thrilled about the new playground for Nelson Park either.  It’s pretty much the same thing we already have at Scovill Zoo, which isn’t that far away.  I think that money could have been put towards neighborhood parks or something else that we don’t currently have.  That’s just my two cents.

City Is Going to Demolish 1,000 Structures

The city is really getting aggressive and serious about demolishing dilapidated houses in Decatur.  The city council will be discussing this more soon and I’ll wait to comment in detail about it till then but I think it’s a good idea.  Some parts of town just need to start from scratch again.  That opens up so many possibilities.  I’d love the city and private developers to push for ultra-energy efficient homes. It’s something that isn’t offered yet in Decatur or nearby communities but it is the future of home design.  Imagine living in a home with no power bills!  It would definitely help paint Decatur as a progressive (not talking politics), forward-thinking community.  Go for it!

 

 

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I questioned whether I should post this or try to compose or more positive and polished response but this is the raw unfiltered emotion I felt soon after the election. This is why many continue to march in the streets.

There’s only a couple events that compare to the level of emotion I felt Tuesday night – 9/11 and the day I sat in my old bedroom weeping as my mom was nearing her last breaths from cancer down the hall.  On Tuesday night I wept for my country and the pain was visceral.

9/11 was an attack from the outside and though the fear I felt that day was paralyzing.  I remember walking outside on that beautiful September day and though the sun was bright it couldn’t touch me.  The flowers and butterflies were still marvelous but dumb to all the fear and uncertainty that veiled my eyes.  I couldn’t listen to music for weeks or enjoy laughter.  But at least I knew my country was together.  I knew that if this country were to ever be destroyed, it would be of our own doing.

There I was with my hat from Hillary’s 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination and my “I Voted” sticker, anticipating at long last a win. But I wasn’t angry about my candidate losing on Tuesday night.  It wasn’t the source of my overwhelming sadness.  It wasn’t about partisanship or even the disappointment of not seeing a woman elected president.  I felt as though I had watched the country I loved and thought I knew die that night.  The disillusionment I felt was searing.

Everything my parents and school teachers had taught me to be – kind, tolerant, polite, humble, forgiving, and even the Golden Rule itself, had been tossed out the window by millions of fellow Americans. How could I accept that?  As flawed as we are as a nation, I always thought we were good at heart but are we?  Hate had won for the whole world to see and I was mortified. I mourned for human decency.

It felt as though my mother’s memory had been dishonored.  Then I thought about the neighbors I grew up with that were of the Greatest Generation.  I learned so much from them and on 9/11 their example gave me hope and strength.  They had been through hell and they knew what mattered in life.  They had defeated the worst kind of hate imaginable.  How did people forget?  Electing a man like Donald Trump dishonored their memory as well.

A man that is openly and unashamedly cruel, rude, racist, sexist, and xenophobic had won the presidency in America.  How could that be?  Over the last couple days, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what I’m supposed to do over the next four years.  How can I fit into this picture without losing my mind or my hope in humanity?  I’ve thought a lot about the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr, Robert F. Kennedy and others who carried the torch of equality and civility through dark, turbulent times. I thought much of the work had already been done and only a few loose ends were left to be tied.  I was wrong.  That torch has been passed to you and me now.  Let’s carry it forward.

 

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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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