Decatur Park District Master Plan Unveils Some Proposed Changes

A few weeks ago, the Decatur Park District unveiled their master plan, which outlines goals and objectives for the park district over the next 5-10 years. You can check out the entire plan here, but I’m going to highlight a couple of things that interested me. One is creating lakefront housing in Chandler Park, plans for the former Scovill Golf Course, and the inevitable reality of the park district going electric in the future.

Chandler Park

The proposed changes for Chandler Park are nothing new. The park district has long sought out a private developer to create housing in this area to meet a demand for lakefront housing that currently isn’t being met. There are very few apartments along the shores of Lake Decatur. Almost all the current lakefront properties are single family dwellings.

Such housing would likely appeal to young professionals, which the city is desperately trying to attract to the city. It would also appeal to retired people. Decatur needs to keep its residents, both young and old, and this is a big reason why the park district and city wants to see this happen.

The proposed apartments would still allow public access to the lakefront. I, for one, am in support of the project. I think it makes sense financially for the city and park district. There is no specific timeline for all of this to happen. It’s all contingent on attracting the right developer. A slight difference in the new master plan is that the park district is open to selling some of Chandler Park, instead of leasing it. This might be more appealing to a developer. I’m not sure.

Scovill Golf Course

West End residents I’m sure have deep interest in what happens with the former Scovill Golf Course, which was closed as a golf course a few years ago. I wasn’t even aware it was given a new name, but it has one! It’s now Scovill Park West. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue quite as well, but whatever.

Scovill Park West encompasses 120 acres on Decatur’s west side. It features rolling hills, an Oak Savannah grassland, a pond, and shares a border with the Rock Springs Conservation area. The main goals of the plan are to maintain low-cost amenities like bike and walking trails, and cross-country skiing. This is pretty much how the park is being utilized today.

There are more ambitious ideas like zip-lining, bubble ball (picture rolling down one of those hills inside a huge rubber ball), laser tag, adventure games (augmented reality), tree houses, rock climbing, an inflatable obstacle course for water sports, paddle sports, four-wheeling, and others. A large and attractive clubhouse overlooking the former golf course is already available, but currently not being utilized to its fullest.

There are indoor activities suggested such as laser tag, virtual reality gaming, escape rooms, art activities, offering banquet facilities, exercise classes, etc.

I’m in favor of whatever preserves and improves the natural environment of the land, and allows more people to enjoy it. It makes sense to connect with Rock Springs with hiking and bike trails. The park district does seem open to “gifting” some of the land to the conservation district, too.

There are trails through the park that were used for golf carts. It’s already a great place for walking, bird watching, and possibly biking. The Stevens Creek Bikeway (bright green line on the map below) is to the east and theoretically could be connected.

Courtesy of Google Maps. Map showing Scovill Park West and the Stevens Creek Bikeway (in bright green).

Going Electric

If you know me at all, you know I love riding electric bikes. I’ll also likely be buying an electric vehicle within the next 2-5 years. So, the park district going electric interested me. Electric vehicles have the advantage of having far fewer moving parts than current vehicles. Thus, they require far fewer repairs. The park district has expressed interest in the master plan to switch to electric vehicles, eventually.

Also, the idea of using solar panels to power park district buildings is mentioned. This would allow buildings to be mostly or completely off the grid. Solar panels have about a 30-year lifespan, so within 10-15 years the panels would pay for themselves, since they would no longer require electric service from third-party providers, like Ameren which serves the Decatur area.

I love this idea. It would have to be implemented over several years due to budget constraints, but it also makes sense financially.

Conclusion

There are other little nuggets of information in the master plan. I’d encourage you to look through it, especially for the parks in your area. Every park in the district is discussed and potential plans for them. Again, you can download the plan in PDF form by clicking here (goes to Park District website).

There is also quite a bit of socio-demographic data of the area, which is interesting.