Land swap with ADM will change configuration of Decatur parks
DECATUR, Nov 13, 2012 (Menafn - Herald & Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Decatur Park District leaders laid out plans for significant changes to the park system, including two land deals with Archer Daniels Midland Co., to a mostly favorable audience Monday.
Several residents who spoke at the public meeting said they were unhappy about the company's plans to expand a rail yard in what is now Spencer Park. However, they expressed support for the park district's plans to build smaller replacement facilities nearby.
"I hate to see Spencer Park go, because of the noise pollution," resident Don Roberts said, though he conceded that planned new facilities looked nice.
Under an agreement with the company, ADM would acquire the 10-acre park, located at 2908 N. 34th St. The park district would gain 19.78 acres of floodplain land near the intersection of Interstate 72 and U.S. 51, park district Executive Director Bill Clevenger said.
ADM would also pay to replace recreation equipment in Spencer Park.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the land exchange at a special meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. today.
In a separate action expected within the next month, park district leaders plan to sell to ADM another piece of property known as Brush College II, 2.9 acres located at 3301 E. Division St. Clevenger said vandalism has posed a "horrendous" problem there.
With money from both actions, the park district plans to build a "pocket park" adjacent to the Decatur Memorial Hospital Shore facility, 2122 N. 27th St. It would include a walking trail, pavilion, playground, half-court basketball court and parking for three cars, Clevenger said.
The district would also build a playground, half-court basketball court and small pavilion behind Parkway Church of the Nazarene, 2701 E. Faries Parkway. The public meeting Monday was held at the church.
Leadership boards for the hospital and church have not yet voted on the plans.
"I think that's absolutely awesome. ... That's beyond what I expected," resident Sadona Maulden said of the plans for replacement parks in her neighborhood.
But she criticized ADM, saying the company has acted with indifference about the noise and negative effects its actions have on neighbors. "I understand what you're saying. I agree with it; I agree Decatur needs (development). But when you have to walk over people to get to it, that's not right," she said.
Additionally, district leaders plan to add improvements that include a ball field, basketball court, walking trail, new playground and open pavilion at Grant Park, near Robertson Charter School.
Principal Cordell Ingram said Monday that the school's leaders were excited about a potential partnership with the park district, saying the improvements would be a "wonderful asset" to the students, teachers and neighbors.
Additionally, the park district plans to construct a bike trail extension and walking trail on the 19.78 acres near the north end of town. The bike trail would connect to Forsyth's bike trail system. Clevenger said the park district has applied for grant funding to pay for the project.
Craig Coil, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County, and Mirinda Rothrock, president of the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce, both spoke in favor of the plans.
Rothrock called the situation a win-win, "... because quite frankly, if we don't support our existing businesses that are here, those jobs will go to other communities."
Coil called the ADM project "something that we just have to have happen." He said it would create the opportunity for future community growth, which could lead to new jobs and ultimately, higher property values and lower tax rates.
"You have to have capital investment by companies in order to make the community prosper," he said.
The smaller "pocket parks" could be a sign of things to come. Clevenger signaled that other parks across the city might follow that lead in coming years, as the park district seeks to "right-size" for its declining population. Smaller parks require less maintenance and mowing.
"We have to begin to look at how we become more efficient with what we do," Clevenger said. "We think this is a prototype for what some areas might look like in the future."
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