SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Governor Pritzker recently awarded more than $30 million in grants to 87 park projects located across the state, including several in central Illinois.
“Investments in our local parks are investments in our communities,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Park projects not only create jobs and spur local economic development, they pave the way for a healthier, happier Illinois. Every family in our state deserves nearby access to outdoor public spaces where they can gather with friends and neighbors — and soak up the sun, too.
The grants are intended to help communities acquire open spaces and develop or improve recreational facilities. They were provided through the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program; Administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, OSLAD program grants can provide up to half of a project’s funds.
Since its inception in 1987, the OSLAD program has invested more than $433.5 million in more than 1,000 park projects.
One of the parks that received a grant is Champaign County Forest Preserve District, home to the state’s first “Dark Sky Park.” It’s a place where people can enjoy the stars without light pollution, and the forest reserve has received nearly $300,000 to help improve the park’s features.
Lorrie Pearson, executive director of the Forest Preserve District, hopes the park will attract tourists.
“It might surprise you how enthusiastic people are about this type of project,” Pearson said. “I get an email or a call probably at least once a month from someone who’s just been in the area of this park, for this dark sky gear.”
Pearson said they would add a walkway and building to protect stargazers from the elements, as well as expanding the campground and adding a parking area. They hope to start next year.
The Springfield Park District also received a $400,000 grant. Combined with an additional $400,000 in Park District capital improvement funds, the Park District plans to redevelop Kiwanis Park with a new playground, walking path, improved shelter and bathroom, U-turn , sports lighting and a football field and an enlarged car park with 36 new spaces.
“We are extremely grateful for the support of Governor Pritzker and
IDNR to enable us to renovate and bring exciting new recreational opportunities to Kiwanis Park,” said park board chairman Leslie Sgro.
Other central Illinois parks that have received a grant are:
- County of Champagne
- Fisher Village, Fisher Village Park Redevelopment – $234,900
- Village of Rantoul, Heritage Lake Phase 1 redevelopment – $400,000
- Tolono Park District, West Side Park Revitalization – $400,000
- Effingham County
- Effingham Water Authority, Sara Pearson Lake Peninsula Park Development Phase II – $400,000
- McLean County
- Heyworth, Centennial Park playground and improvements – $64,700
- Moultrie County
- Sullivan Town Improvements, Wyman Park – $381,800
- Piatt County
- Village of Atwood, expansion of the COMBO-village park – $15,000
- Sangamon County
- Auburn City Improvements, Union Park – $400,000
- Shelby County
- City of Shelbyville, Ball Diamond Improvement Project – $324,000
- Village of Strasbourg, renovation of the park – $318,000