Sycamore Park District buys land for new facilities

Sycamore Park District officials announced their purchase of 25 acres of land across from the sports complex on Airport Road at a press conference Saturday afternoon.

The land acquisition was the next step in the Vision 2020 plan to expand the park district’s amenities over the next five years. The plan used results from surveys, public meetings, and a strategic planning team to come up with seven key facilities for construction and improvements. At least four of those — a new community center, dog park, splash pad and sledding hill — will be located on the new site.

“Many of the things [the community wanted] they were actually leaving the area to go and enjoy because we didn’t offer them here,” park commissioner Michelle Schulz said. “So based on that list, there was a need for the space. And we looked at a whole variety of different options and realized that this made the most sense.”

The new site was selected for its location directly to the east of the current sports complex, which will locate all of the key facilities in a single campus, and for the important fact that it is not in a flood plain.  

“I think 80 percent of the property across the street is under flood plain,” said park commissioner Bill Kroeger. “In the spring time when we have the heavy rains, a lot of the ball diamonds and soccer fields are under water. The [Department of Natural Resources] will not allow us to make any improvements … so we basically have to get out of the property.”

The new property was purchased a couple of weeks ago for $450,000 from the Ernie Carls family through a Resource Bank loan. Park board President Ted Strack is a commercial lender for Resource Bank in DeKalb.

The sledding hill, which may be built with the dirt from the construction of the community center, will replace the old hill that used to be near the property but was taken down years ago in order to construct a well.

“The sledding hill was one of the things [the community] told us they missed … The park district should offer fun that you can do year round. We’ve not been able to take care of the winter months,” Schulz said.

The park board hopes to fund Vision 2020 projects through state grants for which they’ve already applied, public fundraising, donations with future naming opportunities, and probably, eventually, a tax referendum.

Chris Hughes, a Sycamore resident who was enjoying the warmer weather at Charley Laing Memorial Park on Saturday with his wife, Alicia, and their two dogs, said that getting people informed about the park district’s plans is half the battle. They are most excited about the new dog park, as there isn’t one close to them now.

“Now that I’m informed, it sounds pretty cool,” Hughes said. “It sounds like a good location. I’m definitely willing to support it any way I can. Absolutely.”

The public is invited to “An Evening with the Park District,” from 5 to 7 p.m.  April 11 at the DeKalb County Community Foundation building, 475 DeKalb Ave. in Sycamore, to celebrate the Sycamore Park District’s progress and kick off fundraising for the 2020 Vision projects. Beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served at the 21-and-over event and music will be provided by Black Tie Trio.