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Input sought in Kiwanis Park master plan

DeKALB – The community has made a pitch for Kiwanis Park to serve as more than a soccer site.

Over the years, the park primarily has been used for its soccer space, but because of growing community feedback, the DeKalb Park District is looking to expand the opportunities of the site.

Upland Design, a Plainfield-based landscape architecture firm, presented two possible concepts to the DeKalb Park Board during a special Nov. 9 meeting. The contract with Upland Design is for $11,980.

Both concepts have a number of similarities, such as a loop trail, artificial turf and multipurpose fields, six handicapped-accessible restrooms, a small storage or utility room, shelters with picnic tables and a way-finding map. There are a few differences, however: a 7-acre dog park was included in one concept, as well as different playground spaces and different sized parking lots.

Michelle Kelly, principal landscape architect with Upland Design, said there was a lot of general support for the project, and that the park board suggested adding a bona fide family favorite into the plan.

“The two things that were added from the direction of the park board were putting in a splash pad and some storage for sports and Park District use on the site,” Kelly said. “Both [concepts] are going to be updated and move forward to a public meeting or open house.”

To gather community input for the plan, the Park District will host a public hearing Nov. 27 at the River Heights Golf Course, 1020 Sharon Drive. This is the only hearing scheduled so far, but the Park District’s executive director, Amy Doll, said once the district is closer to approving a final plan, a second hearing will be held.

“Ultimately, we know that Kiwanis Park is going to continue to be used for soccer, but we heard from a lot of people wanting for it to be used as a commercial park,” Doll said. “A lot of it is making sure there’s enough parking, and there’s bathrooms.”

Kelly said the second meeting likely will be in 2018, once Upland Design and the Park District have it narrowed it down to one option.

The site originally was owned by the Fairview Park Cemetery Association and was leased to DeKalb School District 428 for athletic practice and game fields in the 1970s. An agreement later was made between these two groups and the Park District to provide recreational open space for community use.

The cemetery association later sold 3½ acres along South Fourth Street to the DeKalb Park District to allow for the construction of the Sports and Recreation Center, which opened in 2000. By 2002, the cemetery association sold the remaining acreage to District 428, which then sold it to the Park District in 2013.

Kelly said walking grounds have been one of the top-rated requests for parks across the area, but many ideas still are being considered.

“We want to develop the site to continue to be a sports park for lawn sports such as soccer but also to be a community park with features extending beyond soccer and lacrosse like basketball courts and playgrounds,” Kelly said.

An additional feature being considered is enhanced lighting. Kelly said extra lighting has been put on the master plan, but nothing is finalized yet.

Doll said lighting as a means of security wasn’t really discussed during the park board meeting, but there was talk about lighting some of the soccer fields so games can be played in the evening.

However, Kelly and Doll both said security lighting in the parking lot is a possibility. During that same Nov. 9 meeting, the park board voted to close Welsh Park, on Russell Road, daily at sunset.

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