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Local

Kiwanis Park annex eyed for dog park, nature trail

Future of Kiwanis Park and annex topic of Thursday public meeting

DeKalb woman Betsy Zimmerman (left), looks on as Amy Doll (right), executive director for the park district discusses potential plans for Kiwanis Park during a public meeting Thursday to discuss master concept plans for the park.
DeKalb woman Betsy Zimmerman (left), looks on as Amy Doll (right), executive director for the park district discusses potential plans for Kiwanis Park during a public meeting Thursday to discuss master concept plans for the park.

DeKALB – Betsy Zimmerman said she and her family just moved from the north side of DeKalb to the south side by Lions Park in December, and would like to see a dog park installed in Kiwanis Park’s new property off Barb Boulevard and First Street.

Zimmerman spoke Thursday during a public gathering of residents and DeKalb Park District officials seeking comment on what to do with Kiwanis Park in the next five years. The district hosted the public comment meeting in the park’s newly annexed space off Barb Boulevard. More than 20 residents, former and current city officials, and district staff reviewed concept plans for Kiwanis Park.

“We used to go to Kaatz Park all the time, it’s a wonderful facility,” Zimmerman said, saying she now lives in a house with a yard and hasn’t been back to Kaatz since. “Why go all the way across town? But with this here, we could bike or we could walk the dog, and use the facility in its entirety for the while family.”

The Park District acquired the 12-acre site in late 2018. Residents mulled over concept plans for both Kiwanis Park by Huntley Middle School, at the corner of Fairview Drive and South Fourth Street, and the Barb Boulevard annex. The latter could turn into a dual dog park – one for large and small dogs – and be surrounded by a looped walking trail, a restroom center and prairie land, plans show. Alternate plans for the annexed site show it being turned into a looped walking trail from Barb Boulevard to First Street, with prairie plants in the middle.

Residents expressed concerns about parking lot safety, lighting and cars that speed down First Street.

The Kiwanis Park Master Plan also could include two large soccer fields, four medium-sized soccer fields, four small soccer fields and an artificial turf field to be used for soccer, lacrosse or rugby. Additional amenities could include a nature playground, splash pad, pickleball and basketball courts, a pavilion, fitness stations, picnic shelter, restroom and a woodland exploration area.

Amy Doll, executive director of the Park District, said in a recent survey asking residents what types of features they would like to see in parks, a majority answered more places to walk. Doll said plans for the park changes likely wouldn’t occur for at least five years, because the plans need to be approved and money allocated.

Kim Royalty, who lives across the park on Fairview Drive, wondered about cost effectiveness.

“Is it cost prohibitive to tear all of this down, and put it in a plan later?” Royalty asked, who was also in favor of a dog park. “It makes more sense to have it up and utilize it when it’s here. I don’t see any reason to spend money to pull it down when it’s a perfectly useful space.”

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