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Park district plans Augusta Lake Park upgrades : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Park district plans Augusta Lake Park upgrades
Agency seeking $200,000 state grant to help pay for improvements

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Augusta Lake Park may get a facelift next year if a grant is approved by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Oswegoland Park District officials last week held an open house at the park to show residents the changes proposed by the district's department of planning and development.

More than 20 single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments on Augusta Road, Kristine Street and Kevin Lane surround the park, which is located about one-half mile east of Ill. Route 31 in unincorporated Oswego Township.

The park currently includes a small fishing lake, a handicapped accessible playground, a wood pedestrian bridge across the lake, a crushed stone walking path that meanders through the park and circles the lake, and an open area for practices.

During the open house, Park District Director of Planning and Development Grant Casleton, Senior Park Planner Chad Feldotto, and Planning, Development and GIS Services Coordinator Nancy Hubbard Casleton spent two hours in the park showing plans for the improvements and answering questions posed by residents who live by and use the park, many on a daily basis.

The proposed improvements include paving the stone walking path with asphalt, adding a small picnic shelter with two tables on a paver surface, and replacing the present playground equipment with new, modern equipment that is much easier for handicapped accessiblity. The wood chip playground surface will be replaced with a solid rubberized material, Casleton said.

The original wooden bridge that crosses the lake will be replaced with a steel bridge because the wood structure is showing age and starting to deteriorate. In addition, an accessible fishing pier with benches will be installed at the north end of the lake, he said.

The plans also include a half-court basketball facility for the younger children, according to Casleton. Although a couple of residents felt the improvement would attract older children who would be noisy, Casleton and Feldotto both said they have noticed that high school age youths prefer full-court basketball so they can play regular games.

"The half-court is usually used by parents and their children shooting hoops, or two-on-two (games)," Feldotto said.

"Because we haven't done much here for several years, people we've talked to are excited about the basketball court, the picnic shelter and the other things we're going to do. Several boys who were here earlier like the idea of the basketball, and a girl on a bike was excited about the playground," he said.

He noted that the shoreline around the lake is beginning to erode, so it will be re-graded and woodland and natural wetland plants will be planted to help restore the shoreline and stop the erosion. He said this will give the lake a natural look, unlike using stone or other materials.

He said the larger round part of the lake was man-made before the park district took over the park about 20 years ago. The smaller portion of the lake at the south end of the lake was dug by the park district when they took over ownership of the property.

"This portion was just a smelly open drainage ditch from Kristine Street that drained into the lake. Nobody took care of it. No one knew who owned it," he said.

Deb Krase, a former long-time park board member, lived in one of the houses bordering the park and was instrumental in getting the park district to take over the park, Casleton said.

He said the park district installed an underground drain culvert and closed the open ditch, allowing storm water to flow into the lake. The land over the culvert is now used as part of the park and the playground, he said.

The park also includes an open area with a baseball backstop for sports and other activities, and a paved seating area near the bridge over the lake, he said.

Casleton noted the many mature trees in the park were planted by the park district with a forestry grant years ago. A few were killed this past year from by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle but they will be replaced with different varieties and evergreens for shade and screening. The plan shows about 30 additional trees.

The park district is seeking an OSLAD (Open Space and Land Development) grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

State grant would
pay half of project cost

Casleton estimated the cost of the proposed improvements at $400,000. If the project is approved, the state will pay up to 50 percent of the costs or $200,000, with the remainder paid for by the park district.

The grant application must be filed by July 1, but they will not know if it is approved until next year. If approved, the project would be completed in 2015.

"If we don't get the grant we'll still do the playground and I'd like to replace the bridge next year, too. That's in our budget for next year, but the other items won't be done at that time," he added.

"This park is kind of isolated and serves the neighborhood really well. It's exactly what a neighborhood park is supposed to look like. Residents can walk out their back door or across the street and be in the park. The people who live here appreciate what they have and they keep an eye on it. We haven't had any trouble here," he said.

One resident, who moved to the neighborhood in 1988 when many of the adjacent houses were built, said the lake is not deep enough for fish, but another resident said he caught a bass in the lake, tossed it back and a friend caught the same fish a few days later. He also said there are bluegills in the lake.

Casleton said he knew there were fish in the lake, but did not know what varieties.

A couple residents said they would like to see portable toilets in the park, but Casleton said most users of the park are close enough to home that they can go there and come back. Neighborhood parks usually do no have these facilities, he said.

The district has had problems with vandals damaging and setting fire to the portable facilities even in the subdivisions surrounded by upscale homes, according to Casleton.

He said all adjacent residents were notified of the open house.

The state requires the park district to hold an open house on any project it helps fund to see if there are any objections. All comments are forwarded to the state with the grant application.

"We do this anyway to find out what the residents think about any project before we go ahead with it. This has been a very successful open house. There were no objections to the plan, so we're going to submit it as proposed," he said.

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