JOLIET – Concept design plans carrying $2.2 million worth of improvements for Pilcher Park were approved Monday night by the Joliet Park District Board.
The plans presented to board members included a redesigned roadway system, improved parking lots and trails and security gates to keep people from illegally dumping trash in the nature preserve.
Although it would cost a bit more up front, board members voted on a plan that converts the main loop near the Nature Center that’s long been susceptible to storm water erosion into a recreational trail.
Doing so would save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in long-term maintenance repair work and limit vehicle access in the heart of the nature preserve, thereby lessening environmental impacts, according to Rodney Tonelli, president of Ruettiger, Tonelli & Associates, the consultant firm hired to conduct the design work.
“One of the challenges with our roads is that they are subject to significant water flow,” he said. “It’s continually washing out roads … We may be able to minimize costs long-term [by redesigning the park].”
Vehicle access still would be available the roadway along Hickory Creek, Tonelli said.
“I know we have a lot of residents and users who still want to want to [drive through the park]. If we sat here today and said we want to have no more cars in the park, I think there would be a lot of people that would raise objection to that,” Tonelli said. “I think it’s a good compromise that [allows people to drive through] and still lets the rest of the park be accessible on foot or on bike. It’s a more sensitive way to approach this.”
The plans also converts public access roadways off Gougar Road into private roads for staff and maintenance crew. One Joliet resident, Lynn Gow, raised concern that eliminating that also would eliminate access to the nearby Flowing Well Pavilion.
“Right now, there’s only three pavilions in that whole park, counting that one. And I think we could really use some more pavilions. There’s a lot of people who use that park,” Gow said. “I don’t want to see us lose a pavilion.”
Park District Executive Director Dominic Egizio said he is open to the idea of placing an additional pavilion elsewhere.
Tonelli said he anticipates an early 2016 completion date if all goes as planned.
Other elements of the plan:
• Build a new parking lot north of the Pilcher Park statue
• Convert Snake Hill Road into a trail.
• Install automatic security gates to the west off Cass Street and to the east off Gougar Road.
• Convert the public access roadway from Gougar Road into private road for staff and maintenance.
• Convert Hoberg Access Road into a trail and extend that into Upper Pilcher Park Trail.
• Repave parking lot near Pilcher Park Nature Center.