JOLIET – Joliet Township has expressed interest in taking over Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, which is owned by the city of Joliet.
Township and city officials have met to discuss the park budget, but there is no proposal pending to turn over the park, said City Manager Jim Hock, who has discussed the matter with the City Council.
“The council’s just thinking about it – whether they want to do it,” Hock said. “There’s no movement to making it happen or not making it happen. ... We would need an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the township. [Council members] haven’t asked me to do that yet.”
Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park is one of Joliet’s premier parks, located along the Des Plaines River with a band shell and indoor theater. But the number of events at the park has declined since the city reduced funding amid budget cuts during the recession.
Billie Limacher, president of the park foundation board that raises money to support events, led the creation of the park as part of the nation’s celebration of its bicentennial in 1976.
Hock said township officials have said they would maintain park operations that exist now and seek to expand them.
Word of the township’s interest has gotten around and created concern in the St. John’s Neighborhood, which includes the park.
Candace Johnson, co-president of the St. John’s Neighborhood Association, brought the matter to the council Tuesday but did not get any answers.
“I would like to know what the plans are for our Bicentennial Park,” Johnson said Wednesday.
She said Councilwoman Bettye Gavin was expected to discuss the park with the Neighborhood Association when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Father Medard Center, 260 Division St.
Gavin could not immediately be reached for comment. Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera also did not immediately return calls for comment.
But a July 15 memo from Hock to the mayor and council members mentions one meeting with township officials and another with members of the park foundation board to discuss finances and a possible change in park management.
Hock said Wednesday the township would not necessarily take ownership of the park, and the intergovernmental agreement could be a lease arrangement.
Limacher said Vera has been a supporter of the park and described him as “very progressive.”
“If [the township] have got the money and they want to do it, I would not be opposed,” Limacher said.
Johnson said the future of the park is important to St. John’s Neighborhood residents, who are hoping to find out more about the township’s plans.
“A lot of people in our neighborhood go there to plant flowers and pick up garbage,” she said. “That’s literally our only park.”