Park Board debates putting sale of small parcel of land in Parker Heights Park on ballot

Parker Heights - Street view looking west

A street-level look from the west at the parcel of land up for sale in Parker Heights Park in Quincy. The proposed boundary starts 30 feet north of the old road leading into the park and extends 50 feet further north. | Photo courtesy of John Frankenhoff

QUINCY — Voters may get to weigh in on the sale of a small portion of Parker Heights Park on Quincy’s north end.

Carla Gordon and John Gebhardt asked commissioners not to sell the 1.13-acre parcel of land to Knapheide Manufacturing during Wednesday night’s Quincy Park Board meeting. Both were concerned that if the property is sold that other portions of Park District property might also be sold in the future.

“When you sell public land, you should let the public know,” said Gebhardt, a former commissioner.

Park Board president John Frankenhoff disagreed with the contention that selling this tract of land would lead to the sale of more land. He said people have been interested in buying Park District land in the past, but few of those offers went anywhere.

“The board simply wasn’t interested or rejected it, and it never even became a public discussion,” he said. “There have been many more of those (instances) than the one or two instances of selling (Park District) property.”

A survey conducted by Klingner and Associates and paid for by Knapheide showed the nearest side of the parcel of land in the north end of the park is no closer than 80 feet to the property the Park District currently maintains. Some areas are more than 200 feet from the mowing line.

“This land under consideration is not mowed,” Frankenhoff said. “If somebody walks through there, more power to them. I’m not even aware of a path.

“It has been part of the park for well over more than a century, but I don’t think it has ever been used with what we would call park land.”

Commissioner Jeff Steinkamp called the property “just a hillside” and supported the idea of selling it, with the proceeds going toward the development of other parks in the city.

“If I took 1,000 pennies and threw them out onto the floor right here, and I went in and picked one up, then picked another one up, cut it in half and cut that in half again, we’d have one and a quarter pennies,” Steinkamp said. “That’s how much this land is. It’s not that much. It’s not that big.”

Any parcel 3 acres or larger needs a public vote to be sold.

“Putting every issue controversial in front of the voters is just not realistic,” Frankenhoff said. “I think we’re elected to make these kinds of decisions.”

Park Board vice president Barb Holthaus, as well as commissioners Nathan Koetters and Patty McGlothlin, all offering their support for putting the sale of the property on a ballot. They all said they’ve received more public feedback on the issue than most of Park District projects, with Koetters calling it “the greasiest wheel.”

“We don’t have to put it on the ballot, but it would cost us nothing to get the opinion of the citizens,” McGlothlin said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t do that.”

“I have gotten just a flood of comments and calls, and it does maybe alert me that perhaps it might be worth the effort to confirm that,” Holthaus said.

A vote on the sale of the property cannot go on the ballot until the April election.

Park Board members voted unanimously to approve spending $2,500 to complete paperwork for an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to build an all-inclusive playground/restroom/shelter in Wavering Park east of the Avenue of Lights baseball field.

The playground would be like the one built at Lincoln Park. Park District officials must submit the paperwork by Sept. 30.

Approval of the OSLAD paperwork also allowed the Park Board to approve unanimously the project if it receives the grant. The estimated project cost is $1,376,653, with the local cost share of $776,653. The Park District’s share of the money would come out of its 2024 budget.

“Like we have a counter on the (Bill Klingner) trail, if you had to count how many people use that all-inclusive playground, you would be shocked,” McGlothlin said.

“(Lincoln Park is) the busiest playground we have in the district,” executive director Rome Frericks said.

“This is a project that was on our radar, that we had prioritized, and it’s not something that it’s just a matter of this grant coming available,” Holthaus said. “The timing of the grant is what we want to take advantage of, but also I feel like it’s a solid direction for us to take.”

Commissioners also voted 6-1, with Frankenhoff the lone no vote, to budget salary increases for staff members to be set at $37,193, 5 percent above the 2022 budget. The increases do not include the executive director’s salary, which is set by the Board.

In other news, commissioners learned:

  • The clock on a 50-day comment period started Wednesday on a series of storybook signs that could be installed in Gardner Park and Sunset Park. The Quincy Children’s Museum received a $10,000 grant to buy 20 low-profile single pedestal frames that can be changed throughout the year with different stories. Installation and the cost of the frames would be paid for by the grant.
  • Members of the Quincy Tennis Association have been working with Park District staff on the refurbishment of the Clarence “Candy” Greenman plaque in Reservoir Park, dedicated by the QTA in August 2008. The sign has deteriorated and faded. The QTA paid for all costs associated with the refurbishment and used the same language on the plaque from 2008. Once the plaque is complete, Park District staff will reinstall the plaque in Reservoir Park.
  • Attendance at Indian Mounds Pool was the highest it’s been since 2012. Mike Bruns, director of program services, said 1,728 people paid to swim at the pool this year. The pool still lost $58,350 this summer, however.
  • The number of rounds played at Westview Golf Course this year is up by 447 compared to this time last year. David Morgan, director of golf, also said aeration of holes 1-18 was completed Sept. 12-14.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The location of the all-inclusive playground at Wavering Park was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

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