QUINCY -- A major makeover at Bob Bangert Park along North Bottom Road could bring its visitors closer to nature.
The three-year plan calls for prairie restoration, savanna development, tree planting, wetland development and the installation of a water control system at the 26-acre park. The project is expected to create 13 acres of wetlands.
Park District staff have worked with the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fishermen's Association during the last couple months on plans. After work is complete, the district would maintain it.
Organization President Glenn Sanders, a retired conservation police officer, said the group approached the Park District about the project.
"Our members have been interested in doing something with that park down there for probably four or five years, and we were able to get ourselves in a financial position where we were able to make the commitment that we can get the job done for them," Sanders said.
Park District Executive Director Rome Frericks said the change could bring more people to the park.
"Since the soccer fields moved out of there, it's not one of our main parks by any means, and with the siltation that's come in from Cedar Creek, the boaters can't launch there anymore unless it's a flooding event," Frericks said. "It's just not attracting a large amount of people."
Sanders said the redevelopment will help get more children to interact with wildlife and the environment.
"When I was little kid, I used to get in trouble with Mom because I went up there where Bangert Park was at and was bringing home tadpoles, crawdads, frogs, snakes and all that kind of good stuff that little kids should be doing," he said. "It's kind of in short supply around here in the park system. At this type of place, I want kids to go get muddy. I want them to get their hands in the environment themselves."
Frericks agrees with Sanders' desire to see visitors to interact with nature.
"What I would envision is the Quincy Park District partnering with the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fishermen's Association to do some spring and fall programs down there to get the kids who don't get to experience nature a whole lot or wildlife to come out there and like Glenn said ‘get a little dirty,' " he said.
Down the road, the Park District could look at remodeling the shelter house and the existing restrooms, as well as potentially add more parking for the Bill Klingner Trail.
The Quincy Park District acquired Bob Bangert Park from the state of Illinois in 1972.
The park was originally dedicated in 1961 as Sid Simpson State Park in honor of the late congressman, and the Park District had maintained the park since it was developed, an October 1972 article in The Herald-Whig reported.
It was renamed in 1980 after Bangert, who served on the Quincy Park Board for more than 40 years.
Though the Park Board tabled action on the plan last week, it will consider the redevelopment plan at its July 12 meeting.
Sanders said wetland restoration is nothing new for the Hunters and Fishermen's Association. The group has overseen the Allie Lymenstull Waterfowl Rest Area, formerly the Triangle Lake Refuge, for 12 years.
Frericks said he and other staff will visit Gardner Camp in Pike County this week to see the rehabilitation that the Hunters and Fishermen's Association has completed.
In initial meetings between the organization and the Park District, it turned out the two sides were not far apart with a vision for the park.
The Park District contracted with Pizzo and Associates of Leland, Ill., in 2011 to develop a natural areas master plan for the district, and the firm identified Bob Bangert Park as having significant potential for the development and restoration as a nature area.
"Glenn drew up a plan that really mimicked what was done in that study in 2011, and they're willing to step up and do the majority of the work themselves and fund the majority themselves," Frericks said.
Sanders said he was thrilled to see the report highlight Bob Bangert Park for restoration.
"They identified that as an excellent place to develop a wildlife area," he said. "Our vision for the development of Bangert is to make that showcase, not just something for wildlife."
The Hunter and Fishermen's Association plans will deviate slightly from the report, specifically creating a series of small levees for trails instead of wooden boardwalks and not installing a fence around the property.
"We put together, I think, what is going to be the best use of that property," Sanders said. "The hydrology is good for a wetland area."
Work could start as early as this fall.
Sanders said the organization will handle the costs associated with the work, and will explore public grants, as well as private grants through Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservatory.