ST. CHARLES – Residents packed Hickory Knolls Discovery Center Monday night to voice their concerns about plans of the St. Charles Park District to add four pickleball courts, a 18-hole disc golf course and a parking lot as part of a proposed redevelopment plan for Timber Trails Park.
The Park District has applied for a $400,000 grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to improve the 36-acre park, located at the north end of North 17th Street. The improvements are part of the Park District's five-year plan, which was adopted in September 2018.
Among those speaking out against the proposed improvements was Gina Facchini Buresch, administrator for the Facebook group SAVE Timber Trails Meadow. Buresch and other residents are concerned about the impact the proposed improvements would have on the park, including the park's meadow.
"The plan drastically alters the character of the park from a quiet refuge where wildlife and wildflowers flourish to an amusement park that includes an 18-hole disc (Frisbee) golf course, pickleball courts, additional and enlarged parking lots, another playground and re-do of the existing one, bathrooms and a bags game area," Buresch said in a Facebook post.
They also voiced concerns that the Park District reclassified Timber Trails Park from a neighborhood park to a community park.
"We know this is a neighborhood park," Buresch said during the meeting.
Also speaking out against the proposed improvements was St. Charles resident James Flanigan, a frequent user of the park.
"I applaud you for wanting to improve the park facilities, but I am here to suggest that the park be improved without compromising the existing features, specifically, the prairie and the wooden trails," he said.
He noted that in the Park District's 2016 community survey, "96 percent of residents expressed an interest or need in more trails for walking and biking, 86 percent wanted more natural areas and dead last, 15 percent wanted more pickleball courts."
Flanigan also noted that walking, biking and natural trails also topped the list of what residents want in the Park District's 2017 community survey.
"Forty-nine percent responded that they want walking and biking trails," he said. "Thirty-four percent responded that they want nature trails."
Only 11.8 of respondents in that survey said they wanted to see pickleball facilities and 10.6 percent of respondents said they wanted an 18-hole disc golf course.
"We don't have anything against disc golf and pickleball courts in the right park, but Timber Trails is not the right park for many reasons," Flanigan said.
St. Charles Park Board President Brian Charles said the board is listening to the residents' concerns. The Park District is planning to hold another meeting about the project.
"This was enlightening for me because this was the first public meeting on a larger planning project," he said. "It's always fantastic when people come out."