Naperville-area residents who use Sportsman's Park as their home base for trapshooting will be looking for new venues this summer.
The park, trapshooting range and clubhouse closed after a shooting session Sunday so crews can remove lead contamination from the soil and add trails. Naperville Park District Executive Director Ray McGury said the $2.9 million project is expected to conclude in late fall.
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Sportsman's Park users say they're looking forward to the improvements, which will include new lighting, accessible shooting stations, a paved access drive, a new parking lot and restored natural areas -- not to mention the removal of lead in the soil.
"Based on the rendering that was created by the park district, I'm excited to see the end result," said Jay Spitz, a member of the Naperville Sportsman's Club, which is based at the park. "At the same time, I'm disappointed I won't be shooting at Sportsman's Park over the summer and early fall."
While the park is closed, contractors will clean up lead contamination detected in a 2012 study of the soil at the range, where shooters used lead pellets for decades before they were banned in 1998.
The park district, which maintains the park at 735 S. West St. on land it leases from the city, is conducting the work under a program of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. When the soil is deemed free of remnants of lead, the park district will receive a letter stating no further remediation is necessary.
Spitz said Sportsman's Club members were not concerned with the traces of lead found in the soil and continued to use the site for recreation until it closed this week.
"As we got closer to the closure, I think folks were coming out even a little bit more than normal so they would have the opportunity to shoot before it closed temporarily," Spitz said.
Park district officials said they want to remove all "hot spots" of lead contamination found in the 2012 study, even though some of the park already has been deemed safe.
"It's the right thing to do for a number of reasons," McGury said.
Naperville Sportsman's Club President Jim Monk said it was a "foregone conclusion" the lead at the site would be cleaned up, but work actually began sooner than he expected.
A first phase of lead removal took place last fall for $490,457, but the phase beginning now covers a larger area spanning 17 acres.
When the lead cleanup and site improvements are finished, park board Commissioner Rich Janor said Sportsman's Park neighbors will find more recreational uses for the land.
"People around the area are most excited about the fact that there's going to be additional amenities on the site moving forward," Janor said. "For years it has been utilized by a relatively small portion of Naperville residents, mainly the people participating in shooting activities. But now moving forward, it will be enjoyed by a lot of other residents."