Pickleball, disc golf proposed at St. Charles park, but many residents aren't game
An 18-hole disc golf course winding through existing meadows and woodlands. Four outdoor pickleball courts next to midlevel fitness equipment. A new parking lot providing access to an entirely reconstructed playground.
Some of the most innovative components of a preliminary plan to redevelop Timber Trails Park in St. Charles also were the most controversial among dozens of residents who attended a community engagement session this week.
The St. Charles Park District has been working for months to develop proposed improvements for the 36-acre park tucked between a business park and residential neighborhoods at the north end of 17th Street. To help fund the project, officials applied for a matching $400,000 grant in August through the state's Open Space Land Acquisition and Development fund program.
The goal is to provide new types of amenities desired by residents while also enhancing the park's existing features, such as a sled hill, picnic shelters, fields and eight-tenths of a mile of trails, said Michelle Kelly, a landscape architect who served as the facilitator of Monday's meeting.
But those serene paths and natural areas are what neighbors and frequent parkgoers enjoy most, several residents told park district officials. Though enjoyable activities for some, disc golf and pickleball have no place there, they said, especially when they threaten the vitality of the park's open space.
"Wouldn't it be nice if the end result of the Timber Trails Park improvement was a celebration of existing natural features along the tasteful amenity additions?" said James Flanigan, who was among a majority in attendance donning green stickers that read "Save the Prairie."
"You might look at us as obstructionists," he continued. "We consider ourselves preservationists."
The park district's plan calls for removing buckthorn and other invasive species through the meadows and woodlands, planting new native species and encouraging the plants to grow, Kelly said. Disc golf holes would then be incorporated into some of those areas.
"It gets people using the space," she said. "It engages the space so it has people walking through it and enjoying it."
Several residents expressed concerns over the potential hazards disc golf poses on both plants and park patrons. Bruce Mather said he fears the prairie could be trampled by players fetching errantly thrown Frisbees or moving from hole to hole.
"I fail to understand why, when the park district has such a valuable asset, we would destroy it by putting in disc golf," he said.
Some community members also took issue with creating pickleball courts and adding a third parking lot, largely out of concern for the impact on adjacent households.
A few residents spoke in favor of the plan, saying they welcome the extra activities and access. Others asked the park district to also consider creating more accessible trails through the woodlands and improving the ponds and fishing pier.
Those at the meeting were asked to fill out a survey providing feedback on the proposed amenities. The park district plans to incorporate those results into the development of a final master plan, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Any drastic revisions made to the plan could alter the amount of grant funding allocated to the project, said Laura Rudow, superintendent of parks and planning.
At the request of residents, the park district also intends to hold another community engagement meeting once park plans are finalized.
"I think there's probably a resolution in here somewhere between what exactly the park district has proposed and some of the things you guys want," resident Dave Zacker said.