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New Springdale Cemetery pact would have Peoria Park District purchase, maintain the savanna

Springdale Cemetery was founded in 1854 and has been operated jointly by the City of Peoria, Peoria County, and the Peoria Park District since 2002.
Springdale Cemetery
Springdale Cemetery was founded in 1854 and has been operated jointly by the City of Peoria, Peoria County, and the Peoria Park District since 2002.

A proposed agreement will continue intergovernmental oversight of Peoria's historic Springdale Cemetery, with one significant change.

The original 20-year agreement to divide operating expenses for the 227-acre property among the City of Peoria, Peoria County, and the Peoria Park District is set to expire this year. If approved, the new pact would run for 10 years with an option to extend the agreement for an additional 10 years.

“What this agreement does is that at the end of every operating year, generally Springdale operates at a deficit, and so each of the three entities have continued to agree to pay into that bucket so that Springdale continues,” said park district Executive Director Emily Cahill. “It's a way for us to collaborate around a key public asset, to make sure that we can keep Springdale as the gem that it is.”

Founded in 1854 and designed as both a cemetery and public park, Springdale is the burial site for more than 70,000 people including several notable historic figures from the Peoria area. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Under the new proposal, the city would still own the cemetery, while the park district would purchase the 14-acre tall grass savanna for $1 to put the area into a permanent environmental stewardship.

“With the protections that we as a park district have in our Illinois park district code, it will mean that we will be able to protect in perpetuity the savanna and what it means for us ecologically and conservation-wise,” said Cahill. “That's a key role we can play in the ongoing management of Springdale, and then we’ll continue to look at those ways to make Springdale sustainable in other forms as well.”

Under the terms of the new agreement, the county’s share of annual expenses starts at $100,000 and increases by $2,000 each year to a maximum of $120,000. The park district will have an annual cash contribution of $40,000, and the city will cover the remainder of the yearly operating expenses.

The park district’s share is lower because the three entities acknowledge the annual expense to maintain the savanna has an inherent value greater than the cash contribution. Cahill said the district anticipates spending between $10,000-$20,000 on savanna upkeep each year.

“The savanna was formed in the ice ages and there are very few of these left anywhere in the world. It is significant and it is something that ecologically is something that we want to protect,” said Cahill. “From a maintenance standpoint, it's really making sure that the savanna stays clean, both from a trash perspective and from those invasive species and plants that try to grow in the space where we don't want them.”

Cahill said they hope to have the new agreement fully approved by all three bodies by mid-March. The Peoria County Board Executive Committee will discuss the proposal on Tuesday, followed by formal presentations before the City Council on March 8, the Park District Board of Trustees on March 9, and the full County Board on March 10.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.