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Eureka looks ahead with major lake facilities upgrade

Eureka Mayor Eric Lind stands near the conceptual plan for improvements to Eureka Lake Park.
Tim Alexander
Eureka Mayor Eric Lind stands near the conceptual plan for improvements to Eureka Lake Park.

Buoyed by the promise of a matching funding grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Eureka city leaders are moving ahead with plans for a comprehensive, multiyear improvement project for Eureka Lake, a 30-acre man made impoundment that includes a city park and day-use facilities for the general public.

Up to $1.2 million could be spent for upgrades to structures, facilities and trails that ring the lake, which was constructed in the 1940s as a public works project. Depending on how much money the Eureka city council agrees to allow for the project, the plan could also include the construction of a new covered bandstand, splash pad and veterans’ memorial. As much as half of the project’s estimated cost could be provided via the IDNR grant, according to Eureka Mayor Eric Lind.

“IDNR’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Grant is a matching grant of up to $600,000. Right now we’re looking at (a total project) budget of $1.2 million, pending council approval,” he said. “If we only spend $400,000, we can do that. But we can get up to $600,000 in matching funds.”

The Eureka Lake Comprehensive Plan’s estimated cost was projected by 3D Design Studio, a Grayslake landscape and architectural design firm hired to lead the project. On Thursday, September 8, dozens of Eureka residents attended the second of two open discussion forums to have their questions regarding the proposed project answered by city leaders and Dan Dalziel, founder and principal designer for 3D Design Studio. Residents were also encouraged to offer their own visions for the lake and park’s future.

“Some of the items that scored really well during our public input sessions were a splash pad at the park or someplace in Eureka, the addition of a veteran’s memorial in the park, some trail extensions and some pavilion additions throughout the park,” said Lind.

Other improvements to the park that are under consideration include the addition of lights to the soccer field areas and baseball diamonds, along with protective netting and additional shading.

“There were also some ideas to upgrade our performance area. We have a really nice bandstand right along Eureka Lake, and we would possibly make that a little bigger and add some sort of covered shelter,” the mayor said, adding that most who attended the open discussions seemed to approve of 3D Design Studio’s overall landscape and architecture plan for the park.

“We had a lot of different ideas and suggestions on the placement of various items, as well as some additional items that people would like to see in the park. One of the items we had come forward that is not currently listed in (3D’s) plans is some additional fencing around the playground areas and high traffic areas. The city is certainly looking at doing some of those things to improve safety around the park.”

Upgrades to Eureka Lake’s aging restroom facilities were also a top priority of some who offered opinions. However, such upgrades are not covered by the IDNR grant that would provide half of the funding for the project. “We as a city know we need an upgrade as well, so we’re going to start putting a priority on those kinds of items and projects,” Lind said.

The IDNR grant stresses handicapped accessibility, meaning that all of the upgrades included in the project’s final budget will be ADA compliant and handicapped accessible. This will include a new fishing pier and kayak launch, along with measures to increase trail accessibility.

“For some of the existing trails we are looking to maybe loop a section of the park and connect it to the other. That would probably entail putting down some sort of ADA accessible surface, so one of the things we’ve looked at is doing limestone screenings on the trails, which makes it a more natural surface than putting asphalt down but also meets the accessibility requirements of the ADA,” Lind said, adding that distance markers and interpretive signage are also planned as part of the trail upgrades.

The city will submit their application for the IDNR grant before the end of September. If approved, the project could begin before the end of 2022. Moving forward, the council will determine which individual improvement projects will receive top priority based on the final budget amount, according to Lind.

“Our goal is to get really good input as to what people want to see in the park, and hopefully we can move forward with this over the next five or ten years to accomplish these items,” he said.

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Tim Alexander is a correspondent for WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.