Park district leaders explain cancellations, offer alternatives


CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Park districts across central Illinois are making major cuts to summer activities. That includes both Decatur and Champaign park districts. 

For Champaign, that means closing Sholem Aquatic Center for the summer. “50 people in a pool, that would definitely be a big challenge,” explained Marketing and Communications Director Chelsea Norton. She says the 50-people limit would bring in too little income to justify keeping the pool open and paying staff. 

“When you look at the cost to operate a facility like Sholem Aquatic Center, and then the revenue of the low attendance allowed, it didn’t really make fiscal sense.”

The pool isn’t the only victim to cancellations. Taste of CU, which was heading into its 50th anniversary, also won’t happen this year, as well as team sports, like little league. An expanded list of Champaign Park District changes can be found here.

Decatur’s Park District leaders are also making difficult adjustments, including not opening their Splash Cove Water Park, which was supposed to open for the first time this summer. It was delayed last year due to harsh weather.

“Really tough day today, tough decision, but it was one of those decisions that ultimately had to be made,” said Decatur Park District Executive Director Bill Clevenger. He explained that some finishing touches have yet to be made on some slides in the park because of two employees who were supposed to travel in from Switzerland to work on them. What’s left would equal about two week’s worth of work on those slides.

Decatur’s July 4th activities will also be canceled, including the community fireworks display. Clevenger says several thousand people gather for that display, and it would be a risk to public safety.

Park district leaders are reminding people that there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

Champaign Park District is even offering a modified version of their summer camps, where families can pick up activity packets and occasionally have video chats with group leaders.

Decatur’s Park District also has plenty to offer. “We also now have our pickleball courts available again, our tennis courts are available again,” said Clevenger. 

The Champaign Park District is offering a fun alternative to their day camps that they call “Day camp in a bag”. Parents can sign their kids up for it, and they’ll pick up bags with a week’s worth of fun activities for kids. Norton also recommends some other ways for people to enjoy the outdoors.

“There are some small things we can do, like private tennis lessons, so that has been approved,” added Norton. “We have miles of trails available for people. Over 700 acre of green space in Champaign.”

And despite the changes, there are still lots of things in store in the coming months.

“Keep in touch with us because we are here for the community and we aren’t going anywhere,” said Norton.

Everyone who purchased passes with the Champaign Park District has the option to either get a refund or shift the payment to 2021. Decatur Park District is also working with people on an individual basis.

Vermilion County Park District changes can be found here.

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