MARSHALL, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — On the south side of the city of Marshall, Ill., a soybean field is in the preliminary stages of developing into the next public park.
Marshall native Gerald Forsythe recently announced plans to donate nearly 14 acres of land near Cherry and 11th Streets, while also paying all expenses to build facilities and finish for public use.
Forsythe and city officials said they hope this project benefits the community.
“We need to make sure this town continues to grow and evolve in such a way that it maintains the level of excellence we’ve had over the years,” Mayor John Hasten said.
Hasten added that one of Forsythe’s requests was for the community to be involved in deciding what will be built within park boundaries.
“Mr. Forsythe has long wanted Marshall to have a city park,” Hasten said. “He’s from here, he loves this place. We want to continue to grow our city. Our city pool for example offers classes for toddlers, but also offers aerobics classes for adults. That’s a model we like, to be a spot for everyone. It’s imperative everyone have a say in this.”
If the zoning process goes accordingly, this park will be one of the first to be built in Marshall’s third ward. Councilman Jarod Green said this location will serve local kids.
“There’s not a lot of parks within this area, so we’re excited to see this part of town grow,” Green said. “It’s a safe place for them to walk to or ride their bikes down here. We’re excited for it be on this end of town. There’s a lot of kids that live in this ward.”
Green also said he designed preliminary sketches of the land’s layout to get a better grasp of what can fit.
“It’s hard to tell right now what will go here because we are in the preliminary stages,” he added. “We’ve got quite a bit of room and have heard some good ideas.”
Before any plans or designs are set, Marshall’s citizens are being asked for their input. A survey is being sent to homes through the mail asking what the people want to see. Options vary from tennis courts, shuffleboard court or a write in option.
“I think we’ll be able to build something that people of all ages and of all abilities will be able to participate in,” Hasten said.
Green added that it is important for residents to consider other factors when choosing potential park options, including sustainability and long-term growth.
“After this is all set up, we will have to pay for this later,” Green said. “We need to put some thought into that as well. What goes here, we’ll also have to maintain down the road.”
One potential park idea is building soccer fields. President of Marshall Area Soccer Kids Tyler Claypool said the city’s soccer league saw a record spring attendance, nearing 200 players from Pre-K to 12th grade, from cities outside of Marshall.
“To be considered for the new park in town could be an unbelievable opportunity for us,” Claypool said. “It could be a forever home, a long-term solution with our growing soccer league.”
Currently, M.A.S.K. is leasing its soccer fields. Claypool said through that agreement, the fields could potentially be sold, leaving them without a place to play.
“We have plans to grow our organization,” Claypool added. “Having a permanent home would help forward those plans. We’d be honored to be a part of the city’s plans.”
Hasten said pending weather, construction for the park could begin next spring.