DECATUR — While a lake within city limits is not uncommon, most communities are not so fortunate as to have theirs located in the middle.
Lake Decatur's location makes it an ideal spot for boaters, fishermen or people who just want to take a scenic stroll in Nelson Park on a summer day. It provides the backdrop for concerts in the park and a great location to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July.
But for all that may make it fashionable, the lake is also highly functional. It is the water source for nearly 80,000 residents of Decatur and Mount Zion, and it also supplies millions of gallons a day to thirsty industrial customers that include Archer Daniels-Midland Co. and Tate & Lyle.
Because of its proximity to some of the richest farmland in the world, Lake Decatur also suffers from an excess of sediment. That's a situation city officials hope to remedy with a $90 million dredging project that began this year and, over the course of five to six years, will increase the lake's capacity by 30 percent.
There is an emphasis, too, on improving the lake's capacity for recreational use. The Decatur Park District Board of Commissioners and Decatur City Council agreed in 2011 to begin collaborating on a long-term plan to develop Nelson Park into a hub of offerings such as miniature golf, renovated docks and a large amphitheater.
The governments are also working together to identify a marina management firm that could take charge of running docks in the Nelson Park area and offering amenities, such as watercraft rentals.