DECATUR — The new, large-scale playground at Nelson Park is scheduled to open by late spring or early June, the latest piece of the Decatur Park District's sweeping effort to transform the east-side park into a recreational hub.
The district's board of commissioners on Wednesday accepted a bid for new sidewalks and base material at the new playground, which will look similar to the one at Scovill Zoo but with a few different features — such as high ropes and other things to climb on.
The board voted unanimously to accept Entler Excavating Co.'s proposal of $119,125 over four other bids during its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon. Ryan Raleigh, the district's director of operations, said he anticipates work to begin at the playground's future home at Overlook Adventure Park within the next few months.
"We'll work on getting (base work) done first, and then our staff will do the installation of the playground," he said.
The park district purchased the playground equipment from its longtime supplier GameTime in November 2016. It cost $146,000, with the cost split because of a matching grant from GameTime. The remainder plus shipping, $80,135, was paid with an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant that the district received from the state in 2015.
Raleigh said the terms of the OSLAD grant require the playground to be installed by August, so the district will work with Entler to get the base work finished as soon as possible. Another bid will have to be placed for surfacing work at the future playground after the base work is finished, he said.
Ultimately, Raleigh said construction progress for the playground will depend on the weather. The same goes for all of Nelson Park's other forthcoming additions, too.
“Obviously with this cold weather, things are not going to be full steam ahead this time of year,” Raleigh said. “But we’re definitely happy with the progress so far.”
Efforts to revitalize Nelson Park and Decatur's lakefront began in 2011, and are still ongoing today. So far, new attractions at the 180-acre park on the city's east side have included a disc golf course, a dog park and the Overlook Adventure Park's mini golf course, batting cages and ropes course.
Construction on the park's $4.25 million amphitheater started in early November. Raleigh said Christy-Foltz crews have been working on its foundation, a combined restroom and concession building and certain utilities.
He estimates that the project should be finished by the end of July, but the district should have a better construction timeline once spring begins.
"It's difficult to work in bad weather, but I commend Christy-Foltz for working over the winter," said Bill Clevenger, executive director of the park district.
Overlook Adventure Park's $9.2 million water park is also on track for its 2019 opening date, Raleigh said. Initially scheduled to open in 2018, the facility's construction was delayed by the park district because the five work bids it received were higher than expected.
Raleigh said Wednesday that the project was put back out to bid and proposals from contractors are due on March 13.
Elsewhere at Nelson Park, Clevenger said progress for the Mister Softee ice cream restaurant that will open in the space formerly occupied by Ted's Taters is "moving along."
Both Ted's and the adjacent CherryBerry restaurant, located near the miniature golf and ropes courses, closed in the fall. Kendall Peterson, the restaurants' owner, cited health reasons for the closures.
The district's seven-month lease with Terri Chance and Haley Huddleston, who operate the Mister Softee truck in Decatur, began last month.
While preliminary work has begun at its new location, Clevenger said there is no set open date for the restaurant. As for finding a tenant for the former CherryBerry restaurant located right next door, Clevenger said there have been no new updates in the district's search so far.
"We've had a few preliminary conversations with some interested tenants, but there's nothing set in stone to date," he said.
In other business Wednesday, the board voted to approve annual agreements with the Commodore Decatur Yacht Club and the Standing Paddle Co. The board also voted to approve the $76,860 purchase of 60 new golf carts to replace its current fleet.
During the meeting's public comment portion, members of the Metro Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns that local black contractors were not being considered enough for district construction projects.
Ed Flynn, the district's attorney, responded by saying the district's bidding process for contracting work has always been open and advertised, and that the board typically hires contractors who propose the lowest and most feasible bids.
He offered to take contact information of those who wanted to be notified of future bid opportunities after the meeting.