Urbana Park District candidates offer experience
URBANA – Three candidates with plenty of experience with the Urbana Park District are seeking two park board seats in Tuesday's election.
Michael Walker has been president of the park board since 2003 and he's been on the board for 24 years.
Steve Mullen served on the park board from 1998 to 2002 and on the park district's advisory committee from 1996 to 1998.
Bob Stewart has served the past three years on the park district advisory committee, including the past year as chairman.
Walker, 60, 511 W. High St., said the district will face financial challenges in coming years, and that a tax increase ballot question might be necessary at some point.
"Finances are getting tight and I don't think we're going to be able to continue the quality of park facilities and services the community has become accustomed to with the same level of revenue," he said.
Another likely issue in coming years is what type of pool facility the community will want to replace Crystal Lake Pool. A recently completed master plan shows an aquatics center at the pool site.
"It's something the community really wants," Walker said.
Walker said he's worked hard during his lengthy tenure as a board member to "make some quality signature parks and to keep up the neighborhood parks."
"We work hard to keep our finger on the pulse of the community and do what the community wants," Walker added.
Mullen, 47, 1705 Marc Trail, said he is running because he finds public service satisfying and because of his love of nature. He said that while he recognizes the need for park districts to provide a variety of services, his first love is natural areas like Urbana's Meadowbrook Park, Busey Woods and the Perkins Road site.
To build a new aquatic center will likely require voter approval of a bond issue, he said.
Stewart, 53, of 308 Willard St., said he's running for the park board because he enjoys parks and planning for the future, and because he has more free time now that his youngest daughter is in college.
"I've really enjoyed serving on (the advisory committee) and this is sort of the next step," he said.
Stewart said he believes "all the pieces of the park district are important" and that having, for example, both sports programs and natural areas are important for the park district.
"I want a balanced park district," he said.
Stewart said he would like to see the park district make a greater effort to get special populations to use Urbana parks. One idea he has would be to use a modified golf cart that could hold four or five people to enable the elderly and developmentally disabled to get around and enjoy Meadowbrook Park.
Stewart said he would like to see Crystal Lake Pool be "not as large of a pool" when it is updated. He said he would like to see the pool retain a deep well where people could dive and also become more of a "splash park" with fountains and sprays.
The park board seats are for six-year terms.