Urbana alderman wants Crystal Lake revamp to focus on water quality first

Urbana alderman wants Crystal Lake revamp to focus on water quality first

URBANA — An update on the park district's plan to revitalize the area around Crystal Lake drew criticism from at least one alderman over prioritization of the lake's water-quality issues.

The updated plan that park district Executive Director Tim Bartlett presented to the city council Monday calls for creating access all the way to the water, with steps, new landscaping and features like boat launches and a revamped Lake House area.

Announced in May 2017, it is projected to cost millions — one estimate puts it at $10 million — and take years.

It includes work to improve the lake's water quality, which Bartlett said has been affected by mercury, medical waste, nitrogen, invasive species and other pollutants, keeping many people away.

Last summer, an algal bloom closed the lake to public access.

But Alderman Aaron Ammons said the park district needs to get the lake's water quality in check first.

"I appreciate the vision, and it looks very nice," Ammons said.

"But we would need to get a firm handle on the water quality, then move things forward. We've had conversations over water quality for many, many years. And I'm a little concerned that this would move forward prior to getting it under control."

Bartlett's retort was clear: We can't wait.

"We need to continue to look for solutions for the water quality," he said.

"And we wish there was a ... magic pill, but it's really a combination of everything working together. It's something we want to start."

In other business, council members unanimously rejected a resolution that would have protested proposed zoning changes at the county level to allow solar farms.

Council member Bill Brown said the county's process was thorough and kept Urbana in mind.

The council also unanimously supported a move to combine the Mixed Office Residential District Development Review Board and the Design Review Board.

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