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SAVOY – The village will name its latest park after a longtime member of the Savoy Planning Commission and has applied for a $400,000 state grant to develop it.

The Savoy Village Board voted unanimously last week to name a park being developed south of Old Church Road and east of the Canadian National railroad tracks after the late Dana Colbert, who lived not far from the development. Mr. Colbert died in February 2003.

Mayor Bob McCleary said the village board decided to honor Colbert in recognition of his 43 years of service as a member of the Savoy Planning Commission, including 34 years as chairman.

"We couldn't think of a more appropriate person to name this park after," McCleary said. "He gave so much of his life to the village. We wouldn't be here today without people like Dana Colbert. By naming this park after him, we hope to preserve his memory for future generations."

Today the property is largely a cornfield.

In May, the village received $546,000 from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to purchase 53 acres south of Old Church Road from Dave and Vance Barr for the park.

The parcel is part of 65 acres that the Barrs acquired from the Gladys J. Burrell Trust, which has farmed the property for many years. The Barrs intend to develop apartments on the remaining 14.3 acres.

The park is expected to take about 10 years to complete, according to Village Manager Dick Helton.

"It is important for every community to set aside significant amounts of land for green space and recreation," said village board member Bill Smith. "This park is an investment in our community's future."

When completed, the Dana Colbert Park will not only become Savoy's largest park, but it will also become the village's first community park, according to Helton.

Helton described the other parks (Jones Park, Burwash Park, Dohme Park, and Prairie Fields Park) as more passive, neighborhood parks.

Designed in the spirit of Urbana's Crystal Lake Park, the Dana Colbert Park is intended to become a destination for a variety of family activities, according to Helton.

At the center of the park will be a man-made lake that will also double as a detention basin for the south end of the community.

The village hopes to stock the lake with fish, and village board member Rebecca Pittman said she hopes it will also be suitable for ice skating in the winter months.

"I want to ice skate on the lake," Pittman said.

A 10-foot-high berm on the west edge of the park will be intended to shield park guests from noises from passing trains.

Winding through the park will be a trail for walking, jogging or biking. Long-range plans may link this trail to the village's existing bike trail.

"We want to maintain a rustic feel on the south side of the park with trees and trails," McCleary said.

At the suggestion of village board members Ted Davis, Art Skelton and Pittman, the park will also include a large hill to provide sledding opportunities.

"It is important that we have a hill for sledding to make this a winter park," Skelton said.

Tentative plans also call for an outdoor amphitheater on the west side of the park to hold open-air concerts and other programs.

McCleary said he has visited a similar amphitheater at a park in College Station, Texas, and added it would be a plus for the Savoy development.

"If we could have our own amphitheater, it would become a big draw," McCleary said.

Other proposed features include a parking lot, multiple softball diamonds, soccer and football fields, outdoor basketball and tennis courts and a playground.

"We can always put a dog park in there, too," Helton said.

Now that Savoy owns the land, the village board hopes to ask the state for money to help develop the park.

The village hopes to apply for a $400,000 state Open Space and Land Acquisition Grant to pay for some of the park's proposed features.

Helton estimated the lake would cost approximately $1 million, and the entire park might cost as much as $3 million by the time it is completed.

Helton said the village needs to make the application for a grant now because new rules that will go into effect after this year would prevent Savoy from getting that much money after this fiscal year.

The village board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. on Sept. 15.

You can reach Tim Mitchell at (217) 351-5366 or via e-mail at tmitchel@news-gazette.com.

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Tim Mitchell is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is tmitchel@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@mitchell6).

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