News Local/State

Rantoul Park Bd Meets For Last Time, After Voters Approve Dissolution

Members of the Rantoul Park Board during their final meeting.

Members of the Rantoul Park Board (L-R: Rich Thomas Jason Bartell, Board Pres. Gary Hardin and Terry Shepherd) during the final meeting Thursday at the Rantoul Business Center. Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

The Rantoul Park Board met for the final time Thursday night.

The eleven-minute meeting at the Rantoul Business Center comes five days before the date on which the Champaign County Clerk is expected to certify results of a referendum dissolving the Rantoul Park District and leaving its assets to Rantoul village government.

Preliminary results show voters approved the referendum by a tally of 2,167 to 1,970.

Backers of the referendum argued that the park board had allowed its largest facility --- the money-losing Brookhill Golf Course north of town ---- to take up park district resources at the expense of other facilities. They say the village, which has its own parks department, will make better decisions.

But Park Board member Rich Thomas disagrees. He’s a retired Rantoul parks and recreation employee. Thomas says the village and the park district pooled their resources to provide Rantoul with park facilities it wouldn’t have otherwise.

“Neither entity could do anything themselves, but together, they could”, said Thomas, who has served on the Park Board for five years. “There was never any duplication of service or labor or anything at all. There were two completely separate entities that worked together to provide, I think, some of the best recreational facilities in the state.”

The Rantoul Park District is closing down with a little more than $100 thousand in its bank account. Village Administrator Jeffrey Feigenschuh says they hope park district funds can help keep Brookhill Golf Course going in the short-term, while the village determines its long-term future. Backers of the referendum had suggested the village would be able to simply close or sell Brookhill Golf Course if it wanted to.

But Rantoul Park District Board President Gary Hardin says the golf course comes with a covenant tied to a federal grant that helped acquire land for Brookhill nearly half a century ago. That covenant requires that the site be maintained for public recreation, no matter who owns it.

“It has to be a recreational facility of some sort”, said Hardin. “And even if it’s turned into grounds with walking paths, that has to be maintained, there has to be mowing. There has to be supervision with people out there.  So it’s going to cost money. But again, that’s something the village will have to answer.”

It was announced during the final Rantoul Park Board meeting that the Rantoul Village Board would hold a special meeting on Tuesday, November 29th, to discuss the future of Brookhill Golf Course and other Rantoul Park District properties.

According to the Rantoul Press, the Rantoul Park District assets being transferred to the village of Rantoul include Brookhill Golf Course and an adjacent park and farmland, Maplewood Sports Complex, Mary Alice Park, the park district’s portion of Wabash Park and land along South Murray Road that’s been held in reserve for a future park site.

In addition, the village will receive the Rantoul Park District’s financial assets. A treasurer’s report released at the final board meeting listed roughly $124,000 in the park district’s accounts, against about $17,000 in outstanding bills.

Rantoul Village Administrator Jeff Feigenschuh has said that he hopes park district funds will help the village maintain Brookhill Golf Course while they figure out its long-term future.