Park board: Golf course status update presented

Boat races on hold due to IDNR concerns

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 3/21/22

At its monthly meeting Monday, the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District Board of Commissioners heard an update from Fairways Golf Course Superintendent Mitch Hamilton on the status of his facility.

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Park board: Golf course status update presented

Boat races on hold due to IDNR concerns


ROCHELLE — At its monthly meeting Monday, the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District Board of Commissioners heard an update from Fairways Golf Course Superintendent Mitch Hamilton on the status of his facility. 

Last year, Fairways saw 13,053 rounds of golf, the most Hamilton has seen in 15 years. In its last full season in 2019, Fairways saw 10,035 rounds played. 

“We had a lot of first-time golfers come out,” Hamilton said. “This year it'll be a big sign if we can keep them coming out. Golf is trending upwards for us, but we don't know if it was just due to everything going on and coming out of COVID-19. Hopefully that keeps going. Last year we didn't do any specials. This year we'll start that again to attract more golfers. We just opened for the season on March 15.”

Hamilton said a lot of work has been done on the grounds of the course over the past year, including a large tree project that involved the removing and trimming of diseased and overgrown trees. The last of the diseased Ash trees were removed and 50 were taken out over five years. 

Thirty other trees were taken out and 30 more were trimmed. Those groups of trees were overgrown and impeding how the course was designed to play. 

“We have a lot more to go,” Hamilton said. “We've had people come out this year already and they notice it right away. It's a lot cleaner now and we're getting things trimmed up to where they're supposed to be. We're trying to find the right ones to take in and out.” 

In the fall, trees will be replanted into areas that won’t impede play as they grow older. The last of the course’s stumps were also taken out over the winter. 

Fairways will be starting a large irrigation project this summer or fall to update the irrigation heads of the system that was put in during the early 1990s. Hamilton said he was able to get some irrigation heads at a discounted price from closed courses and the project will combat issues like leakage. 

“Between that and the trees, those are two huge things,” Hamilton said. “I'm pretty excited. I've wanted to do those things for a long, long time.”

Hamilton said he’s been working with the City of Rochelle on a multi-use path it wants to put along Illinois Route 251 on the edge of the course. It would be similar to the park district’s multi-use path and help to get residents from the south side of town into the downtown area. 

City Engineer Sam Tesreau is currently working on drawings for the project and it would not interfere with landmarks on the golf course. While that project is done, work may be done on current and new cart paths at Fairways. The multi-use path project likely wouldn’t start until after sewer work is done on the golf course in the fall.

Boat races

Last month, the board heard a proposal on boat racing returning to Lake Sule this summer or next summer. 

Holden and Michael Mackey of Marine Racing Club have been in contact with the park district about future boat races. Park district Executive Director Jackee Ohlinger recently spoke with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which maintains the lake, and was made aware of concerns the IDNR has about the races impacting the fish population and shoreline of Lake Sule. 

Ohlinger recommended to the board that it hold off on any future boat races until it can resolve those issues. The park district has held discussions on doing shoreline work in the past. The board agreed with her and took no action on the issue. 

“We know our shoreline is in need of help and it's something we've been working on,” Ohlinger said. “Until we have our resolution to some of the shoreline concerns we've been discussing, we should postpone any future boat races but invite them to come back at a later date when maybe we have a little bit more clarity on what we need to do to keep our shoreline in good graces.”

Special use

The board unanimously approved a new special use permitting system for anybody who wants to use park space for activities other than a picnic. The park district has been getting a lot of requests for activities at its parks and looked at what other park districts do.

Activities that would need a special use permit would include weddings or organized events open to the public. The board would approve or deny any applications. A refundable deposit of $100 would be required and there would be an additional permit fee of $100. If there was sale and consumption of alcohol, that would be a $100 fee as well. 

Payment, insurance documents and possible food service documents would be required at least two weeks before the event and the park district would reserve the right to cancel or relocate the event due to poor weather or anything that could potentially cause damage. 

The board also unanimously approved a special use permit request by the Rochelle Rotary Club for a festival event June 11 at Atwood Park. A similar event was held last year and it will involve a car show, beer garden, several vendors and the closure of 10th Avenue between Atwood and Cooper Parks.

Director comments 

During her director comments portion of the meeting, Ohlinger said the park district’s outdoor crew has been preparing for the summer season and it is hiring for seasonal positions. 

The Helms Stadium roof project should be complete in the next week, Ohlinger said. The installation of a new fishing pier at Spring Lake is also almost complete. The park district’s driving range at Skare Park should be open on April 2 if weather allows. 

With the warmer weather, a lot of the park district’s major programming and leagues at The REC Center finished last week. Ohlinger said that since the end of February, over 165 new REC memberships have been sold and the park district recently surpassed 2,300 members.

Marina decking

The board tabled an agenda item related to new decking at the Spring Lake Marina. Ohlinger said she’s awaiting additional information on materials. 

At last month’s meeting, Ohlinger said the park district has received four bids for the project ranging from $75,000 to $163,000.