There’s just one item on the La Salle Rotary Park Foundation’s Christmas list this year: tax deductible donations.
After working for the past two years as the nonprofit fundraising arm of the park development project, the foundation board estimates it has brought in more than $400,000 in cash and labor donations primarily from some wealthy local donors, civic groups and labor organizations. Now the foundation is turning its focus to the general Illinois Valley population.
“We’re looking for public participation in the park,” said Gary Gearhart, who leads the Rotary Park development committee and foundation efforts.
This focus on fundraising comes at a time in which work at the park has slowed between a busy summer and an anticipated similarly busy spring.
“We’re no longer taking baby steps. This thing is running now,” Gearhart said.
This past summer the Local 150 Operating Engineers donated the labor to prepare two soccer fields and community volunteers built a large wheelchair-accessible playground, while John Pohar and Sons oversaw construction of a driveway and parking lot, excavation of a 15-foot deep pond and leveling a few acres in preparation of future baseball/softball diamond development.
“This spring, the kids probably will be able to play soccer here,” Gearhart said.
Not only will children be able to use the soccer fields and playground, but Gearhart foresees the construction of a roughly 2.5 acre dog park, divided into large and small dog sections, and a disc golf course in the spring.
“It will be the largest dog park in this area by far,” he added.
Along with space for dogs to frolic, the dog park will include Dick Cranford shelter, named in honor of the late local hospital administrator who was one of the first notable donors to the Rotary Park effort, bequeathing $25,000 to the park.
“He (Cranford) was very interested in it,” said foundation member John Steele. “He knew the site, he knew the possibilities and when he heard the park was going to be there, it really pleased him.”
While not everyone can make such large donations, the park foundation is hoping people begin giving smaller gifts, as well.
For example, two sizes of commemorative bricks are available for $75 or $150 and memorial trees and benches can be donated for $1,000 and $2,000, respectively. Gearhart said people also will be able to provide donations to have their names adorning plaques on everything from trash cans and interpretive signs to shelters and baseball diamonds.
“We want people to enjoy this park,” Gearhart said. “I stress, this is an area-wide park.”
Rotary Park is located on the Troy Grove Blacktop, about a mile north of U.S. 6.
Those interested in learning more about donating to La Salle Rotary Park can contact any of Rotary Park Foundation members, Gary Gearhart, Jim Riley, Susan Thornton, Chris Vaske, Alissa Gearhart, John Steele and Mayor Jeff Grove, or call (815) 223-8009.
Matthew Baker can be reached at (815) 220-6933, or firstname.lastname@example.org.