THE ISSUE: Anderson Fields could receive course improvements
OUR VIEW: Now is the time to weigh in on future of city park spaces
We’re about to enter our 15th summer since Streator children have had the pleasure of splashing about in an outdoor city pool. The city closed the old swimming hole in 2003 because it couldn’t justify the estimated repair bill in the face of consistent annual revenue losses. And so it sat empty for more than a decade waiting for a buyer, a depressing visual reminder of days gone by.
It’s no great stretch to ponder the same fate for the city’s Anderson Fields Municipal Golf Course, which loses about $40,000 a year and needs a drastic overhaul to be commercially viable and some degree of maintenance to just keeping open in any capacity.
There are some complicating factors with the golf course that the city didn’t really face with the pool. The first is that Anderson Fields isn’t the only option in town for golfers. In fact, many people openly suggest the municipal course did enough business to hamper traffic at Twin Creeks Golf Course, just south of Streator, which recently closed for good.
The second is the origin story of the course itself. The ground was previously used as a racing facility and state fairgrounds. Andrew H. Anderson, founder of Anderson Fields, signed ownership of the golf course to the city in 1942, and in so doing said the city could only accept ownership if it maintained the 31 acres as nonprofit recreational grounds for the public.
As such, the city can’t in good faith just close and sell off the golf course the way it did the pool — not to a private golf operator, not to a land developer. It’s got 31 acres of land near a busy commercial area on the town’s main state highway and not a lot of great options.
We give city leaders credit for discussing the issue. The Park and Open Spaces Board has been surveying residents looking for input on how best to direct resources to meet taxpayers’ recreational needs. Unfortunately, the surveys and the observable trends have given only lukewarm indicators in one direction or the other. If the city puts money into the course, people will continue to golf there. If it pulls the plug and diverts those funds elsewhere, the golfers will be upset but people who prefer other outdoor activities have lots of ideas for ways the city could improve those offerings.
Ultimately, no city needs a golf course or pool — at least not in the same way residents need a roads department or fire protection. But having a robust park system is a sign of a healthy community, a place people want to live and enjoy.
We’re not going to tell city leaders how to proceed with this dilemma. There are too many variables to say one simple solution is the best course of action. What we will do, however, is take the opportunity to tell Streatorites to use this opportunity to make their feelings known. The City Council and Parks Board are hungry for feedback on how to move forward with Anderson Fields and the rest of the parks system.
In other words, don’t wait around for the city to act and then complain about the decision. Some steps will be taken, either another few years of patchwork fixes or a dramatic change, but inertia is not an option. So if you care about the future of recreation in Streator, make your feelings known. The city can’t promise to give every person their desired outcome, but it can listen and respond, which is the entire point of having local government in the first place.
The pool wasn’t saved and almost certainly won’t ever come back. Anderson Fields doesn’t have to meet the same fate. If you care, one way or the other, now is the time to speak up.