Neighbors raise concerns about potential Donovan Park pavilion, leaders looking for input

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Some Peorians are raising concerns about a potential plan to build a pavilion at Donovan Park.

“It’s a great neighborhood park, people love it,” said David Pittman, a volunteer with a group called ‘Friends of Open Space at Donovan Park.’

A non-profit organization called Pavilion Arts Centre LTD is working on plans to turn 18 acres into a performing arts center. It was first brought to the Peoria Park board in Oct. 2019. Executive director Emily Cahill said the pandemic put things on pause, but the proposal was brought up again in Oct. 2020.

“The fundraising for both capital and operations is private dollars,” said Cahill. “We are not putting park district, public tax resources into this. “

But, it’s still Park District property. Cahill said the plan is in the early stages with many details still unknown.

“We know that their general concept looks at about 18 acres which would cover the proposed amphitheater and the proposed parking,” said Cahill.

Some neighbors are against repurposing those acres.

“I just find it completely astounding that someone who is in charge of stewardship for the park would want to take park land and create paved surfaces,’ said Bridget Burke, with the ‘Friends of Open Space at Donovan Park’ group.

Pittman said it impedes the open area.

“The cross-country trails have to be changed, the ski trails have to be changed, [and] the wildlife habitat here that’s developing would have to be eradicated,” said Pittman.

They suggest focusing on other areas like Glen Oak Park and its amphitheater.

“Glen Oak could much better benefit from having investment,” said Burke.

Cahill said the park district wants to hear from more people.

“We love it when people are involved and engaged,” said Cahill.

Pittman said he and a group plan to be there.

“Carpe diem, baby. Seize the day. We’re going to be here and we’re going to make the park district fully aware, to the best of our ability, of our concerns and our requests,” said Pittman.

Park district leaders are hosting a ‘Talk About It Tuesday’ forum on Tuesday, Sept. 13 from 4-6 p.m. at Donovan Park and anyone is welcome to come.

Cahill said there will be several more input sessions, including one at the Sept. 29 board meeting. She believes there could be a decision made by the end of October.

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