Now that Independence Day has come and gone the focus of many in the community this week is on the 100th anniversary of Lake Decatur. The Centennial Lake Fest & Grand Opening of the “Staley Basin” will be held July 8 and 9. This event will feature lots of activities in the Marina and along the lakefront. “100 Years of Lake Decatur” is a collaboration between the City of Decatur, Decatur Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Decatur Park District, and Staley Family Foundation.
Lake Decatur was officially born on July 4-7, 1923, when a four-day celebration dedicated it. Let’s hope for better weather for this event because, as reported in this week’s “Scrapbook”, (in print and online editions) bad weather put a damper on the first day of the 1923 event and substantially reduced the number of attendees.
The vision of community leaders who created Lake Decatur continues to serve the area well and it is difficult to imagine our city without this beautiful body of water — and everything that is here today because it was built a century ago. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the lake — and also celebrate the vision of those who built it.
• MY “VIEWPOINT” column, on page 3 of the print and online editions, is about my mixed boating experiences on Lake Decatur and Lake Shelbyville. Experiences I definitely remember from water skiing in the north basin of Lake Decatur many years ago was how shallow the water was at the time. Often, after a fall during a ski, one of my skis, or both, would emerge with silt on the tips from digging into the bottom of the lake, so the depth of the lake wasn’t what most people assumed back at that time.
Even more significant was that, I could have my head above water out in the middle of the lake and my feet would be touching silt bottom. That meant the actual depth of the lake was not over 5 1/2 to 6 feet!
Some thirty years later, when I became mayor, no one had to explain to me the need for dredging Lake Decatur. When I recalled standing in the middle of the north basin and touching my feet on the bottom with my head above water, because of the silt build-up, I knew that, in order for the lake to accomplish its original purpose of providing water resources for industry and citizens, it had to be dredged to make room for more water!
So, in 2004, I was on hand, along with some of my fellow council members, to dedicate the dredge unit, aptly called the “Commodore”, that would be removing a huge amount of silt from Lake Decatur. As mayor, I spoke at the ceremony, and even got to sit in the captain’s chair of the dredge. Councilwoman Betsy Stockard broke the traditional bottom of champaigne over the bow of the dredge, as is done when new ships are launched.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of complaints about the money being spent on dredging Lake Decatur, but the silt build-up was so bad, if something had not been done, there would be minimal amount of water available in the years ahead. Lake Decatur dredging is not something that is glamorous where people can see the result of money being spent on it.
One hundred years ago, Lake Decatur was built because of the vision of community leaders. A century later, it is important for our current leaders to always make sure that vital resource for our area is maintained. The dedication of the “Commodore”, the city’s dredge unit, in 2004, was a positive step to deal with silt removal from Lake Decatur. There would be some snags along the way, but the focus of the council was always about preserving and improving the capacity of the lake. It should always be in the mind of this, and all future city councils, to keep Lake Decatur the tremendous asset it is to our city and Central Illinois.
• GRASS PASS? My mention of reckless and rude drivers in previous columns has brought a lot of emails and notes from readers about what they have been experiencing on area roads. Lois Day of Cerro Gordo sent me a note about an experience she had on Decatur’s Mound Road.
Lois wrote: “I was coming out of Prairie Eye Care Center last Wednesday and wanted to turn east on Mound Road. I waited until traffic cleared from the East and then looked to the West. A car was coming a good ways back, so I pulled out to go left. The first thing I know is the driver is on the grass beside me and never slowed down! Don’t they make brakes on these newer cars?”
Thanks for sharing, Lois. Unfortunely, when manufacturers’ install brakes on new cars, they have no authority to install brains in some of the people who choose to drive them!
• LIGHTS OUT! Last Thursday, following the storm that hit Central Illinois, the signal lights in South Shores, just south of the bridge were out in three intersections. Actually, drivers I observed were more careful, and even polite, when everyone had to take turns driving through the intersections.
• LIGHTS REALLY OUT! I’m not sure why they do, but I’ve been noticing an increasing number of vehicles that are being driven early in the morning with their lights off, I head for the newspaper office pretty early in the morning and sometimes, if there is still more darkness than light, I’ve seen several dark colored cars and pick-up trucks moving through traffic with no lights on. That’s just downright dangerous!
So…driving tips for this edition: turn your lights on in early morning or at dusk and…don’t drive on the grass…even though considering the condition of some of our roads, the grass is probably smoother!
• RAIN ON THE PANE — I was at the newspaper office last Thursday when the bad storm hit and we have large windows facing the west! The wind and rain were so strong that I thought they might shatter the windows! Over all of the years that I’ve been at this office, that was the first time I had some concerns about what the wind might do downtown. I later heard that it did blow out some big windows in the Orlando next door — and that doesn’t surprise me considering what I witnessed and how many homes and businesses were without power in the aftermath — and some are still without power days later. The storm did a lot of damage, not only in Decatur, but in Central Illinois. A lot of trees were destroyed, or had to be cut down, after the storm hit. The loss of electricity by so many area residents is something that is expected during a winter ice storm, not in summertime.
. • I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00. to discuss the issues impacting our community.