Jacksonville Park Foundation breaks ground on the future

The Jacksonville Park Foundation and Premier Bank invite the community to a groundbreaking for a new youth health initiative: the Jacksonville Children’s Garden, an effort to motivate youth to eat healthy and be active.  The groundbreaking at the land donated by Premier Bank of Jacksonville will be at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14th ,  just north of the intersection of Chambers Street and Church Street, along the Town Brook.

The Foundation is working with the University of Illinois Extension’s “Master Gardener” program and others in order to plant showcase gardens on the land. The Community Program Coordinator at Passavant Area Hospital, Wendy Smith, is also a board member with the Jacksonville Park Foundation. Smith believes, “the Children’s Garden is a great way to get kids excited about eating well and staying active.”

Maintaining proper amounts of physical exercise along with eating a balanced diet seem to be a continued struggle for youth. Both Passavant Area Hospital and the Morgan County Health Department have identified Metabolic Syndrome as a priority to address with individuals. Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and obesity, which can lead to heart disease. Physical activity and a low fat diet full of fruits and vegetables are two of the best ways to combat obesity. The Garden is just one way to give access to good food and exercise.

Youth and adults both struggle with high rates of obesity. Addressing the young specifically, a “testing of students at Jacksonville schools in a 2011 study showed 24% of kindergarteners, 42% of sixth graders and 46% of freshmen students were overweight or obese, all beyond the state average, which is already high,” said Smith. Outreach via the Jacksonville Children’s Garden will teach kids to get active and eat well.

Other Park Foundation initiatives include: supporting the Protect the Melon! helmet giveaway, advocating for recreational trails and bike routes and transforming the built environment to encourage transportation alternatives, which will improve the lives of community members. (See story on page ___.)

Bike Paths

The proposed bike path diagram, drawn up by Foundation board member Shawn Artis, devises a bike route along State Street, which includes the revitalized downtown, both Illinois College and MacMurray College, parks and more. The proposed route would connect easterly with planned bike routes in Sangamon County and with a proposed bike/pedestrian bridge at the old State Street bridge. Connections to the west would be along the old Northern Cross Railroad, and could include a new bike bridge across Mauvaisterre Creek.

The suggested bike plan also includes not only options for getting to and around Lake Jacksonville, but also would create both connections to the Illinois River on the way to St. Louis or to the Jim Edgar/Panther Creek State Park. The plans could be eligible for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Enhancement Program (ITEP) a federally-funded program designed to promote alternative transportation options, such as bike and pedestrian travel, along with historic preservation and streetscape beautification.

Recreational Trail

The Premier Bank land donation will also serve as a trailhead for access to a proposed Town Brook Recreational Trail.  The Town Brook Initiative of the Jacksonville Park Foundation is advocating for development of an improved trail along the brook that would include locally-funded gravel and federal grant-eligible paved surface. Jacksonville is currently working with the State of Illinois on a hydrological study of the Town Brook in its present state.

To support the Jacksonville Children’s Garden and other Jacksonville Park Foundation programs focused on health, recreation and families, community members can take part in some of the many Park Foundation events planned for the summer.

For example, the Jacksonville Park Foundation invites the community to run, walk or ride on Saturday, May 17th, as part of the Fourth Annual Downtown Celebration. Join in a 5k or the Fun Run/Walk to start the parade. Or, take part in an early morning in-town fun ride – or longer loop in the country, if you prefer. Also, Pat Ward will lead a nature walk along the Town Brook that afternoon.

Volunteers with the Jacksonville Park Foundation are working to enhance the use, growth and preservation of public parks and waterways in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas. Building outdoor education and recreation opportunities for children and adults in Morgan County is a great way to start. So, please join in on the fun in the Fun Run/Walk/Ride (participate with a donation), the 5K Run or longer loop for $25, or take a stroll on the Town Brook Nature Walk – it’s free!

Download the entry form and get full details at jacksonvilleparkfoundation.com.

Celebration Events

  • Town Brook 5K – This event kicks off at 9:45 a.m. from The Bowl. It will lead the parade, winding through downtown Jacksonville, passing Foreman Grove and MacMurray College, and joins spots on the future Town Brook Recreational Trail along the way.


  • Town Brook Fun Run/Walk — The event starts at 9:50 a.m. and follows the parade route, ending downtown where you can watch all the fun!


  • Town Brook Fun Ride — This event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the northeast corner of the square. It is a 5-mile route (in town) that includes a segment on the future Town Brook Recreational Trail.


  • Mauvaisterre Ride — The ride starts at 8:30 a.m. at the northeast corner of the square. Bikers lead the way for the Fun Riders in town, then loop out north and end at the square to complete the 17-mile ride.


  • Town Brook Nature Walk — The walk starts at 1 p.m. at the Passavant Health & Fitness Tent. Join Pat Ward in a free nature walk along the Town Brook.


  • Protect the Melon! — This all-day event takes place at the Passavant Health Tent. There will be  helmet info for safer active kids given by Illinois College psychology students (with help from the Pilot Club).


The 5K and long ride are $25, Fun Run/Walk/Ride are by donation, and the nature walk is free. All participants will get a water bottle from Walgreens, and those who pre-register and donate will get a Town Brook long-sleeved windbreaker or t-shirt. Additional prizes will be awarded in the 5K. Village Cyclery will be on hand for free tuneups before the ride.

Events sponsored by Premier Builders. Find more information about Downtown Celebration events at jacksonvillemainstreet.com.

The volunteer-staffed foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization and is solely reliant on private funding. You can contribute by making a check out to Jacksonville Park Foundation and mailing it to: Laura Marks/JPF Treasurer, Jacksonville Savings Bank, 1211 W. Morton Ave., Jacksonville, IL, 62650, or go online at jacksonvilleparkfoundation.com.

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