With $436,700 on the line, the La Salle Rotary Park committee is carefully putting the final touches on the presentation they'll be making before the Illinois Department of Natural Resources next Wednesday.

The proposed city park will be one of 59 projects competing for grant money through the state's Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program that provides funding assistance to local government agencies for acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space. The grant money can provide financial assistance for up to half the cost of a project.

"We need to set ourselves apart," Rotary Park committee chairman Gary Gearhart said during a committee meeting Thursday night.

Since they'll only receive three minutes to present next week in Springfield, plus time for answering questions, the committee decided to put a youthful face forward. The face is of park designer and recent University of Illinois graduate Tony Morelli of Ottawa. Morelli will be joined by Gearhart and current and former La Salle mayors Jeff Grove and Art Washkowiak, respectively.

The committee is also hopeful the type and scale of their project will work in their favor. Washkowiak said theirs is one of only a handful of acquisition projects under review rather than development-based projects.

Also when the Rotary Park is combined with the nearby prairie preservation park land, the size is massive.

"They're (other projects) looking at small parcels. They're not looking at 160 acres of potential," Washkowiak said.

Gearhart said the group is likely to hear if its project is approved sometime this winter. They were assisted in their grant application by Nora Fesco-Ballerine of North Central Illinois Council of Governments.

‘Open Park' planned Oct. 10

Anyone interested in taking a closer look at the new park areas on La Salle's east side will have the chance Saturday, Oct. 10.

The park committee is hosting an open house 11 a.m.-3 p.m. that will feature guided hayrack tours around the property.

Illinois Cement Co. will provide employees to prepare the gravel and dirt roadways for the public viewings and will assist in the guided tours. Much of the land the parks will be placed on belonged to Illinois Cement before the city acquired the parcels through a series of donations and land swaps.

Visitors are asked to park near Oakwood Cemetery, near U.S. 6 and the Troy Grove Blacktop where the Peru Shopper Bus will be used to transport them to a staging area in the park. At the staging area, visitors will be able to load on to one of the hayracks, have a grilled lunch provided by the La Salle Rotary Club or explore the park by foot.

The open house schedule partially overlaps with the annual Jazz'N the Street festival, which is noon-7 p.m. Oct. 10 on First Street in downtown La Salle. Park committee members say they hope people will find time to take advantage of both La Salle events.

** For additional information on the open house or the park in general, call

(815) 223-8009 or visit http://lasallepark.pbworks.com/.

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