EAST PEORIA — The arrival of spring to central Illinois means many local residents will spend more time outdoors, participating in activities that they may have shied away from in the winter months. 

Hooked on Fishing, a non-profit organization that provides free fishing opportunities to youth, seniors, veterans, and special needs groups, will open its East Peoria park on May 3 for its 10th year. 

Before opening the fishing hole, which is located at 1807 N. Main St., the park’s staff faced a substantial list of spring cleaning projects.

“We needed a lot of general clean-up of the park,” said the program’s director Dan Gannaway. “We needed our handicapped accessible viewing deck painted and stained. We had picnic tables to recover, benches to stain, mulch to spread on our trail, old fishing tables to take out so we could put in new ones, and a lot of sweeping to do.”

In response to this list of chores, about 100 volunteers from the area turned out at the Hooked on Fishing Park Saturday as part of the Comcast Corporation’s 16th annual Comcast Cares Day, the company’s nationwide day of community service.

“We chose Hooked on Fishing for our Peoria-area project because we wanted a big project that would encourage a lot of our employees to volunteer and bring their families,” said Comcast administrative assistant and project lead Kristen Hartman. “We wanted a project where we could get out hands dirty and really feel like we were making a difference for a worthy cause.”   

Since its annual day of community involvement in 2001, Comcast employees, friends, and family members have participated in more than 7,700 projects and contributed millions of service hours. Comcast sponsored the beautification projects at the Hooked on Fishing Park in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Peoria. Students and teachers from Peoria’s Quest Charter Academy, and volunteers from the Hooked on Fishing Park also contributed to the clean-up efforts.

“We would not be able to function without the help of the people who came out today, and who volunteered their time on days leading up this project,” said Gannaway. “There’s no way we would have been ready to open and provide the services we provide without their help.”

In addition to fishing opportunities, the park’s staff offers education on the history of the Illinois River. The park is located at 1807 N. Main St., East Peoria, is open from May 3 through Oct. 20, and admits one group per day for a half-day fishing session. Hooked on Fishing is open to the public on Sundays and hosts Family Fishing Day every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The complex is closed on Mondays