EAST PEORIA — The first phase of the new Levee Park, a "reading garden" outside the shared space of East Peoria City Hall and the Fondulac District Library, will be dedicated to the public on Wednesday. The dedication also kicks off Phase Two of the privately funded park project, a fundraising campaign to develop the rest of the three-acre parcel of land.
"We are determined that the park will be first class," said Dennis Triggs, secretary and treasurer of the East Peoria Community Foundation, the group that is coordinating the fundraising effort. "When the Levee Park is completed it will become for the next half century or more the central focus of the city of East Peoria, a place where people gather for conversation, relaxation, programs and events."
Levee Park was the inspiration of Jim Mamer, the president and CEO of Morton Community Bank. Mamer died unexpectedly in November 2016, at 69.
"Jim Mamer was the inspiration for the Levee Park," Triggs said Monday. "His untimely death has motivated some of us to try to bring his vision to reality. We have already received several generous gifts and will be reaching out to individuals and businesses for additional donations and support."
The reading garden was constructed, in part, with the $250,000 legacy donation of Peg and Ray Bahnfleth, a philanthropic couple from East Peoria. Peg Bahnfleth died in 2014, Ray Bahnfleth in 2009. A statue of the couple — avid readers and philanthropists who loved the city of East Peoria — was created by Georgia sculptor Greg Johnson and is a prominent feature of the reading garden.
After paying for the reading garden, the foundation will have slightly more than $500,000 in funds remaining. The group estimates that completion of the park will require the raising of an additional $2 million. CEFCU and the Uftring Auto Group have each donated $75,000 toward the completion of the park, foundation president Sue Yoder Portscheller said Monday.
Levee Park will include a water feature and splash pad, venues for markets and festivals in an open multipurpose lawn, space for sporting and music events, and terraced seating areas. Designed to be family-friendly, the park will also accommodate daily activities, such as casual strolling, gathering, and outdoor dining from adjacent restaurants.
"It will be the new iconic face of East Peoria," Yoder Portscheller. "Green, growing, and family centered."
The rest of the park, funded entirely with private donations, is not expected to be developed overnight.
"This will take time," Yoder Portscheller said. "But the Community Foundation is in it for the long haul."
The dedication the Levee Park Reading Garden is at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday outside of City Hall and the library in the Levee District. Refreshments will be provided.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.