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PAXTON — The next time Paxton gets a big snowfall, the hill at Coady Park will be off limits to sledders.
And that is assuming it is still around by then.
The hill, a popular sledding destination for locals, is being removed over the course of the next several weeks. Liability concerns raised by the Paxton Park District’s insurance provider, the Park District Risk Management Agency, led to the park board’s decision to remove it earlier this winter.
“The insurance would have skyrocketed if someone was hurt,” said board member Kay McCabe.
The park district’s recreation director, Neal McKenry, said he thinks Paxton residents will miss the hill but will adjust eventually.
“I can imagine that the first couple of times it snows, they’ll think about the hill and come out (to Coady Park) and see it’s not there and be disappointed,” McKenry said, “but I’m hoping within a couple of years it will be forgotten.”
Workers for Murle Roy Construction, Paxton, started removing the trees and vegetation on the hill last week and began removing dirt on Monday, Roy said.
Roy said he is hoping to complete the job within 30 days, but the timeline will depend on the weather. McKenry said the park district does not need the hill gone until April 6, the date of the park district’s annual Community Sale at Coady Park.
“If they’re still working on it for another several weeks, that would be fine,” McKenry said.
Roy said the dirt removal was stalled Monday because the ground was too wet and his trucks were getting stuck. He said Tuesday that the work would resume on Wednesday.
The dirt is being donated to three government agencies:
— The Paxton Park District, for use on the east end of the Civic Center, where an addition to the building was added last year;
— The City of Paxton, for use in raising the height of a berm at the police department’s shooting range;
— And Patton Township.
Roy said some metal debris that has been found in the hill is also being hauled away and recycled.
Coincidentally, Roy was the person who built the hill some 35 years ago as a recreational area for children, he said.
McKenry said he and a couple of park board members did not want to see the hill go, but the majority of the board opted otherwise.
“We were in favor of cleaning up the hill,” McKenry said. “It hasn’t been upkept in the last several years, and there’s several trees overgrown, brush. So I was in favor of just removing all of that and keeping the hill.”
McKenry said he understands the liability issue, but he also noted, “everything is a liability if you want to look at it that way.”
McKenry stressed that the fact that a proposed dog park would be located around the hill had nothing to do with the need to remove the structure.
“Several people have expressed disappointment the hill’s being taken out because of the proposed dog park,” McKenry said, “but the two (issues) do not coincide at all. If we were never approached by the dog park people ... I would feel the board still would have wanted to take out the hill due to the liability.”
Until the hill is entirely removed, a no-sledding policy remains in place.
In other park district news:
— The Paxton Dog Park Committee, which is organizing the proposed dog park, has indicated that it hopes to have fencing installed for the facility and have it opened by the fall, according to park board Treasurer Steve Sample.
— Plans continue for a proposed community garden at Coady Park. Ruth Ann Noble, among the residents proposing the garden, updated the park board about the status of the project last week. “They had a map laid out of what they were hoping, area-wise, to use for the garden,” Sample said. “I think the big holdup right now is getting water (service) to the site. There’s some concern about the cost of that.” Sample said Noble told the park board that an existing water line the garden would have used is apparently not large enough. “So they’re going to have to put in a whole new meter,” Sample said, “and we’re talking a considerable cost for that.” Noble is expected to present more information about the issue at the board’s March meeting, Sample said.
— The park board approved moving forward with offering an adult whiffle ball league this summer. Paxton resident Mark Martin proposed the league as a recreational activity for adults. Games will be played on Saturdays at Coady Park where the flag football and soccer fields are located. “We’re not looking at it as a replacement for men’s softball or anything like that,” Sample stressed. “It’s just another program we can offer.”
— The park board has received some bids for a proposed storage shed at Coady Park but has decided to seek a couple of more local bids before accepting any.
— The park board plans to approve its budget for the 2013 fiscal year at its March meeting, McKenry said.