Metro-East News

Bellevue Park gets new look with help from community

Volunteers painted a gazebo, fences and a walkway, added 136 tons of rock along the shore of the lake and dug holes for sign posts at Bellevue Park, the city’s oldest park.

Work in the 45-acre park on Saturday was part of a community work day to help finish work that is part of a $109,000 grant the city received from the National Recreation and Park Foundation to pay for a new nature-based playground. Money for the grant was contributed by the American Water Charitable Foundation.

The park beautification included putting in the nature-based play area, which has a slide built into a hillside near the stone lodge, stepping stumps and a notched log stepper. There is a water sluice in the sandbox area, as well as a climbing wall built into a hillside.

Volunteers even added rubber mulch in place of pea gravel to help make another playground more accessible to people with disabilities. Members of the Lindenwood University Belleville football team placed rocks along the shore of the park’s lake to to help prevent erosion. Volunteers also pulled weeds, planted flowers and added wood mulch around the park.

“We’re hoping to attract butterflies and have education, where kids can learn what’s out in the world,” said Debbie Belleville, the director of the city’s parks and recreation department.

Some of the roughly 125 volunteers put up natural posts for signs to commemorate the grant, as well as have information about fish and ducks in the park.

Jimmy O’Connor, the director of Grants and Partnerships of the National Recreation and Park Foundation, said his organization and the American Water Charitable Foundation want to connect youngsters to nature.

“Children nowadays have a lot of distractions, particularly indoor distractions, video games (and) television,” O’Connor said. “Getting kids outdoors in a fun environment is important for a whole plethora of reasons. But engaging them with natural materials, boulders, logs, moving water, is a really great way to both provide them with a great play opportunity for kids but remind them and reconnect them to Mother Nature and the other elements that were the initial play pieces.”

During the work day, there were volunteers from Illinois American Water, Americorps, and the Power of 1 project, among others groups.

Shalonda Norman, who works in Illinois American’s customer service office in Alton, brought two of her children to the event, where she helped paint.

“It’s so easy to get lost in your own world,” Norman said. “I always teach my children to pay attention to other people’s needs. ... It’s about giving (back) to this community.”