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Daily Journal
February 1, 2023
#67-32 KDJ

Changes coming to BTPD? Park district may seek

By Jeff Bonty

Two Bourbonnais Township Park District officials said the organization is in the preliminary stages of assessing possible changes to be made during the next four years.

One possible change involves the potential of the Perry Farm Park property along Kennedy Drive being annexed into the village limits of either Bradley or Bourbonnais.

BTPD Executive Director Ed Piatt and Board of Commissioners President David Zinanni said this is due to a five-year comprehensive plan the board approved last year.

The new comprehensive plan, which cost $60,000, can be found at btpd.org/about-us/comprehensive-master-plan.

The plan was based on public input of what they would like to see from the park district.

Zinanni said potential annexation of Perry Farm would not involve either village taking over operations of the site.

“We have had preliminary discussions,” Zinanni said during a telephone interview Tuesday.

Zinanni said it is more practical to have Bradley or Bourbonnais police handle the park. Because the property is not in either village, the department responsible for the location is the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department.

If Perry Farm is annexed into one of the villages, BTPD would still run all operations associated with the farm.

All it would take for the BTPD board to seek annexation is for the board to pass an ordinance agreeing to the annexation.

Zinanni said annexation would open up economic opportunities for Perry Farm.

Being annexed into Bradley, he said, would put the farm in the village’s business district.

“It does not change any laws. This would not change governance,” Piatt said.

It is one of many things the board has been discussing the past six months.

One thing not up for discussion is the future of the Exploration Station … a children’s museum, which is located at Perry Farm. The museum opened in July 1990.

“We are not closing the Exploration Station,” Piatt said. “We assure people of that.”

A post on social media last week said the board and Piatt were going to close the museum.

In minutes from a Nov. 11, 2022, Committee of the Whole meeting obtained by the Daily Journal, the museum is discussed.

“Piatt asked if there was a reason why the Exploration Station was a museum and if we should consider decertifying it and making it a learning center. [Commissioner Bill] Bukowski asked are there costs involved in being a museum versus a learning center,” the minutes read.

How the museum is run and the rules it must follow were among things discussed.


According to the comprehensive plan, the museum needs to expand because it is geared toward a small age group. Excerpts were read from the plan explaining what the community wants out of the museum.

At the Nov. 11, 2022, meeting, Kristi Schu, education and exhibit development coordinator for Exploration Station, said the museum needs its own master plan.

Zinanni said Tuesday there was a 2009 plan that said exhibits at Exploration Station should be updated every four to five years.

“The exhibits we have today are still the same as 2009,” Zinanni said.

The number of visitors to the museum has steadily declined over the years, according to BTPD leadership.

In 2004, there were 40,000 to 50,000 visitors, Piatt and Zinanni noted. In Fiscal Year 2022, visits were down by half that at 20,000 to 25,000.

The museum is not the only park property being looked at for changes. Diamond Point Complex in Bourbonnais and the Willowhaven Park & Nature Center along Skyline Road are also being eyed for changes.

Zinanni said Willowhaven still has drainage problems, which have been issues since it opened about 15 years ago.

The back portion of the 130-acre facility is overgrown with willow trees that need to be eradicated, he added.

Piatt said the board has discussed allowing recreational vehicles to park on the grounds for special events, but that cannot be considered until the drainage problem is solved.


“We are looking at everything,” Zinanni said.

Piatt said there will be changes made in programs.

“We are at the nexus of a tipping point,” Piatt said. “Are we going to stay as we are or move forward? I am a change agent, a professor of change. That is why I was hired.

“We cannot go back to Mayberry. We have to move ahead. We need to make changes. Ones that are good for our taxpayers and are district residents.”

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.

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