A quick search of the Pekin Park District and you’ll find review after review that speaks to the history and evolution of our beautiful parks and contemporary services. From our iconic 119-year-old Mineral Springs Park Pavilion to our yearly Pekin Marigold Festival and Winter Wonderland events, the park district captures the fun, play, and a strong sense of tradition for residents and visitors alike. But the history of the Pekin Park District goes much deeper than many may think.
A LONG HISTORY OF COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP
Pekin’s first park system actually emerged around 1882 after Pekin Artesian Well Co. failed at making a profit on extracting and selling the supposed medicinal mineral water believed to be in the aquifer beneath it. Obviously, the elixir didn’t do what they promoted and cured “all that ails you” but it did set the foundation to fill a need in the community and a privately funded park was created that included a bathhouse, pagoda, floating bandshell, fountain and swimming pools heated by steam.
Unfortunately, a series of disasters, including a cyclone in the late 1880s, and numerous cash flow issues brought about the demise of the privately-funded system. Thankfully, a group of 100 concerned citizens realized the importance of the park system for our community and banded together to save the day. They gathered the 100 signatures needed to establish a new unit of government and rendered the park to community ownership rather than continued private ventures. The referendum passed and on December 14, 1902, the Pekin Park District was officially established.
MINERAL SPRINGS PARK LAGOON & PAVILION
The first action of the newly formed park board was to create a central park that continues to anchor our park system today… Mineral Springs Park. The second action they took was to build a timely community icon, the Pekin Park Pavilion and Pekin’s beautiful Mineral Springs Park Lagoon at the cost of $12,000. The Pavilion officially opened for public use and rentals on July 2, 1905 without heat, electricity, or plumbing. Residents could rent the facility for $5 with an added fee of $1 for use of a piano.
100+ YEARS OF RENOVATIONS & EXPANSION
Today, the Pekin Park Pavilion continues to be an iconic symbol of our community park system, offers all the modern-day amenities, and remains a popular local rental choice. The grounds around the Pavilion have significantly changed. A sidewalk and large playground were added in the 1930s, and a complete renovation of the Pavilion and Lagoon took place in the early 1990s when a large viewing area, fishing piers, decorative lanterns and two fountain were added to help aerate the Lagoon. A large pergola was also added in 2011, which is now a popular venue for weddings and other community events.
The Pekin Park District also expanded to include nine community parks, seven neighborhood parks, and over 2,277 acres of land. The original bathhouse is now home to the Miller Senior Center and Parkside Athletics, Veterans Memorial Arena and two golf courses round out the many facilities we offer. Numerous baseball, football, and soccer fields, a skate park, and a large Sports Complex have also been added, making the Pekin Park District one of the largest park systems in the state of Illinois.
MAKING OUR SYSTEM ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
Pekin Park District has also partnered with the Fondulac Park District and operates the Illinois River Valley Special Recreation Association. In the last 15 years that the Pekin Park Foundation has been established, it has leveraged resources and financially assisted in meeting park wants and needs.
FUTURE PLANS FOR THE PEKIN PARK DISTRICT
In 2020, an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Grant (OSLAD) was granted to the district. It will be used to renovate and upgrade an area that is mostly the old historic areas of Mineral Springs Park. The community-driven Pekin Park Foundation also continues to help the Pekin Park District leverage our resources and financially assist us in helping meet our park’s wants and needs.