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Park District moves into new offices at Lakeview

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The latest winter storm to hit Peoria, even with rare thundersnow, didn't keep the Peoria Park District from moving its administrative and recreation staff offices into their new digs, the former Lakeview Museum, on Monday.

Now called the Bonnie W. Noble Center for Park Administration, that building will now be the place to go for all administrative business and to enroll in recreation programs, the Park District said.

The building was renovated for use by the Park District after the museum moved to the Peoria Riverfront Museum more than a year ago. It was renamed to honor the district's long-time executive director Bonnie Noble.

The park offices had been located in the Glen Oak Park Pavilion. That structure now will be renovated and transformed into the Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum. To maintain the safety of Glen Oak Park, which is also home to the Peoria Zoo, park district staff will be on site daily while until and during construction work on the Pavilion, the park district said.

Besides the zoo, Glen Oak Park also will remain the home of Peoria Rotary Adventure Gove and the various activities at the park's Lagoon. Including the Clyde West Fishing Derby, Fireworks Spectacular and the PNC Worldwide Day of Play.

The tennis courts, pickleball courts, trail and sports fields will continue to be maintained as will picnic areas.

"It is the Peoria Park District's intention to repurpose and restore Glen Oak Pavilion as a place for families to gather in the community by converting the building to the PeoriaPlayhouse children's museum. This will further the Peoria Park District goal of making Glen Oak Park a daylong destination for the families of the area," the district said in a news release.

"We anticipate this will make Peoria Zoo a more viable year-round site and become more attractive to school groupw. Both the zoon and Children's Museum will benefit from shared expenses for programming, staff development and marketing."

However, the park district pointed out that work on the Peoria PlayHouse children's museum cannot start until 90 percent of the needed funds for the project are raised, to keep the renovation from being paid by taxes. "We have reached 85 percent now and every little bit helps move us toward our goal," it said.

The new address of the administration building is 1125 W. Lake Ave. Telephone numbers will remain the same at (309) 682-1200 for reception and (309) 688-3667 for the recreation department.

The Park Board voted last spring to rename the former Lakeview Museum after Noble, who has been involved with the Park District for 40 years, from the time she was elected a trustee in 1973 until she became the executive director in 1992. Under her direction the district won the National Gold Medal Award three times and was a Gold Medal finalist nine other times.

"Future generations will benefit from Noble's leadership and vision, including but not limited to: the development and programming of the RiverFront, the District's Golf Learning Center and Academy, Africa! and the new Peoria Zoo and the planned Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum, RiverPlex Recreation and Wellness Center, Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association, the Illinois Riverbluff Trail and the Rock Island Pimiteoui Trail extension," said a Park Board resolution.

Among the accomplishments in Noble's tenure at the Park District has been less reliance on public funds to operate the district, even though its annual budget has tripled since she became executive director. At the time she took the job 60 percent to 70 percent of the district's funding was from property taxes, with the rest coming from gifts, fees, charges for programming and reinvesting.

That ratio has been reversed, largely because of partnerships she and the Park District have forged with different companies and organizations in Peoria, including Caterpillar, OSF Healthcare, the city and the county.

Another accomplishment, and one she is most proud of because she has worked on it all 40 years, was completion of the Pimiteoui Trail, and the overhaul and expansion of the Peoria Zoo.

In an interview with The Peorian last year Noble was quick to credit her staff. "I have a very open management style and my staff knows they can come to me with their ideas and how we can work together to make them happen. And we work very well together as a team here. I believe you try to lure people to work for you who are smarter than you. When your people are really good you just let them go and do their jobs. They'll ask for help if they need it," she said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).