Jacksonville Parks & Lakes Committee Looking Over Jacksonville Lake Leases, Camp Site Ownership Policies

By Benjamin Cox on March 4, 2024 at 9:19am

The Jacksonville Parks & Lakes Committee had lengthy discussions surrounding camping leases last Monday night prior to the Jacksonville City Council Meeting.

Legacy camping sites at Lake Jacksonville have long been a point of contention for some members of the Jacksonville community. Lake Superintendent Brett Gilbreth told the committee that recent issues about non-direct family members putting in trailers on family-rented lots has been a problem. Transferring lot rental from parents to children or even grandchildren had also recently been brought up.

Gilbreth told the committee that there has also been a lengthy waiting list for people to get a lot at Lake Jacksonville’s campgrounds for a long time, with some people on the list dying prior to getting a spot.

Parks & Lakes Committee Chair Lori Large-Oldenettel says the problem is all about getting something codified, because the rules governing the camp sites has mostly gone unwritten: “I think there has been an unwritten policy on some of these things, so the committee wants to vet that and get it on the table so that we can make it easier for our department head, so that when these issues do come up, then he will have something in writing that makes it easier for him to address it. There were a lot of things thrown out tonight about what direction we should go in, but I think ultimately, this is going to be an ongoing discussion for a couple of months as we listen to the constituents and the folks that are camping out at Lake Jacksonville and get their input to see how this conversation is going to go over the next few months. One of the recommendations that we are going to make to the full city council is that everyone that camps out at Lake Jacksonville is going to have to provide proof of insurance for their trailer. That’s one of the decisions that we made tonight. We are also going to change up the application [for a camp site] a little bit so that those that are camping at Lake Jacksonville can both be on the lease.”

Oldenettel says that one of the reason why Lake Jacksonville is so desirable is because the lease rate is one of the lowest in the area.

She says another aspect that the committee is exploring is private camping club lease agreements versus public leases. The city has made several thousands of dollars of improvements to the lake over the last 5 years. Private clubs usually pay for their own improvements, but the city’s improvements have been for everyone at the lake. She says it may be time to explore a raise on the private leases: “We are also going to be meeting in the future to talk about evaluating what costs are associated with private campsites, and if we want to increase that lease agreement with the campsites, and then also the per camper rate. We’re not there yet, so we are going to hold more meetings.”

Oldenettel says that a schedule for upcoming meetings will be disseminated soon. In other news, the walking trail to connect the north and south side of the lake via the West Lake Bridge is expected sometime around the first weeks of April. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has to make a final walk of the improvements to complete paperwork prior to the trail officially opening.

Gilbreth told the committee that through more IDNR grant money, after this year’s camping season, points 3, 4, and 5 will have updated electrical pedestals. The remaining points will also see upgrades in the subsequent years – following a 5-year plan to get all the pedestals updated and/or replaced.