Overgrown State of JDC Grounds May Force City to Take Matters Into Own Hands

By Jeremy Coumbes on May 24, 2022 at 5:38pm

The City of Jacksonville might be taking matters into its own hands after the grounds of the former Jacksonville Developmental Center have become overgrown.

Ward 3 Alderman Kent Hannant asked if something would be done about the JDC grounds during the City Council meeting Monday night.

The grass though the majority of the roughly 100-acre JDC campus has been left to grow wild with only a narrow border around the perimeter having been mowed this season.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says it’s a shame what is going on at the site, especially with the grounds bordering Community Park and sitting in the middle of town.

We’re kind of unique in that I know there are other cities that have this issue. But right off of our beautiful Community Park that is used often by everybody. JDC is right in the middle of our town and right between the Village and us. You know we need to rally here.

Something needs to be done and I’m willing as the city to take on the challenge as far as us mowing it. However that is private property, it’s state property, and I wish the circumstances would be different. Representative Davidsmeyer and Senator McClure are very well aware of this. We’ve talked to the state about this and I think as a community we’re going to have to rally everyone and talk with Central Management Services or the Governor and say it’s got to be better.

With the recent rains, the grass in the majority of the site has grown to more than a foot tall. Ezard said during the meeting that the city is considering mowing the property and sending the state the bill.

The JDC grounds sit in Ward 3, and Alderman Kent Hannet says it’s something that has been on his and his constituent’s minds even more since the grounds have become overgrown and the large pile of brush and dead trees have been piled up near the old power plant at the corner of Michigan Avenue and South Diamond Street. “Yeah it’s a danger, it’s an eyesore to the community and has been for a while. It’s great to see that we’re going to move forward before it gets too out of hand.”

Ezard says something needs to be done soon with both the grass and the stagnant shape of the JDC grounds. He says the minimal mowing at the site is not enough to keep the area from becoming even more of a hazard.

They do the exterior and not the interior and it’s unsafe, it really is. When folks come to town, that’s what they see, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get it done. And I think the town will do whatever it takes. Our city is resilient and we’ll make the right call on this one and get it done. It’s just too bad we’re in this situation, and I’d like everybody’s help.”

The grounds are managed by J.L.L., a group out of Springfield that is contracted with the Illinois Office of Central Management Services to oversee the site. Ezard says the group has been good to work with in the past however, this isn’t the first time the city has had issues.

In April of 2020, the group installed concrete barriers at each entrance to the grounds without notifying the city. At the time Ezard had to contact J.L.L. to relocate some of them including at the intersection of West Morton and South Church where the barriers posed a hazard for anyone trying to enter the park at the stoplight.

In the meantime, Ezard says he will be talking to Alderman Hannet as well as Ward 2 Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldentettle who offered to help spearhead efforts to see something done with the JDC grounds.

Ezard says it may take a community effort to finally see something done with the grounds, and that more discussion and action will be coming soon.