Fairview Park

When I was a very little girl, there were bears in Fairview Park who were kept in a cage just north of Dreamland Lake. My memories of this are foggy and vague. We probably only visited them once or twice, but I still remember the sad feeling I had for these poor little bears trapped in their small enclosure. They were finally removed (or did they die?). There was also a fenced-in deer park right behind the bear enclosure. This is funny to me today because we now see deer everywhere, but I guess back in the 50's and early 60's deer were rare and exotic creatures on show for the masses. 

Fairview Park in Decatur has been around since 1857. It was once fairgrounds that held a large amphitheater and plenty of buildings for farm animals. Years later it was purchased by the city for $8,000. A pavilion and other facilities were added. For a short time an amusement part was located south of Dreamland Lake. There was a theater, rides, and even a roller coaster, but it didn't do well and was closed just after seven years in operation.

Now Fairview is an oasis in the middle of the city. A bike/walking path begins just north of Park Place and will take you all the way to Rock Springs. The skating rink sadly is no longer in operation, but the large pavilion still holds various events and picnics. There's a pool, a dog park, tennis courts, playgrounds, drinking fountains, a bikini tree, and baseball fields. In the summer you can even rent tandem bikes!

Decatur is fortunate to have many fabulous parks. It is one of our crowning glories, but Fairview is special. It was my backyard when I was younger, and now it's my refuge. It makes me sad and angry when I see graffiti or vandalism in the park. I know the Park District fights a constant battle against crime in these green spaces. Parks should not make you afraid; they should offer peace and repose from our crazy lives.

What is Fairview Park to me? When I was little I couldn't wait until school was out so we could go to the Fun Fair that was held in the park one of the first weekends in June. There were rides, cake walks, games, and so much fun. In college I would jog the perimeter. One time I came across a gaggle of ducks and geese in the road by Dreamland Lake. I thought they would scatter if I shooed them, but no, they came after me. I never ran so hard with this herd of waterfowl at my feet. I even think one of them nipped me! When the boys were younger I would take them on the path, first in strollers and then on their bikes. They would often pedal way ahead of me, so I would have to scream like a crazy banshee woman for them to get back before some creep would snatch them. I know....very zen-like park activity. They also loved to "off road" on the little paths by the creek. Every bush and tree was their personal bathroom. 

Now Fairview is my meditative retreat. Bikers zip past me. Young mothers with their own babies in strollers chat with each other as they pass away the afternoon. Me... I walk the path, listen to music, and take in nature. But I am still wary of those ducks. I think some of them still have it out for me.