History of Parks and Recreation

Late 1880s:  Jesse Fell donated two acres of land used for selling hay and functioning as a farmer’s market. This land later  became Normal’s first park, Fell Park.

May 18, 1955:  The recreation movement started in the Town of Normal when a group of citizens requested $1,000 for recreation  uses and the Town appointed a three-member committee.

1956:  A citizen organization represented by Eugene Hill presented survey results showing residents’ desires for recreational programs, with the top priority being construction of a swimming pool.

May 1957: The Town hired its first recreation director, George A. Sperry.  Mr. Sperry formed a three-person committee to create the Recreation Department.  The Town Council purchased 20 acres of land to be developed as a park, later known as Fairview Park. Later that year, a citizens group of 17 people known as the Normal Recreation Advisory Council formed and worked closely with the department. The Council passed an ordinance for the issuance of a swimming pool revenue bond in the amount of $110,000.

May 1958:  Fairview Pool opened and the department hired a second employee, Robert Thayer, to manage the pool.

March 1962:  The Town purchased 10.5 acres near Chiddix Jr. High School which eventually became Ash Park. The Town hired National Recreation Association to develop a master park plan that would apply to Ash Park.

1963:  The Town adopted the master park plan and created a cooperative project with Unit 5 School District.

1965:  David Anderson began working as director of Parks and Recreation.

1967:  A survey showed the need for a second swimming pool. The Town issued a bond and made plans with Unit 5 for the construction of a swimming pool and acquisition of Maxwell Park.

1969:  The Town purchased 120 acres on the west side for Maxwell Park and sold 50 acres to Unit 5 for a junior high and elementary school site. The Town hired Ronald Blemler, the Town's longest-serving Parks and Recreation Director.

June 1973:  The Town broke ground for Ash Park Pool and it opened on August 21, 1974. Indoor winter operations inside the bubble took place starting November 1, 1974 but ceased in April of 1981 due to the operational cost of the facility.

1975:  The Town purchased land for Bicentennial Park which was later renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.  The Parks and Recreation department began being financed through the General Fund and started receiving  funding on the same basis as the other departments operating from the General Fund.

1982:  Maplewood Park was renamed Underwood Park.

February 1982:  The Town entered into a contractual agreement with Rainbow Bend Waterslide Group of Peoria, Ill., for the construction and operation of a two-flume waterslide adjacent to Fairview Park Pool. The slide opened in summer 1982.

May 1985:  The Town purchased the Fairview Park Pool slide from Rainbow Bend Waterslide Group. The department began investigating the possibility of an off-road walking and biking trail.

March 27, 1987:  The Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington agreed to jointly develop the Constitution Trail.

March 1988:  The Town broke ground for an 18-hole facility in northeast Normal.

May 1989:  Constitution Trail opened to the public. Currently, the Trail has more than 50 miles throughout McLean County.

May 24, 1990:  Ironwood Golf Course opened to the public.

November 1991:The Town purchased the Normal Theater in from GKC Theater Inc. The Theater, which originally opened in November 1936, is now part of the Cultural Arts Department. The theater’s marquee was restored and relit in August 1993.

1998: Ash Park was renamed David S. Anderson Park after the former Parks and Recreation Director and Town  Manager.

Parks and Recreation Directors Years of Service
George A. Sperry 1957-1960
Jerry McDonald 1960-1962
Gordon Jaeger 1962-1963
David Anderson 1965-1969
Ronald Blemler 1969-2002
Garry Little 2002-2015
Christopher Cotten 2015-2016
Doug Damery 2016-Present