Photo by Theo Tate
Leon Corlew Splash Park, at the intersection of South Main Street and Schwarz Road, is open for business.
EDWARDSVILLE — For many years, Leon Corlew played a key role in Edwardsville.
He was a longtime resident, alderman and philanthropist, and he was a member of the Edwardsville Rotary Club for 50 years. He also bequeathed $700,000 of his estate to the Edwardsville Parks and Recreation Department. Corlew passed away in May 2008.
So when the city was developing a new splash park, it decided to name it after Corlew.
“We’re so thrilled to have this for the community and everybody’s really enjoying it,” said Katie Grable, assistant director at the Edwardsville Parks and Recreation Department.
Leon Corlew Park was officially open for business on July 8. The park, at the intersection of South Main Street and Schwarz Road, features a large playground, splash pad and fitness trail with workout stations.
“So far, it’s going great,” Grable said. “It’s extremely popular. It’s very busy and everybody seems very happy.”
The park originally was scheduled to open July 1, but the opening was delayed for another week so equipment could be tested and the new staff members could be trained.
Grable said the park had a big turnout on its first day.
“People have been anticipating the opening of the park for several weeks, so we actually had a few families who gathered before we opened and were just waiting,” the assistant director said. “Once it actually opened, we had probably 50 people arriving there right at 10 a.m. It continues to grow and remained full throughout the whole day. The parking lot has been full. The park itself wasn’t overly crowded.”
The park is part of the city’s Better Place to Play project, which includes three new parks. The other two parks in development includes an ice rink and teen center and a sports park for baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and other sports.
“Our goal is to introduce three new parks to our community,” Grable said. “Obviously, we’ve been successful in one so far and we are making progress toward our sports park. Right now, we secured 70 acres and we’re still in the process of purchasing that land, but we do have an option to purchase additional acres each year until we get to that 70 acres. Our next step is look at some designs and once we are able to come up with designs that we like, we’ll work with a design team.”
Grable said the city started making plans on building the splash park two years ago.
“The desire to have a water play area with a pool or a splash pad has been expressed for many years,” she said. “Up until this year, we didn’t have a public pool. Everything was membership-based. In the summer, we had opened the splash pad and we also have taken over management of the SIUE Cougar Lake Pool. We really had taken a couple of steps forward in just one summer. A couple of years ago, when we really started to seriously pursue the splash pad, there was no water play area. We started with a grant application to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We were awarded that grant. However, with the state budget crisis, those funds were not made available. We decided to move forward with the park anyway.”
In January 2015, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced a $400,000 grant to the city to develop the new splash park. Over the next year and a half, the park had four area sponsors who pledged donations — the Edwardsville Rotary Club, Junior Service Club of Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, First Clover Leaf Bank and Global Brew & Tap House.
In May, the Edwardsville City Council approved the park’s name.
Grable said she hopes the parks will attract more customers from Edwardsville and the rest of the Metro East.
“I think it’s drawing people into the city and the downtown area,” Grable said. “While we are proud to have this in Edwardsville, we’re also happy to welcome members from our neighboring communities. Just listening to conversations I had with people who visited the park, it seems like it’s pretty even between Edwardsville families and families from surrounding towns. I think it’s great that we’re drawing people into our downtown area. We have a lot of great restaurants and shops and I’m sure that a lot of these folks are grabbing lunch at our restaurants and we’re happy to show off the community.”