Seneca Park & Recreation
As written by Margarget Grober and
printed in "The Story of Seneca, IL..."
In 1865, Jeremiah Crotty donated land to his village to be used as a park. It was used sparingly as such until 1995 when the Seneca Park and Recreation Committee was formed through the Illinois Department of Community Affairs Competitive Community Initiative. The Committee was comprised of eleven local residents who were appointed by the village council. The foremost goal of the Committee was to upgrade and develop Crotty Park, the only park currently in Seneca's jurisdiction.
The Park, a part of which was once the home of the Seneca FFA Salebarn, was limited to a picnic shelter built in 1988 by the Seneca Lions Club, a sandbox, old playground equipment, and a swampy, grassy area.
In 1995, Eagle Scout badges were earned by Boy Scouts who constructed sand volleyball courts and horse shoe pits with sand donated by Spicer Gravel. A dredging of the Illinois and Michigan Canal provided much needed fill for low areas. Seneca High School CAD students designed proposed layouts for the new park, and a graduate student from the University of Illinois developed the final plan.
A grant from the state of Illinois was secured for $42,600 with three challenging stipulations: It had to be matched with local funds, the project had to be completed in two years, and the grant money would not be received until after the project was completed. With loans from the Seneca Port Authority, and the First Midwest Bank, receipts from other fundraisers, financial obstacles were eliminated.
During the next two years, new playground equipment, a walking path around the circumference of the park, vehicle spaces, benches, and trees were installed. Due to the many donated materials and hours of volunteer labor, money was available to build a new shelter. This was done with the addition of a kitchen and improved restroom facilities. Also in those first two years, the entrance to the park was landscaped, lights were added, and a flagpole, donated by the American Legion, was erected.
The two-year goal was reached and all loans were paid in full. Further fundraisers were held to keep the development momentum of Crotty Park moving forward. These events included street dances, raffles, tournaments, a donkey basketball game, and food stands. Consequently the grounds today also includes perennial gardens, memorial trees, soccer fields, a t-ball baseball diamond (built in memory of Dan Studemann), basketball courts, a mister, and bleachers.
Crotty Park is now a functional and well used property that would make Jeremiah proud. He would be most satisfied that it was built with a tremendous amount of volunteer labor and donated materials by so many people, organizations, and companies in Seneca, making it truly a story of what is possible when a community comes together for a purpose.