The parking lot at the Big Oaks Area in Riverbend Recreation Area will be renovated to allow two-way traffic. Hancock Park District board of commissioners on Tuesday approved the plan, which will be funded partially with $84,000 from the state Department of Transportation earmarked for park district improvements.

The park district usually receives an annual amount from the transportation department to maintain roads and parking areas within the park system.

HPD Director Gary Pruitt provided a site development plan prepared by RCM Architects, which includes about 98 parking spaces, a painted “island” with vegetation for easier winter plowing, two-way traffic and stormwater drainage improvements.

The plan includes four designated handicapped-accessible parking spaces, and Pruitt said he will propose two additional handicapped-accessible parking spaces after talking with board member Ed Ingold.

The state funds will cover stone for the base material and the asphalt pavement material. Bids for the labor will be due March 19.

Separately, the board approved an area near the Discovery Center in Oakwoods Nature Preserve for development of a “nature play area” for youngsters to explore and pretend. Hazards and invasive plant species will be removed from the area, which be used as part of some programs, too.

The board also approved five wild turkey hunting permits for the “hunting with permission” program, which begins Nov. 1 at Litzenberg Woods on the south side of U.S. 224, across from Litzenberg farm/park. Hunting wild turkeys is now allowed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Chad Carroll, natural resource manager, said the park district provided 50 other permits, but they went to the same county residents who traditionally receive them during the August lottery. He would like to see additional interest in the program, with other hunters involved to provide greater access to the public.

The Hancock Parks Foundation, a non-profit fundraising organization which supports park district projects and programs, recently approved about $47,000 for various park district expenses, Pruitt told the board.

Some message information centers will be replaced with recycled plastic, along with some recycled material-made trash bins, 12 picnic tables for Shelter 5 at Riverbend, and 10 kayaks and paddles.

Also, $17,000 has been earmarked for replacement of the boardwalk at Oakwoods Nature Preserve from the front parking lot to the Discovery Center.

Maurer: 419-427-8420

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