Back to the beach

Mayor Langfelder and opponent Misty Buscher both tout ideas to reopen beach house

click to enlarge Back to the beach
Misty Buscher’s proposal for a recreation area at Center Park.

Just call it a plan with a touch of nostalgia.

Springfield mayoral candidate Misty Buscher is calling for revitalizing the dormant beach house at Lake Springfield and making it a haven for food trucks, concerts and outdoor activities.

"When I was a teenager, everybody who was in my age group hung out at Center Park, which is where the beach house is," she recalled. "You parked your car and turned on the radio and you played Frisbee and badminton and just socialized with people from other schools and had a great time. And now that park doesn't seem to have activity."

In the wake of a 2007 drowning at Lake Springfield, the beach house has only been used for planned events such as weddings. Swimming is no longer allowed at the beach.

The family of the teen who drowned was awarded $750,000 by a Sangamon County jury after it was determined that lifeguards were inadequately trained and inattentive at the time of the incident.

Mayor Jim Langfelder, who is seeking reelection, has twice publicly sought proposals to have the historic property turned into a restaurant. But there have been no takers.

Buscher said the building, which was erected in the 1930s as part of a New Deal project, is too small to accommodate a commercial kitchen and still have enough dining space to economically be viable.

Instead, she hopes to make the park a mecca for food trucks that would operate in the nearby parking lot. Patrons could purchase food there and buy beverages from a vendor within the beach house. Dining spaces would be available within the building as well as outdoors in various picnic areas.

"Families could go to Henson Robinson Zoo, and then go over to that area and eat and have lunch and hang out," she said. Her plan calls for recreation areas including sand volleyball courts, cornhole areas and a boat dock.

She has worked with an architectural firm to create renderings for what such a park might look like.

"We would just take a small bite of the apple each year," she said. "The most expensive phase would be the dock. But everything – the picnic tables, the building, the renovations, the dock – would be a total of $1 million."

Just how the city would fund the project remains a bit of an open question. She said if elected, she would work with the city council to develop a funding plan. Part of the cost might be offset by rent paid by the beverage vendor in the beach house.

Langfelder said his administration continues to seek proposals to develop the historic property. He said before the city institutes any plan it should seek feedback from residents living on the lake.

"Usually, residents won't come to the forefront until something's happening. So, you'd have to pull them into the discussion beforehand," he said.

He added he wants to see the building brought back to life, but he would prefer to see the city work with Springfield Park District, which operates the neighboring zoo.

"They're landlocked as far as the zoo goes," he said. "We need to make it engaging for families. As far as the property, you could expand the borders of the zoo or tie in aquatic life."

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at

About The Author

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder is a staff writer at Illinois Times.

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