Colona park goes on the auction block

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It's a sign of the times in Colona on Thursday.

"Oh, it's terrible," said Mary Helstrom, a volunteer with the Colona Park District.

The auction notice is now on display. Gailliaert's Park is for sale.

"I hope they decide to do something for the kids," said Colona parent Donald Burch.

Burch's kids are literally growing up in the park, with its ball diamond, playground and activities.

That makes the auction even more painful.

"We don't want the kids to be running the streets, but we don't want to give them a spot to stay," he continued.  "A community center would have been the best thing ever."

But voters soundly rejected plans for the $4.5 million project in November.

Now, the land must be sold by March 30.

"The quicker we get it done, the better for everybody," Helstrom said.

She's organizing the auction and helping to close down the park district.

"I feel bad that we've had to go to auction," she said.

Bidding will start at $20,000 for the appraised $41,000 property.

Four school districts: Colona, United Township, Geneseo and Orion will split the proceeds.

Each bid must be placed in a sealed, opaque envelope and marked,  Sealed Bid: Gailliaert's Park.

Send bids to Colona Park District, Suite B, P.O. Box 471, Colona, Illinois 61241, attention: Mary Helstrom.

They'll receive bids until 11 a.m., March 30.

The four-acre park is emerging from winter and what might have been.

Construction plans for the community center were shovel-ready. It even received a $2.5 million state grant that had to be returned.

"I'm almost going to cry now," Helstrom continued.  "How do you give back $2.5 million? But you know, it is what it is."

Just Monday, Colona decided against buying the park.

As one of its final moves, board members will open sealed bids on March 30.

Inside nearby Park Avenue Salon, it's all about the future.

"I would like to see something good that would either bring people to the area, or something that will be useful to the community as a whole," said Colona parent Angela Carden.

A sale that defers dreams for a community center and possibly the park itself.

"It's very important to stay as a park," Burch concluded.