Area anglers can rejoice. The long awaited reopening of Pleasure Lake to fishing has finally arrived.
Palos Hills Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd Ward) told the council and approximately a dozen residents in attendance during the committee of the whole meeting April 6 the fishing ban at the 8.1-acre lake has been lifted.
“Grab your fishing poles, enjoy the day and catch a big one,” said Brachman, adding public works crews had removed the “no fishing” signs and reinstalled ones that say “catch and release.”
Fishing has been prohibited at the lake, 10801 S. Roberts Road, since October of 2014 when Palos Hills officials placed an immediate and, at the time, indefinite ban. The exceptionally harsh winter of 2013-2014 caused a complete freeze at the lake, which, at its deepest point is only six feet, killing all of the fish, according to Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th Ward).
“The winter just froze us solid,” Marrotta said in the fall of 2014. “Everything was lost.”
A year later, the city spent around $1,300 to restock the lake with 1,500 blue gills, 325 bass and 300 catfish. City officials decided to give the fish two full cycles to grow and reproduce before allowing fishing.
“The lake is stocked and thriving,” Palos Hills Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley said. “During hours when fish are active you will see fish jumping up at new insect larva. We are seeing a lot of activity in the lake. I’m sure our residents are going to enjoy fishing there again.”
Marrotta said it was “great to have the lake back open to fishing.”
“I believe [Resource and Recreation Department commissioner] Kristin [Violante] did receive some calls from residents inquiring about the fishing ban so we are happy to lift it and once again have fishing.”
With the lake reopened, Marrotta announced the city will resume holding its annual fishing derby. The free event, which is open to all ages, is scheduled for June 17. The Department of Natural Resources has designated June 17 as one of only a few days in Illinois during which a person can fish without a state fishing license, Violante said. Therefore, in addition to being a free event one does not need to purchase a fishing license to participate in the derby.
All fishing at the lake remains catch-and-release, and Marrotta said Palos Hills police have been directed to make frequent checks at the lake to ensure the policy is being followed.
In other news, city attorney George Pappas told the council the Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee is expected to review Palos Hills’ request to acquire the property which currently houses the shuttered Palos Olympic Health & Racquetball Club through the county’s No Cash Bid program during a hearing April 11 at the Cook County Building in Chicago.
The seven-member committee has been tasked with offering a recommendation to the full Cook County Board of Commissioners as to whether to approve or deny Palos Hills’ request, Pappas said.
City officials voted unanimously this January to direct Pappas to file the required documents with the County in an attempt to acquire the racquetball club property, 11050 S. Roberts Road, through the No Cash Bid program, an economic development tool designed to assist municipalities in acquiring tax delinquent property for reuse as private development and tax reactivation or for tax exempt municipal use. There are around $300,000 in back taxes on the property, which has been sold several times since the racquetball club closed more than a decade ago.
Pappas expects the hearing to go well for Palos Hills.
“I anticipate approval [from the Finance Committee] and recommendation to the County board to grant us the property,” Pappas said.
Mayor Gerald Bennett has previously said if the city was to acquire the property, the building, which is around 40 years old and in “poor condition,” would be demolished. The cost to raze the building and clean up the site would be around $100,000, he said. City officials have said they would initially leave the land as open space but would listen if a developer came along interested in the property.
The No Cash Bid Program for this property is only available to Palos Hills, Bennett said. Any individual looking to purchase the property from Cook County would need to pay the $300,000 in back taxes.