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How a group plans to bring crowds back to Lake Matherville

A lake project committee is planning to construct a roughly one-mile walking loop around Lake Matherville.

MATHERVILLE, Ill. — A group of residents in Matherville are making an upgrade to the town's lake.

Back in the 1970s, Lake Matherville was a summer hotspot for families. Matherville resident Larry Neal remembered growing up around the lake; there were days you couldn't find a spot to fit your towel on the beach, he said.

"It was always packed," Neal said. "My brothers and I got paid on the weekends to clean it up, and it was in earshot of my mom. If she was really angry, she could scream at us and tell us to come home when it was dark."

Today, the lake is no longer used for swimming. Instead people come to fish or kayak in it.

Now, Lake Matherville is getting a new walking path. The path will be a one-to-one-and-a-half mile loop around the lake.  

"Now, there's that added feature of having a walking trail around it, we hope that more people can come down here and be able to utilize it," project coordinator Alex Johnson said.

The path will be a mixture of gravel and dirt. Work has already begun to clear one section for the path. 

Neal lives next to the lake and said he walks daily. He said he's looking forward to the new path.

"I think it's sensational," Neal said. "You don't see people out anymore. It's kind of scary. It's weird."

He said he hopes the lakeside path will bring more people out to enjoy the lake.

"I'd like to see it more like it used to be, the family presence in the town and kids having a safe place to come out to and learn about the diversity that's right in their back door," he said.

"The feedback's been really good. So far, people are excited about it. A lot of people that live in Mercer County, especially, have some type of connection to the lake," Johnson said. "It's still being used quite a bit today. The whole idea is to try to utilize what we have and try to make it as best as possible."

Johnson and the lakeside project committee have been working on this idea for the last six months. They've secured a $25,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust and $18,000 from Mercer County Better Together.

Lake Matherville is also going to get new benches and other seating, new sand and signage sharing some of Matherville's history.

"When all that's done, then we're going to look at what we can do moving forward to keep the lake project going," Johnson said.

They're asking people to share what other projects they'd like to see happen at the lake. That survey can be found here

"Now that we got the ball rolling, hopefully, more people will be interested," Johnson said. "That's kind of some of the purpose for the survey that we sent out to get some more ideas to really try to make this kind of a family friendly type environment where people can come and have different things that they can do besides just enjoy the lake."

The lakeside walking path is set to be completed this summer, in time for Matherville's Fourth of July fireworks show. 

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