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Spring Lake Park flourishes under private management

Spring Lake Management President Ryan Hansen will continue to oversee the park for the next five years.
Rich Egger
Spring Lake Management President Ryan Hansen will continue to oversee the park for the next five years.

Ryan Hansen formed Spring Lake Management nearly a decade ago to manage Macomb’s Spring Lake Park, which includes 1,200 acres of land and 240 acres of water.

He is glad he did so.

“It’s been a joy in my life. It’s not a job. It’s more of a lifestyle,” Hansen said.

He’s also enjoyed the relationships he’s developed while managing the park.

The Macomb City Council this month agreed to renew its contract with Hansen. He was the only person to submit a bid.

Spring Lake Management will be paid $115,000 each year of the new five-year contract. Hansen said the previous contract paid him $70,000 per year.

Hansen called the park a destination and an attraction for Macomb. He said before the pandemic, 70% of the revenue it generated came from outside McDonough County.

That changed during 2020 and 2021, when more usage came from local residents. This year the figures looked a bit more like the pre-pandemic numbers with about 60% of the revenue coming from outside the county.

“People are coming here and spending their day or their weekend,” he said.

A new look for the park

Hansen has made numerous improvements to Spring Lake Park. For example, the former caretaker’s house, which the park district used as an office when it managed the site, has a different use today.

“Now we’ve converted it into an Airbnb that people can rent out and stay here in the park, have a golf cart, roam around, enjoy the view looking down the hill at the lake,” Hansen said.

The three-bedroom house has new flooring and new kitchen appliances. Hansen said it’s booked pretty much every day during the summer, which means it’s generating hotel-motel tax revenue for the city.

Hansen also built four cabins in 2015. “They are rented out pretty much every weekend from March through October,” he said.

He decided to build cabins because he kept receiving calls from people wondering if rental cabins were available.

A fifth cabin was added a couple years ago. It is larger than the original four, has a bigger deck, comes with a gas grill, and has a bed instead an air mattress like the others.

Hansen said he added around 40 full hookups for campers, and the park has 100 camper hookups overall.

He also added a half-dozen pontoon boats and two fishing boats for people to rent.

“We introduced walleye to the lake back in 2014. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources actively stocks a lot of other species, whether it be catfish, blue catfish, tiger muskie,” he said.

Late fall and winter are generally quieter times at the park, though Hansen said plenty of work gets done during those months, including removing invasive honeysuckle from the grounds.

And when warmer weather returns, Hansen will take on a new responsibility as part of his new contract with the city -- he will manage the Boy Scout camp that’s on the park grounds.

The Fraternal Order of police previously managed the camp.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.