PEORIA HEIGHTS — The village board of trustees this week unanimously approved a lease agreement with developer Kim Blickentstaff to build a nature park on public riverfront property, the former site of Al Fresco Park, the area's party magnet central two generations ago.

Blickenstaff, the California-based entrepreneur with central Illinois roots, will rent the 10-acre property in the 4600 block of Galena Road for $1,000 a year for 20 years. He will also pay all of the property taxes.

Plans are to create a natural preserve with two spring-fed lakes that would provide recreational opportunities like fishing, boating, swimming, ice skating, scuba diving, snorkeling, zip-lining, bird-watching and more. The developer must comply with all local, state and federal regulations, such as those imposed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers; acquire village approval for all alterations and improvements to the property of more than $5,000; and allow the village to use the property for public events at no cost.

"(Tuesday's vote) sets in motion for me to start working closer with IDNR, the Army Corps, Illinois Department of Transportation and the railway," project manager Greg Birklund said Thursday. "I would like to start this fall cleaning up the debris and removing the scrub bushes and trees. I can only move as fast as these agencies move."

Blickenstaff, an entrepreneur in the biomedical field who grew up in Spring Bay but now splits his time between San Diego and central Illinois, has several projects in the works in the area. He purchased the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Peoria, turned the Kelly Avenue Library in the Heights into an entertainment venue and is building residential condos and a boutique hotel on Prospect Road.

Al Fresco Park is a nostalgic giant from Peoria's early-20th century history. Home to a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, beer garden and other attractions, it closed in the 1940s. Squeezed between an active railroad line and the Illinois River shoreline, the land has been mostly unused since.

With the rental agreement in hand,  Birklund said he will now focus on the details of the new park.

"Spring will allow us to assess the natural barriers around the park and truly get a feel with what we are working with," Birklund said. "My hope is to start working early Spring on the construction."

Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at shilyard@pjstar.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.