By Emily Harrington
When it comes to splash pads, Hessel Park Waterplay is no longer the only game in town.
This family-friendly oasis is making a positive impression thanks to the Champaign Park District. Within a square block you’ll find the Frederick Douglass Community Center, Douglass Branch Library, Douglass Annex, Booker T. Washington Elementary School and Douglass Park and splash pad (the reason we visited).
I was happy to see a few families picnicking and play dating in anticipation of the water turning on. The Douglass Park Splash Pad is the newest addition to our robust park district offerings now rivaling its wet brethren—Hessel Park Waterplay.
The Douglass Park Splash Pad is at 512 E. Grove St. in Champaign. Every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day you can find the water spraying from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. During the hours of operation the water will spray as long as the silver button in the center is pushed. In inclement weather the water is still on, so splash at your own risk.
Having recently visited the Hessel Park Splash Pad, it was hard not to compare. They are both awesome (both free) and met the same goal—happy and tired kids. But, the Douglass Park Splash Pad is so shiny and new. It was clean and bright and NOT CROWDED. It seemed larger to me than Hessel, but this could have been because there weren’t many kids playing. The age of the equipment and foot traffic were the biggest differences between the two splash pads.
The Douglass Splash Pad is a circular concrete pad dotted with different playthings. I got the impression it was supposed to resemble a pond. There were tall spraying flowers and leafy things. There were shorter ring tunnels you could run through and ground sprays. A frog and a snail sprayed water from their mouths while three other sprayers resembled a mushroom and plant stalks. Obviously, I have an aged imagination. Everything sprays at varying intervals. Most of the short equipment was movable, so you can change the spray direction (aka hit your sibling with water). The main attraction is a tall plaything that collects water in one of two buckets. When the buckets are full, they tip and send down a heavy stream of water. This surprised some of the kids—and adults.
Another difference between the two splash pads was the age range of the user. I saw a new walker and a crawling baby having a great time. Again, maybe this large age range is because there weren’t a lot of big kids running around. But, I would safely say a confident walker to age 6 would be an appropriate participant. Also, the concrete isn’t slick, but I would still recommend water shoes.
There is a shaded seating area and water fountain surrounding the pad. If you or your little ones have to go to the bathroom, you can use the adjacent community center, annex or trek to portable potty by the baseball diamond.
I also suggest visiting the basketball court, new playground and fitness trail, too. These amenities are all top-of-the line in terms of parks in our area.
Give this place a try. The more visitors go to the park, the better off for the awesome park area, the neighborhood and the community. It’s an untapped resource that’s ready for play!
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.