By Emily Harrington
Savoy’s park offerings just became destination worthy. For Savoy residents, Prairie Fields Park is a great neighborhood park, but not necessarily a park Chambana families would trek to in order to play. However, with the additions to Prairie Fields’ brother park, Colbert, more Champaign-Urbana residents may choose to spend their days playing in between the two.
Dana Colbert Park is located at 203 East Church St., two blocks east of Route 45 in Savoy. The 55-acre expanse of land has morphed dramatically over the five years we have lived in Savoy.
In fact, Colbert Park is just getting started. The most immediate and exciting enhancement will be ready by the middle of August — a new playground! So, before fall we will all be able to enjoy the newest playground addition to our community. This equipment is the newest, most inventive equipment on the market, thoughtfully chosen by Toby Koontz, parks and grounds supervisor for the Village of Savoy.
There will be two main structures designed in Fighting Illini orange and blue, no less. The main structure is geared towards 5-to-12-year-olds, and the smaller structure is designed for 2-to-5-year-olds. Both structures are footed in wood mulch engineered for playground safety. It’s important to understand the scope of the playground. It’s big. In terms of equipment, it will be larger than the neighboring Prairie Fields Park.
With the help of personal experience, a Village of Savoy board meeting and representatives from the equipment company, Koontz selected kid-friendly equipment unlike any the community has seen before. Koontz has been a certified playground safety inspector through the National Recreation and Park Association for 15 years. It’s safe to say he knows what makes a popular and safe playground.
One of the most exciting pieces is a parent-child swing. This swing is basically the amalgamation of a regular belt swing and a toddler bucket swing. The parent and child can face each other and interact while the parent “pumps” his legs to gain momentum. There are also large sun catchers at the peaks of the equipment that filter colored light onto the ground. COOL.
I have never seen the area crowded unless there is snow on the ground. A good snow brings kids in droves to the sledding hill. Right now the serene park seems like a lot of wide open space with a lake in the middle, but with the consistent enhancements I expect this park will quickly be bustling year-round with laughing kids and chatting parents.
The park has a mile-long gravel walking path that encircles an 8-acre lake (not ideal for strollers or runners). On the southern tip of the lake there is a dock perfect for catch-and-release bluegill fishing. You can even bring out a paddleboat or canoe — any watercraft that does not have a motor. Just plan on staying in the boat, as no swimming is allowed in the lake.
Dog waste stations and water fountains dot the walking path. Unfortunately, there are no geese waste stations, because there is a lot of geese poo. This means a lot of geese! I’m not a fan and neither is our dog. So, bring along your canine companion if you want automatic geese repellent. Those beasts can get aggressive!
Hide from the geese in one of two large pavilions that house multiple benches. These are perfect places for a picnic. We’ve picnicked here a few times. Let me warn you: there are many new immature plantings but no big trees to block wind, and it can get very windy. On one unfortunate evening we lost an entire Papa Del’s pizza to the stiff breezes. Devastating. To add insult to injury, our son slid right in the sauce and fell flat on his butt. Just make sure you have all your picnic accoutrement appropriately secured down.
There are portable potties by the parking lot. However, Koontz shared the ultimate goal of housing a year-round bathroom facility for park patrons. In fact, Koontz outlined extensive plans for growth.
“As the Village of Savoy gets money, we develop parks in stages, piece-by-piece. If we did it all at once it wouldn’t be doable,” Koontz said.
The village’s current financial focus is Colbert Park. A sand volleyball court, baseball diamonds and a soccer field, are all on the list for future park possibilities. Always around—trains passing by and airplanes headed to and from the local airport. Instant entertainment for kids!
Through my kitchen window I have watched Colbert Park change from a barren landscape to a relaxing, fun place to visit. Surrounded by fields and trees, you feel enveloped in nature even though you are in the heart of suburban Savoy. I’m excited for the future of this space as it becomes a park worthy of a drive from C-U.
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.