By Emily Harrington
As soon as the fence came down, my son and I headed for Glenn Park in Champaign. Thanks to a Champaign Park District complete makeover, Glenn Park is now a Chambana Park to Know and well worth a visit.
The protective fence that kept users from accessing the playground during construction has been removed. The only thing that remains from the assembly is bright and shiny equipment and some landscape materials.
This new and improved playground sits on a 2.1-acre median in a neighborhood on Glenn Park Drive at 400 N. Mattis Ave. When you do visit, make sure to enter the neighborhood park while going north on Mattis Avenue because of some one-way streets. I learned this the hard way!
The new playground features safe, modern equipment with a large structure designed for ages 5-12. This structure features a trio of slides (perfect for racing), a climbing wall, stepping structures, a drum to bang and climbing bars that connect to another platform with a short, bumpy slide. The climbing bars were the only concern for me — my son insisted on unsteadily trying to walk across them. You’ll be fine if you follow the suggested ages, though. You’ll also find a bank of bucket and belt swings for both toddlers and bigger kids situated by the large structure.
There is also a smaller structure designed for ages 2-5. This structure has a small chain wall to climb, a wheel to turn, a domed window to look through (or put your mouth on —why!?), small dueling slides and a small, bendy slide. A little metal partition with a table top at the base of the structure provides a perfect opportunity for playing house or an impromptu puppet show.
There are a few parking spots, but we ended up parking on the street. Plan to potty ahead of time; no potties here.
This is a small park. You aren’t going to spend all day here, but it is perfect for a picnic (there are a lot of park benches) or a quick stop before or after running errands on North Prospect. It’s quiet, too. In fact, I felt like we should whisper. There’s just not a lot of hustle and bustle in this tucked away neighborhood. However, this may change with the new equipment and the projected detention pond project that is underway.
The big news
Since the original Glenn Park article, the City of Champaign provided information about additional changes to the area.
As part of the West Washington Street Watershed Drainage Improvements, the Glenn Park area will get a detention pond in an effort to catch stormwater, thereby controlling flooding in the area. The project will look similar (but larger in scope) to the Preservation Pond site at Russell Street and Washington Streets in Champaign.
Alex Nagy, civil engineer III in the Public Works Department for the City of Champaign, explained the project is currently in the design phase with the intent to start next year. Once the labor part of the project has begun, it will take about 18 months to complete, he added. This means the project will be complete, at the latest, by the middle of 2018.
It will be worth the wait
The new detention pond will blend with the existing park and new playground. Aside from the practical flood-management benefits, the area surrounding the detention pond will gain items like gazebos, paths, benches, lighting fixtures, columns, rain gardens, flowers and native plants. An erected retaining wall will also support a semi-circle platform which will jut over the water.
The $10 to $12 million project involves the removal of the westbound leg of Glenn Park Drive (between Mattis and Miller Avenues). The uprooted area will be replaced with the lake. Westbound traffic on Glenn Park Drive will route to Church Street in order to access Mattis Avenue after the project is finished.
Soon, Glenn Park will no longer be just a stop on your way to North Prospect. It will quickly become a park you will go out of your way to visit.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie who 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.