By Emily Harrington
There’s a lot to do in this square block of fun. In snowy weather you can sled. In mild weather you can practice at the batting cage, play baseball or basketball, workout, walk on the trail or play at one of two playgrounds. In hot weather you can cool down at the Douglass Park Splash Pad.
This 3.5-acre family oasis is making a positive impression thanks to the Champaign Park District. Within this square block you’ll find the Frederick Douglass Community Center, Douglass Branch Library, Douglass Annex, Booker T. Washington STEM Academy and Douglass Park and splash pad. Find the park at 512 E. Grove St. in Champaign. You can access all the amenities by parking in the lot in front of the library entrance.
We were already big fans of the splash pad, so we decided to check out the Douglass Park playground this visit. Douglass Park reopened just a year ago after unveiling new bright and shiny features and equipment. One of the biggest perks to the updated playground is the mulch-free foundation. Instead of mulch (the bane of my existence), a rubber material cushions any falls. It also doesn’t hold moisture, so if you are playing after a day of rain—no problem. This mulch-free material is also more accessible than mulch. People needing help maneuvering have an easier time on the smooth surface.
The playground equipment features a lot of climbing contraptions. One of the neatest features is the massive star-shaped web of rope for climbing. There are a few other rope webs to climb, too. You can also balance on a large, suspended swing, a series of suspended discs or through a series of rings that start low to the ground and go up. A few musical playthings also dot the area. One sounds like a soothing rain stick! My son loved swinging with his dad from the large swing. It’s like a modern tire swing.
A smaller grouping of equipment holds a shorter slide for the toddler set. While the larger slide for school-age kids is attached to the main set of equipment. All-inclusive swings (be wary of the latch, they come down fast), belt swings and baby swings flank the playground.
Watch your little ones play from one of the many benches. You can pack a lunch and eat under the shade of the pavilion that is available for rent and has a grill for big events. A water fountain is also available. If you or your little ones have to go to the bathroom, you can use the adjacent community center or annex.
If you are feeling really ambitious, and your kids are old enough to play independently, take a walk along the .6-mile fitness trail. The trail is dotted with pods of outdoor equipment. You can use the assisted row/push-up, balance steps, cardio stepper, chest/back press, mobility station, pull-up/dip bar, squat press or stretching station.
If your kiddos grow tired of this playground, visit the school’s playground that’s just a hop, skip and a jump away. Just keep in mind school hours and student use. This playground has more of the traditional bridges and towers that many playgrounds have.
Take some time to try out the vast offerings at Douglass Park. There’s literally something for every age, gender and interest offered here.
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.