What You Need to Know about the new Henry Michael Park in Champaign
By Emily Harrington
Months ago my editors pitched me a review of the new Henry Michael Park. And each month since the assignment, I’ve bugged the respective staff at the Champaign Park District (CPD) for progress updates. Sadly, they reported that an extreme winter, soggy spring and unpredictable summer had led to many delays.
Finally, the weather has cooperated long enough to finish up the project, and it’s providing a perfect climate for park play.
This park sits in the burgeoning development, Liberty on the Lake. Specifically, GPS will get you there at 3802 Freedom Boulevard. The development is accessible from Curtis Road or Mattis Avenue. Positioned at the northwest corner of the development is Carle on Curtis.
The park is a welcome addition to this part of town, and it fills a park void. It is a decent size, is positioned centrally in the subdivision and has play structures and adjoining features that are on a large median. It features:
- a lot of green space to play. Nearly 2-acres of land were donated to create the 61st CPD park. These parks encompass more than 700 acres of CPD-maintained land!
- a beautifully maintained neighborhood.
- minimal traffic. Minimal crowds.
- the opportunity for team sports. There’s a half-court basketball area. The pole is wrapped with a cushion. Great for body checking your opponent!
- unique playground pieces.
- walking trail—.2 miles. This path connects to the existing sidewalk. It has space for a bench, bike rack and trash/recycling.
Tips for Your Trip from Other Parents
- Bring kites if it’s windy. Bring bikes/scooters/strollers if you’re going to stroll. There aren’t a lot of trees, or anything obscuring the sky there. Perfect for kite flying.
- Don’t drive if you don’t have to. This is a neighborhood. There’s no parking lot. So, be prepared to park on the street.
- Pack drinks. The CPD has no plans for water fountains at this time.
- Potty before you go.
- There isn’t a lot shade, so you need to wear sunscreen, and you need to pack hats!
Is this park good for toddlers?
Yes, there are two structures. The smaller structure would be appropriate for a preschooler (ages 2 to 5). It has a wavy slide. The waves slow the slide down. It is not a mini slide, however. It’s medium height. The smaller structure also has a zig-zag suspension climber, and it has a short wall with holes to position small hands and feet for climbing. Your kiddo will also love moving the attached gameboard’s oversized pieces. There’s also one baby swing.
The larger structure is rated for school kids (ages 5 to 12).
What amenities are offered?
Henry Michael Park offers many amenities, including:
- a modified swing. (Watch out for the closing latch on the modified swing. It can come down fast.) There’s also a baby swing, and there are two belt swings.
- mulch base. I like the playground-grade mulch the CPD uses. It doesn’t hold water after a rain, and it’s easy on kids who take spills and tumbles.
- unique features like a series of interconnected shapes. The metal shapes provide endless climbing opportunities. There are also lots of suspended seats. These are perfect to swing or climb on. There is also a canopy, and there is a momentum-driven sphere. They loved spinning around and around and around! I felt nauseous.
- The slides were made out of matte and slightly textured material. This made them seem less hot. Sometimes the common glossy material can almost seem skin searing. The Henry Michael slides were heat/sun tolerant.
How are the bathrooms?
There are no bathrooms. However, there are lots of nice neighbors. You could always ask! Or, take the short walk over to Carle on Curtis.
Are there picnic tables and grills?
Yes — there are picnic tables scattered throughout.
Is there any shade?
There aren’t any shady, mature trees — only baby trees. However, there is a nice canopy over the larger structure. The canopy mostly shades the two winding slides on the larger structure.
When is this park open?
Dawn to dusk
What is parking like?
There’s on-street parking.
Looking for more parks to visit? Here’s some of our favorites:
Hessel Park in Champaign | Meadowbrook Park in Urbana | Carle Park in Urbana | Porter Park in Champaign | West Side Park in Champaign | Colbert Park in Savoy | Crystal Lake Park in Urbana | Lake of the Woods in Mahomet
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. 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. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.