Don’t Forget to Vote

It’s an election year and you know what that means…It’s time for you to get out and vote!

That’s right the UPD wants you!

Don’t worry you don’t need to make any big political decisions or declare party loyalty. The UPD simply wants your input on the new pool theme.

As you may know construction on the new Crystal Lake Pool has begun. This new pool is sure to offer fun for everyone with a number of new features for visitors to enjoy. Features such as lap lanes, high-energy water spaces (slides, diving board), and relaxing spaces (zero depth entry, wet deck and shaded lounge areas) will all make for a great pool experience. The new pool will also include a themed water play area, but the theme has yet to be decided. That’s where your vote comes in. We need you to help decide which play area to build.

The pool themes have been narrowed down to two choices Forest Adventure and Tree House Club! All you have to do is check out the designs on the homepage and vote for your favorite one. You might pick the one you think looks the best or maybe you’ll choose the one you think will be the most fun. It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you let your voice be heard. Voting will end May 15th so cast your vote today!

Click this link to see theme designs and vote

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UPD Gets Artsy!

This year the Urbana Park District has a strong presence at the 2012 Boneyard Arts Festival.  The event hosted by 40 North 88 West, is meant to showcase local creativity and bring artists and businesses together. UPD is looking forward to being a part of this wonderful community event, as several park locations host art and artists during this four day-festival on April 19-22.   

Be sure to check out the following exhibits:

At the Anita Purves Nature Center on April 21 from 11am-1pm, visitors can check out the work of Sally Bliss Nolan. The exhibit entitled “One View of Nature” displays graphite pencil drawings and digital photography that depict close of observations of nature. Objects such as plants, insects, and animal skulls are all represented in a unique way to highlight the artist’s perspective.

Also at the Nature Center on April 21 from 1-3pm, visitors can take part in our annual Earth Day Celebration.  Participants will explore the field station and observation room and learn more about the beauty of mother earth. There will even be an opportunity for visitors to become an artist by creating a food chain craft made out of recyclable materials.

At Meadowbrook Park on April 21you can see the work of Jeff Zahos, Tony Reomer, and Robert Brown in an exhibit entitled “Resonance: Touch here. Listen.”  People will experience a new form of listening and connect with the world around them through a heightened sense of touch. Participants will learn what it feels like to communicate with themselves and others without saying a word. The event will begin around 7pm near when it gets dark. Official hours have not been determined at this time.

On April 21 at the Lincoln Square Conference Center and art show and performance will be held. The art show and Kids’ Creation Station will run 10am to 5pm. Mr. Stephens will be doing a sing-a-long from 12 to 1pm and Balloon Artist Kayla Keller will make animals from 2 to 3pm

Don’t miss your chance to participate in this unique festival!

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Honoring Life, Loss, & Nature

Spring came early this year as the weather got warmer and many plants came into bloom sooner than usual. For many this was a welcomed and wonderful surprise. However the early blooms have caused some challenges for those planning the Celebration of Daffodils event at Meadowbrook Interpretive Center, as many of the daffodils spotlighted at the event are already in full bloom.

The celebration is an annual event hosted by Practical Assistance for Survivors (PAS) and UPD, where members of both organizations come to admire the blooms of daffodils as well as pay tribute to loved ones who have died. The celebrations started in 2009 when members of PAS approached the parks district with a new garden project. The group wanted to create a garden of daffodils that would serve as a type of remembrance for loved ones passed and help to beautify the community as a whole.

As Grounds Maintenance Supervisor Randy Hauser points out, “daffodils are a forever flower because they continue to return year after year making them a symbol for rebirth and hope”.

This year the event participants may also be memorializing the daffodils as the warm weather has caused many of the flowers to bloom prematurely. However, some of the flowers may still be in bloom when the celebration occurs on April 22nd. This is because many of the flowers were planted last fall and it is common for daffodils to bloom late during their first season.  In place of real flowers, the planners have invited children to make artificial flowers which they will plant during the ceremony. 

Although the actual flowers may not be visible, the event still highlights the important services that PAS offers to those going through the bereavement process. The group offers classes and workshops that help with wills, taxes, and the day-to-day process of losing a loved one. The grieving process can be stressful and PAS can offer guidance during such a difficult time.

The 4th Annual Celebration of Daffodils will occur on Sunday April 22nd at Meadowbrook Interpretive Center at 3:00pm. PAS and UPD encourage everyone to attend this event as we celebrate and remember the lives of those who are no longer with us and to affirm the life we have rebuilt or are rebuilding in their absence.

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Showcasing Nature’s Beauty Through Art

The Urbana Park District strives to help people explore nature not just through their experiences in the parks, but also by showcasing art that represents different views of the natural world.

Since 1996 the Anita Purves Nature Center has displayed the work of local artists who offer their original perspective on natural elements such as plants, flowers, and wildlife. Judy Miller environmental program manager and coordinator for the displays comments that, “each show is uniquely different and provides an interesting look at nature through the eye of each artist”.

The shows consist of two dimensional art pieces which line the hallway at the Anita Purves Nature Center. Depending on the size of the pieces, up to 40 works can be displayed at one time allowing artists to truly showcase their talents and perspective. Artists such as Cheri Manrique, Ivan Petrov and more have all had their work presented. In addition to the displayed photos, each show has an artist reception where the public can meet with the artist to discuss technique and interests. The goal of the shows is to encourage new audiences to visit the nature center and appeal to people who enjoy both art and the environment.

Currently the nature center is displaying an exhibit by Sally Bliss Nolan entitled One View of Nature. Nolan uses graphite pencil drawings to produce close up images of plants, insects, and other found objects from the local area.

This exhibit will be on display until May 21st with an artist reception held on April 21st from 11:00am-1pm. Be sure to stop by and check out these wonderful pieces.

If you are an artist who is interested in having your work displayed please contact Environmental Program Manager Judy Miller at, or 217-384-4062.

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600 and Counting: Great Variety of Plants Take Root in Meadowbrook

If there was ever a question about the beauty and variety of plants that grow in Meadowbrook Park, the debate can safely be put to rest. A recent report, conducted by John White of ecological services, has found that an abundance of plants and ferns grow within the park.

White surveyed the naturally growing areas of the park focusing on restored natural areas, naturalized park space, and mowed meadows. Cultivated areas such as PrairePlay Playground and the gardens near Windsor and Race road were excluded. In total, 120 of the park’s 130 acres were examined.

White identified plants for 98 days in 2011. His efforts produced a list of 608 varieties of flora growing within the park, including several types of roses, grass, sedge and much more. Previous attempts had been made by Urbana Park District staff and volunteers to identify the many different plants, but this recent report shows that previous findings were far from complete. One surprising finding was that many of the species indentified were not native to this area. White suspects that,

“Roughly half of the plant species at Meadowbrook probably were planted, and the rest appear to have arrived there naturally”.

The report has also helped with conservation efforts, as it identified a number of invasive species that have sprung up in areas of the park. Now that these species have been identified, park staff can monitor previously undetected invasive species and protect the diversity of plant life.

Regardless of plant origin or species, these findings confirm that Meadowbrook Park is one of the best parks in East-Central Illinois for observation of flora as it supports a high level of plant diversity for visitors to enjoy.

For a listing of plant species found within Meadowbrook Park please check out the full report.

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We’ve Moved!

The Planning & Operations Department has moved to a new building!

Since 1952, the Planning & Operations department has been housed in a small building at 901 N. Broadway Ave. The facility was constructed primarily to serve only 150 acres of park and a few full-time staff members. Over the years the building became extremely outdated as the needs of the park district grew. Office and storage space were in short supply and the facility was outdated, costly, and inconveniently located.  

As a result of these growing issues, the district decided to construct a new building located at 1011 E. Kerr Ave. This new building is a great addition to the district and it will increase the district’s capacity to care for all its parks and facilities. Staff members are excited for the move and have been looking forward to this change for a long time.

Construction on the new facility first began in 2010 and was completed in January 2012. The new facility provides the district with a number of new amenities which will help to increase efficiency and productivity.

Space is no longer a problem as the new facility consists of two buildings measuring at 40,100 sq ft, which provides plenty of room for offices, storage, and meeting rooms. Employees now have more work space and easier access to necessary equipment and tools, which allows them to complete their work in an efficient manner. The site even allows for future growth should space needs increase.

The new facility is much safer for both the environment and employees. All local, state, and federal requirements in relation to life/safety were followed and made a priority. The building also remains loyal to UPD’s commitment to environmental responsibility by meeting or exceeding all environmental regulations.

The hope is that this new facility will be able to service the park district for many years to come and help to maintain UPD’s mission of “improving the quality of life of Urbana’s citizens through a responsive, efficient, and creative park and recreation system”.

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Go Geocaching

Looking for a fun and challenging outdoor activity? Geocaching may be your answer; and it has come to the Urbana Park District! It can be done rain or shine, winter or summer–it all depends on when you like to spend your time outside.

Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt where people scour various locations to find marks known as geocaches. These geocaches (or caches as they are sometimes called) are designated by specific GPS coordinates and found using personal GPS devices. The first geocache was placed in May of 2000 and ever since people have been partaking in this activity. Now you can participate by locating the geocahces in Crystal Lake Park. Anyone can try it. All you need is access to the Internet, a personal GPS device and a hunger for adventure.

You will need to start your geocaching journey online through a geocaching website such as These sites are a way to locate geocaches, document findings, and connect with the larger geocaching community. After you have identified your preferred site, create a membership and scan the lists of geocaches in your area. When selecting a cache, be sure to look at the difficulty ratings associated with each one so that your choice is appropriate to your skill level.

Once you have the coordinates for your geocache, it’s time to hit the trail and look for it. Geocaches can be stashed in any number of places; under rocks, near trees and in bushes, so keep an eye out. Typically they are in water proof containers that vary in size depending on the contents. Each cache contains a log book and something to write with so you can record your find. Occasionally, geocaches also contain other small items or “treasures” that are meant to be traded. Geocachers can take these items, but are expected to leave an item of equal or greater value in its place.  Once you record a find, return the geocache to its orginal location so that others can find it as well. Lastly, conclude your adventure by logging in to your geocaching website to record your findings and any stories you have to share. Interacting with the geocaching community is part of the experience.

Why not get started now and track down the geocaches in Crystal Lake Park?

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ADA Improvements

Providing access to people of all different ability levels is one of the park district’s main objectives.  Subsequently, as part of a joint project with Champaign Park District through Champaign Urbana Special Recreation, the Urbana Park District contracted Recreation Accessibility Consultants, LLC. to complete an accessibility audit at all of our parks and facilities.  The group went site by site and compiled a list of all of the areas throughout the district that were out of compliance.  Based on the 2010 ADA Accessibility Guidelines, Illinois Accessibility Codes, and the proposed Playground, Outdoor Developed Areas and Recreation Standards, they made note of things like handrails that were mounted too high, cracked and steep sidewalks, signage that was located too far from paths, and more.  Staff was given this information and has begun putting together a transition plan which will help prioritize improvements, as well as to track the completion status of the improvements.  This plan will also serve as a guide in the planning process for the Capital Improvement Plan that is updated every five years.  As capital improvement projects are in the planning stage, any areas out of compliance outlined in this plan will be addressed as part of the project.

Even though the Transition Plan is not finalized yet, we have already had the opportunity to incorporate the findings in our project updates.  We received the report from Recreation Accessibility Consultants just in time for our path project at King Park.  Several areas of the paths at King Park exceeded the recommended slope guidelines, but we were able to remove these sections and regrade and repair the walks as part of the new path project.   Additionally, areas where sidewalk surface deterioration had occurred were brought to our attention, and these areas were also replaced and made compliant.  Stop by King Park and check out the new accessible pathways.

Any resident is welcome to review the report provided by Recreation Accessibility Consultants or the Transition Plan upon its completion at the Phillips Recreation Center, 505 W. Stoughton.  Additionally, there will be a joint public open house with the Champaign Park District that will highlight elements of each district’s transition plan.  It is currently scheduled for Thursday, December 8th at 5:00 pm at the Hays Recreation Center (1311 W. Church St., Champaign).

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America Recycles Day 2011

America Recycles Day is a nationally recognized day dedicated to publicize and educate individuals and their communities about recycling in the United States. Since 1997, America Recycles Day has become more publically recognized and now has more than 1,700 pledges—those who pledge to recycle and be waste free.  Take the Pledge

making crafts

The Urbana Park District and The City of Urbana’s U-Cycle will be having their 4th annual America Recycles Day at the Anita Purves Nature Center on Saturday, November 19th at 10:00am-2:00pm. This year’s theme is “Waste Free Lunch’, hoping to educate others about ways to reduce lunch waste and how to be more eco-friendly. There will be information, presentations, and fun and creative activities during the event. Discover ways to reduce waste, create art from trash and save money!

The following groups will be on hand:
1.      The I.D.E.A Store- Check out a “compost pile” made out of reusable materials available at their store.  They will have information on the store, eco-craft workshops, and donations.
2.      Market Sprouts Program- Discover the Sprouts Program- focused on educating kids about eating healthy food. Learn what makes a healthy lunch.
3.      Common Ground- Play games with staff from Common Ground about filling lunches with healthy local foods. Learn the long journey of farm to table.
4.      The City of Urbana: U-Cycle ProgramGet information on lunch waste and easy ways to reduce it. Play recycling games and other sorting activities.
5.      UPD/APNC- Create an eco-lunch container made out of milk jugs!

Materials accepted at the America Recycles Day event:
1. Batteries all sizes ( rechargeable and non-rechargeable)
2. Ink cartridges
3. Cell phones
4. Juice Pouches
5. Plastic grocery bags
6. Six-pack rings

Learning about recycling

10 am to 2 pm
Anita Purves Nature Center
Call 384-4062 to learn more or visit our website.

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Gateway Trail Transformation Underway

The nature center and Busey Woods has visitation of over 50,000 a year, which includes school visits, scout and afterschool groups and nature enthusiasts. In 2005, the Urbana Park District applied for an Illinois State Museum Interpretive Grant to create a universal access path from the Anita Purves Nature Center through a portion of Busey Woods. The grant was awarded but only for the woods’ boardwalk portion, leaving the access trail from the center to Busey Woods as is. In 2010, the park district submitted a grant proposal for Busey Woods Gateway Trail which included a new access path to Busey Woods as well as interpretive exhibits and landscaping. The original access path to the Busey Woods did not meet accessibility guidelines thus limiting visitation. The grant was awarded but for only 70% of the project cost. Donations and additional grants will enable the entire project to be completed over the next year.

Over the summer months, the old path was removed and a new path was constructed. In addition to a newly accessible paved trail leading to Busey Woods, the park district is upgrading the landscaping along the trail—including the habitat garden outside the Wildlife Observation Room windows. This garden space, planted in the 1990’s, will have invasive and unhealthy plants removed and a new garden planted, suitable for wildlife and their observation. The new garden will require minimal care by district staff and volunteers.

The trail renovation project offers the park district an opportunity to improve the plantings in this area. Expect work to continue through spring 2012. To see a copy of the planting plan for the trail and habitat garden, please stop inside the nature center.


Fall 2011: Remove low-quality habitat, failing plantings and weedy fill in plants

Winter 2011-12: Prepare the area for introduction of new habitat

Spring 2012: Introduce new plants trees and shrubs in the habitat garden and along the trail & interpretive elements installed

The Gateway Trail offers a link between park and woods and will help visitors transition from more open space to wooded space. Experiencing the beauty of Busey Woods in every season for each visitor who uses this trail makes this a project to be excited about.  Join us for a sneak peek at this new trail during a ribbon cutting event: Saturday, November 19 at 10:30am.

Call (217) 384-4062 for more details.

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