As Year of the Park continues, we will be documenting every park in Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, Champaign County Forest Preserves, along with other odds and ends between July 2020 and July 2021. You can see what has been covered thus far by clicking here. If you have suggestions or ideas or feedback, feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
82 E. Washington St., Champaign
Photo by Maddie Rice.
HISTORY AND FEATURES
This park was named in honor of Audrey Skelton, and her husband Arthur. They passed in 2011 and 2012, respectively. They must have been lifers at Champaign Rotary, because at some point, the organization must have improved the space, and then named it in their honor. According to the Champaign Park District website, it is owned by the City of Champaign, but maintained by the Champaign Park District. Champaign Rotary claims to plant flowers there each year, but it doesn't seem to have happened in 2020. After doing a little google research, I learned that Mr. Skelton was also a Village Board board member in Savoy.
Photo by Maddie Rice.
According to an article I found from The Daily Illini in 2005, evidently, Arthur Skelton was pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty vocal about the MTD wanting to annex Savoy for taxation and improvements to its service area. He was against it, that's for damn sure, and while I presume he was speaking extemporaneously when he said this, he made pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty wild claims on behalf of everyone in the entire village:
“Nobody in Savoy wants C-U MTD,” Skelton said. “They have no rights as a non-elected board to tax us without our permission.”
I gotta tell you, despite that fact that this whole Southwest Mass Transit District bullshit was over 15 years ago, it still really creases me. This whole thing was all over a miniscule amount of taxes in the face of the services it would help provide, and not just in the Village of Savoy.
But that is the way of it, down south here in Champaign-Urbana. You drive far enough, you run into Savoy. And they seem to be very good at running a rigged game.
Look, I am sure he had fine, admirable qualities, and by no means am I here to dissect the man's life. But if this sort of thing is any indicator, he struggled with a few things too. Life is complex, I realize.
But I digress.
This park has a few benches to sit on, and a little bridge that skips the Boneyard, along with some old growth trees. Champaign Rotary does not seem to be keeping up with it, but there's likely reasons for that, and I don't want to judge before all the facts are in. Lots of good people who do a lot of good things sit on Rotary boards, and that is something that bears acknowledgment.
Photo by Maddie Rice.
Skelton Parks needs another overhaul, that is for sure. Who is responsible for that? Well, it seems like it is a combination of the Park District, the City of Champaign, and perhaps Rotary, as well.
It features the remnants of what once seemed to be an improved small corner park, at the north end of the Historic North First St. Business District in Midtown Champaign. Or is it Downtown? Actually, it's sort of it's own space. The history of the block is important, and for a different discussion likely, but there is no secret about how the current moment factors into its future.
The fact that the City of Champaign decided to give its police department a final resting place across the street from the commercial buildings that remain seems just a bit too convenient. The mural that just went up is the face of more change. There is opportunity here, if the right people start paying attention.
What the park needs is a small stage, and some landscaping. At moments like this, the best thing we can do is invest into the voices of a community, and building the arena, no matter how small, both physically and spiritually, is the right way to accomplish a big slice of that goal. Perhaps there is a way to make that happen; something functional, but striking. A space that can offer people the chance to be heard, and seen.
As time allows, I'll report more about a few things that this particular corner might need to come into its own. For the time being, this is a park with incredible potential. It's a space we could get excited about.