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 info@smilepolitely.com.

NAME

Victory Park 

LOCATION

1000 E. Green St., Urbana

A sign that states Victory Park with a playground in the backdrop Photo by Maddie Rice. 

HISTORY AND FEATURES

Tucked into the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood, Victory Park celebrates its 100th year of existence in 2020. That's a good milestone, congratulations to the park! They certainly deserve attention, as despite its small size at just five acres, it holds are bunch of different amenities to regard. 

Beyond the children's playground and walking paths, there's a lot of history and recognition to consider. The park was named after the victory gardens that were planted there after World War I, and for the bravery of the soldiers from the community who fought in the war, I'd presume. 

There's also a great new sculpture done by Nathan Westerman, as part of The Great ARTdoors, which has come about in a partnership through 40 North, the Park Districts, Spurlock Museum, amongst others. 

A picture of a sculpture that has many connecting white circlesPhoto by Maddie Rice. 
A picture of the sign announcing Photo by Maddie Rice. 

Finally, Victory Park is home to the Victory Park Neighborhood Gardens, a farming co-op available to people in the neighborhood. I reached out to Chelsea Prahl, the Environmental Education Coordinator at UPD, and here is what she told me about them: 

The Victory Park Neighborhood Gardens were established in 2006 as part of an Open Space & Land Acquisition and Development grant and are available to those who live in the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood Association (HEUNA). The Victory Park Neighborhood Gardens are home to six raised beds (11’ x 3’) and twelve ground plots (17’ x 15’). People interested in gardening, who live in that area, can contact me at ckprahl@urbanaparks.org or 217 384-4062 to register.

During the 2020 season the Urbana Park District donated six ground plots to the Solidarity Garden CU initiative. Volunteers who garden in these plots grow produce to donate to Eastern Illinois Food Bank, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and more.

A picture of the Victory Gardens sign with contact information on it Photo by Maddie Rice. 

ASSESSMENT

Now, this is what I am talkin' about! It is this sort of thing that can reinvigorate parks and can start to transform neighborhoods. Once there is something of value to protect, a community can surround it and make sure it thrives. 

When I was a teenager, Victory Park was known more for its shady characters and ditch weed than it was for the lovely park its been restored into here in 2020. This is a testament to the last couple decades at Urbana Park District. There's an analysis, and then there is action taken to improve and preserve. 

The Neighborhood Gardens is a project that should extend to as many parks as possible, with perhaps incentives given to those who farm them. It is truly a thing of beauty. 

Top image by Maddie Rice.