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 more like August or September 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 protected].

NAME

Judge Webber Park 

LOCATION

1701 E. Perkins Rd, Urbana


HISTORY AND FEATURES

This park is unique to this yearlong feature at Year of the Park in that I cannot tell you to just come on by and have a picnic at Judge Webber Park in Urbana. It is indeed a public piece of land, but it is currently leased to the East Central Illinois Archers Club, and after learning more about how that came to pass, I believe it is all truly awesome. 

I asked Derek Liebert, Superintindent of Planning and Operations, to tell me more about it all and he responded with a truly robust amount of information, and here ya go, I will just paste it here for you to read: 

The late Judge Charles M Webber and his wife Lucille donated approximately 14 acres to UPD in 1985. In 2002, their heirs transferred an addition of roughly 9 acres.  The land was undeveloped until the East Central Illinois Archery Club entered into an affiliate agreement with the park district in 1999 for club use, including practice, target shooting, and tournaments.

The club uses the majority of the site and because of the nature of their activities, use of the site is restricted to their membership and our cooperative programs for the community. We are additionally working on habitat improvements including invasive species management, native species establishment, and stream restoration.

The adjacent Perkins Rd. site, that includes the dog park to the north, is wrapping up an extensive 20 year long rehabilitation project that the park district has performed in partnership with the Urbana Champaign Sanitary District. We have been converting and restoring sanitary sludge lagoons into a diverse array of natural areas including wetlands, sedge meadow, prairie, and marsh. The district is in the process of preparing an updated Perkins Rd. site plan that will feature trails, interpretive nodes, bird blinds, and overlooks. Restoration and site improvements will continue through this year and we hope to have an opening sometime next year.

This is a great example of how to do this work. Not every park has to try to be something that it isn't, or can't be. That the Urbana Park District would have the wherewithal to see its limitations and work with a private group to create space for something boutique and useful is a showcase of what it means to be both thoughtful and industrious in an area that is usually woefully underfunded. 

The Archers Club takes care of the property in exchange for use of the land. They sell memberships and give that money to the Urbana Park District. It doesn't amount to much, but I can tell you it is more valuable than screaming about taxes on WDWS until your larynx shatters. The UPD gets the benefit of additional programming that they promote to everyone in CU who cares enough to check out the opportunities they offer, and now, there is a sweet forest where both you and I can pretend to be Robin Hood or Katniss or just that weird dude that grew up down the block from you that was always carrying a bow and arrow around after dark. Why was he doing that? And why were there always bottles of Michelob strewn throughout his lawn? Hard to say.

This is a pretty massive forest space though, and now that I am looking at it on the map, I am sort of hungry to walk around, but I will not! I am just saying, it seems like this is the biggest forest inside of town, outside of Busey Woods, and perhaps down the line, it could be something of another space just like it. Who knows? Time and money have a way of presenting new ways of looking at things. 

trees line a path in a forest Photo by Maddie Rice. 

ASSESSMENT

I wish I were an archer, damnit. It seems so primal and engaging. Maybe I will go check it out? Seems like a good upper body work out, and a damned fine way to test your accuracy skills. Patience, is what I hear you need, more than anything. It is not brute force, but patience, and focus. I have those things, sometimes. Perhaps it is time for me and you to become archers, and succeed the mission of that neighbor with the Michelobs. He was up to something, I assure you. 

For more information about the East Central Illinois Archery Club, click here

a barn that houses the East Central Illinois Archers ClubTop image and this photo by Maddie Rice.