CHAMPAIGN — The park district asked kids who play at Douglass Park what they wanted in a future version of the park — and some of that wish list may be reality soon.
The Champaign Park District won a $300,000 grant from the state earlier this month to improve the park at Fifth and Grove streets, a project that could cost an estimated $600,000 and begin this summer.
The Douglass grant is among $16.5 million in state money that will be spent on 46 local park projects across the state. Douglass is the only Champaign County project.
Liz Howard of Champaign often visits the park with her daughter.
Asked what she'd like to see, Howard said benches near the basketball court. Check.
And "more paths for kids to ride their bicycles." Check.
Jameel Jones, the director of cultural arts for the park district, said 18 youths were interviewed for a Douglass Park wish list.
Seniors asked for a horseshoe ring, which is in the plans now. A walking trail was also a highly desired object.
Ratio Architects' Brian DeMuynck, a landscape architect, said planned projects include:
— A new playground.
— A walking path about 0.6 mile long to cross existing concrete pathways.
— A water "sprayground," similar to what Hessel Park now has.
— A new picnic shelter.
— Exercise equipment scattered on the path.
— A small baseball field meant for youth leagues.
The park district's Jones adds that a new pavilion will be available for use by patrons for weddings, meetings and whatever else they may like.
"We try to be responsive to what our bosses want," he said of taxpayers.
DeMuynck said the new pathway will cross from the Douglass Branch library over the existing pathway twice to the northeast part of the park, near a soccer field.
The path will have "three nodes," DeMuynck said, each with an exercise station that's simple and strong enough to withstand the weather. Possibilities include the squat press, chest press and pull-ups.
Ratio Architects has done other park work in town, including fishing piers for Champaign's Kaufman Lake and water features for Urbana's Crystal Lake Park.
Jones said Douglass Park has had previous improvements in recent years and is still relatively up to date.
One of the big improvements was air-conditioning for the annex, he said.
But $600,000 is far from among the most expensive park projects undertaken recently.
The Champaign Park District will hold a grand opening for its $5.4 million Leonhard Recreation Center on May 3.
Paying for parks
The $300,000 grant that will go toward sprucing up Douglass Park is funded by the state's Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program. More about OSLAD:
— Among the local parks that have shared about $377.8 million for 1,641 projects since the program began in 1986: Roessler Park in Gifford (awarded $40,700 in 2013), Sunset Ridge Park in Champaign ($400,000 in 2012) and the Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center ($400,000 in 2012).
— OSLAD is funded through the Real Estate Transfer Tax, which is part of every property sale in Illinois, and administered by the state's Department of Natural Resources.
— Funding recipients must pitch in at least half of the total project cost.