A Look Back at 2022

Dec 2022

As another year draws to a close, we would like to take a look back at the past twelve months.

In 2022, we had much to celebrate—from the return of our Barn Bash event to the completion of the Blair Park resurfacing project to the 25th anniversary of the Wandell Sculpture Garden. We also continued efforts on longer term projects, like the new Health & Wellness Facility and launched a fundraising campaign to help the Urbana Park District (UPD) build a new accessible and inclusive playground at Meadowbrook Park.

Let’s take a stroll through some of the year’s major highlights:

Blair Park Resurfacing Project

This year, the Foundation was thrilled to support the UPD in the successful resurfacing of the tennis courts at Blair Park – a project made possible with the support of our generous donors. Centrally located in Urbana, not only is this nearly 80-year-old park a neighborhood favorite, it is also used by the Urbana Middle School for physical education programs and serves as the home for the Urbana Tigers tennis teams.

Today when you go to Blair Park, you can see tennis and pickle ball enthusiasts of all ages using the courts. Those are people who are getting out, getting active, and enjoying the benefits that parks provide our community, made possible by our generous donors.

Return to in-person events

After a few years of virtual or modified outdoor gatherings due to the pandemic, this past May we were thrilled to gather together at Hudson Farm for our first Barn Bash since 2019. The event was really well attended, despite the windy weather. Guests enjoyed music from the Boat Drunks, tasty eats from local food trucks, games for kids and a chance to reconnect in celebration of our local parks. Funds raised from ticket sales, the 50/50 raffle and other donations that evening went towards general support for the Urbana Parks Foundation, so that we can continue to raise funds for the Urbana Park District and help raise awareness for their valuable parks, facilities, and programs.

In September, we were joined by 70 fellow park enthusiasts at our Jazz Walk mixer. We were excited to welcome sculptor Tim Summerville, the artist who brought us the new permanent addition to the Wandell Sculpture Garden: Life on the Prairie. He spoke with several people about the sculpture’s creation and the inspiration behind it. After the mixer, we spent a lovely evening wandering Meadowbrook Park enjoying the sounds of different local jazz soloists and combos.

Turkey Trot

This year’s Turkey Trot saw an attendance of around 1,300 walkers and runners. Not only was the Thanksgiving atmosphere a lot of fun, but attendees generously donated over $1,000 to the Youth Scholarship Fund, which will help so many Urbana children enjoy valuable UPD programming next year that they may have not otherwise been able to afford.

Connecting Classes with Nature

Every year, Urbana Park District hosts hundreds of students on field trips to learn about nature and the environment, and for some students this is their first exposure to natural areas. Classes can visit several of Urbana Park District’s natural areas: Busey Woods, Weaver Park Wetland, or Spomer Prairie at Meadowbrook Park. Each location offers something different and unique for students to learn, but securing funding for these field trips is becoming increasingly difficult. Budgets for field trips and transportation are tight, and like many school districts, Urbana schools must rely on a separate company for transportation to and from field trips.

That’s why this year for Giving Tuesday, we turned our attention to the Connecting Classes with Nature program. Connecting Classes with Nature helps to eliminate funding barriers for class field trips to Urbana Park District natural areas, by covering program and/or transportation costs. Thanks to your generous donations, we raised enough money to give at least 150 Urbana students the opportunity to experience nature on field trips with the Urbana Park District in the coming year.

Health & Wellness Facility

To meet the local demand, we have been working to raise funds for the construction of a comprehensive Health and Wellness Facility in Urbana that will offer extended hours, accessible programs, and space to grow as the community continues to grow.

In 2022, thanks to our generous donors, UPF was able to distribute over $1.3 million in support of the project, and we anticipate groundbreaking for the facility will take place this coming Spring.

Meadowbrook Park Playground Giving Project

Since 1995, PrairiePlay playground at Meadowbrook Park has been an iconic piece of the Urbana landscape—a true testament of community collaboration. While dedicated care and maintenance from the UPD has allowed PrairiePlay to last longer than the average playground, it is no longer meeting the needs of today’s youth.

As we give thanks for all PrairiePlay has done to inspire curious and collaborative play for our community’s children, we have launched a fundraising campaign to help build a new cutting-edge playground in Meadowbrook Park tailored to their developmental needs.

Private donations will be key to this project: we have set a fundraising goal of $100,000. Every dollar raised for the Meadowbrook Park Playground Giving Project will help to build the largest, most inclusive and accessible playground in UPD history.

As we turn our sights to 2023, first and foremost we would like to thank all our donors, supporters, board members, as well as everyone at the Urbana Park District for all your hard work creating and maintaining such a wide variety of recreational opportunities for our community.

Over the next year, the Urbana Parks Foundation and Urbana Park District will continue to invest in several initiatives that will further strengthen Urbana, including:

  • Construction of the new Health & Wellness Center in Prairie Park
  • Construction of a new accessible and inclusive playground at Meadowbrook Park
  • Youth Scholarships to help all Urbana kids access Urbana Park District programs and facilities
  • Arts & Culture programs to create a vibrant and welcoming community