Although still in the first phases of development, Weaver Park already has surprised the Urbana Park District in its variety and potential uses. This a 60-acre park along east Main Street was purchased with the assistance of a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 2002. Once complete, it will be an active park with ball fields, soccer fields and walking trails. It is unique in that it will also feature existing and new natural areas-an oak savanna and a wetland. The district intends to use green construction techniques wherever possible. An outdoor education space will be incorporated to help interpret the 9-acre savanna and the eco-friendly amenities.
The district has made the wetland its first priority, as there has been a wonderful opportunity for intergovernmental cooperation to complete the project.
In 2005, seven area government agencies have come together to mesh their different infrastructure needs into one planned project. The Weaver Park Watershed Management System Project will solve the problems of several government bodies while creating a whole greater than tile sum of its parts. This type of government cooperation on this scale is remarkable.
Participating agencies are: Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, St. Joseph Drainage District Number 3, Urbana Township, City of Urbana, Champaign County, Urbana Park District, Urbana School District, State of illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The watershed management system will drain into a constructed wetland in Weaver Park that can be accessed by everyone in the community. It will serve as a centerpiece of the park for both recreational and educational use. lt will provide new habitat and green space. It will clean the water that enters tile watershed in ways a traditional basin cannot; a wetland allows water to be filtered through plants and soils rather than running through pipes.
By creating one centrally located storm-water management system, the governments collectively will realize the cost savings of not duplicating efforts. For example, instead of three or four small detention ponds on properties very near one another, each with their own construction, engineering and management costs, these seven agencies pooled resources to create one system that works for an entire 300-acre area.
There are a number of expected future benefits that will be realized as a result of the collaborative planning:
-Residents of the new Champaign County Nursing Home will have access to a pariland wetland for recreation.
-Students at Prairie School will have access to a wetland for educational purposes and additional recreation space.
-Shared parking will minimize hard surfaces that contribute to poor drainage and take up valuable green space, and will allow greater access to existing and planned recreation areas.
-Planned neighborhood, bus, bike and pedestrian access brings the community to the park and other public lands and promotes environmentally-friendly transportation.
-Improved and safer access to the entrance and parking lots at Prairie School.
By working together, the agencies secured approximately $900,000 in local, state and federal grants to complete the watershed project.
As of 2007, the first two phases of the wetland project are complete. The district expects to complete the wetland and build a surrounding boardwalk to be used for recreation and interpretation by 2009.
Work on the athletic and environmental education components of the park plan will begin once funding is secured.
Text from Mancuso, Dana L. (Ed.). (2007). A century of growth: the Urbana Park District's first 100 years. Urbana, IL: Urbana Park District.