Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Bian Park, Champaign

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


Bian Park


3553 W. Kirby Ave, Champaign 

the copper slough, a creek, runs through the park

Photo by Anna Longworth. 


Here’s a great little pocket park serving the Maynard Lake community in west Champaign. What, you’ve never heard of Maynard Lake? I see. Neither had I. It has a pretty robust history, if you want to read about it. Literally, I had lived in Champaign-Urbana continuously for 36 years, and then I saw a video put together by small real estate maven a few years back, and good lord, this place is basically heaven. I mean, there is an island on Maynard Lake. Right here in Champaign. There are pelicans that live on that island. I am not lying to you. I promise you, there is a family of pelicans. They live here in the summer. According to my friend, they run the show. 

Here it is, on the Google Maps: 

a screenshot of Maynard Lake in Champaign Illinois

Screenshot from Google Maps. 

And here it was back in the day, before it was developed. Woo-boy, they were doin’ it right! 

an old photograph of maynard lake before there were any homes developed

Screenshot from Maynard Lake HOA. 

What dreams may come, they must have thought. A lake with an island, just off Champaign proper. A golf course. A chance to breathe. A place to be away from the “others.” I get it. Say no more. Ain’t right, but I understand where they were going. I want to be there. 

From the lake, just walk north past Roxford Dr. and you’ve got Bian Park

Good ol’ Leo Bian gave us this land in 1978. Or it was a partnership of some kind in that there was a grant was awarded to develop it. That grant is still in existence it seems. It was IDNR (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) LWCF (Land and Water Conservation Fund) grant. On the property, just next to Kirby Ave. is the Copper Slough. That is what that photo is above. I don’t even know how to say that word. Slough. I realize I could look that up, but honestly, by now, I have seen it enough in my day, and I want to be confused by it. Slow? Slah? Sluff? Slaw? I think that is it. I don’t know though, and frankly, whatever it is, I don’t appreciate its spelling.

Anyhow, speaking of words we say, Leo is a wonderful name. Obviously, if you watched Seinfeld, Uncle Leo was a prominent character on that show. He might be the best character in the whole series, honestly. 

I, too, had an Uncle Leo. He was married to Aunt Shirley, my Poppy’s closest sister, and man oh man, he was a first rate jerk. The worst at Thanksgiving. The worst at Mitvahs for the kids. Just the worst. 

But that does not mean that the name Leo is not a great name. It is! In fact, it was shortlisted for my own little guys. Didn’t make the cut, but still. A great name. Anyhow, Leo Bian. He did some things good. I googled his name. Nothing really. 

This park features a soccer field, of full proportions. This is a very good thing, as there is nothing quite like full court anything. Sorry, pitch! A soccer field is a pitch. Get it that burn in, you know? 

There is also a picnic bench that sits below a tree. This is a positive thing. 

a picnic bench sits under a tree with leaves changing color to autumn

Photo by Anna Longworth. 


Ever since I first learned about Maynard Lake, I have fantasized about living on it. This is never going to happen. But it doesn’t mean that I cannot fantasize and daydream about it. Legtimately, I have walked along the peninsula (look above) and there is a lil’ tiny beach with a table, and the HOA even puts out a porta-potty every summer for people to use if they so choose to do so. This is living. I would like to live there. The island is a sanctuary for a lot of animals. That is where I want to live. 

Anyhow, this Bian Park is a nice one! Most folks would never roll up and find a spot on the street to get to it, but this kind of land donorship lends itself to deeply important components of making a neighborhood into, a neighborhood

To that end, you might like to give it a shot? And if you walk due south along Maynard Dr. and you are super cool and relaxed about it, I am doubting anyone who lives there would be upset if you checked it out the peninsula for the day. But of course, I am assuming a few things about you. Maybe they would be upset. Maybe they would call the police! 

But I hope they wouldn’t. I am allowed to hope that. 

Top image by Anna Longworth. 

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