Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Bristol 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 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


Bristol Park 


1300 N. Market St., Champaign

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


The history of Bristol Place and Bristol Park is riddled with issues surrounding racial inequity and social unrest. I am not going to use this space to dive into that, because honestly, part of my goal in this series is to establish some sense of practical list of all the different parks in Champaign, Urbana, Savoy and beyond. Today, we are going to skip over the sordid history, and focus solely on what it has become over the past decade, and we can celebrate a big victory for a part of the community that deserved it, and still should have more coming to it, with the right leadership. With some new leadership, anyhow. 

Bristol Park in 2021 is brand spanking new. And the neighborhood that surrounds it is as well. The area was razed, the park made over entirely, and what now sits in this small parcel of town is as nice as you might find anywhere around, depending on how you define “nice.”

I think it looks very nice. And the park itself is lovely. I mean, look above? That’s the Boneyard Creek, but in this context, it’s an idyllic stream, worthy of a poem, perhaps. That’s a good start. 

a waterfall inside of Bristol Park

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

This is a waterfall. I mean, you and I are not going to swim out to it and kiss like we are in some kind of TikTok video designed to prove to our unapproving parents that we are in love and this is the right relationship for us, but it is a waterfall nonetheless. Is that a shelter with seating up above it? It is! You and I could bring lunch to this table that overlooks a goddamned waterfall. Color me deeply impressed! 

For those living in the neighborhood, now you have a waterfall and some seating around it to enjoy your days and evenings with your friends and family. You can’t say the same thing about every part of town, and for that, three cheers for the civic and park planners that made this a reality. Perhaps the planners in Savoy should take note: yes it costs money to install a waterfall, and yes, it will cost money to maintain it. But you can either spend the money to have a waterfall or you can have exactly jack shit. I am going with the waterfall. Savoy can have jack shit, evidently. 


Again, here is an example of city government and the Champaign Park District successfully doing its jobs. It does not always happen, but when it does, we need to celebrate that and give them their due. Both organizations are filled with great people who are truly working hard to make this city a better place to live. That’s something to consider, as you walk about the community. 

the canopy of a children's playground set

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

The playground here is fantastic, by comparison to some of the other in town. Yes, it is pre-fab plastic material that doesn’t lend itself to the more creative elements that could be employed, but it is also clear that they didn’t spare much in choosing the right gear for the kids in this case. More of this please. Nice work. 

But moreover, a walk in Bristol Place now feels safe, and lovely. There’s that word again. Lovely. Lovely is what we should aspire to, every time we build something new, or deconstruct and reconstruct a piece of the community. In this case, they’ve done a lovely job, and I, for once, who is a bit of a cynic, and a pragmatist, am very gratified that the work that was put in came to fruition, and in a lot of great ways. 

Top image by Maddie Rice. 

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