Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Glenn 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


Glenn Park 


400 N. Mattis Ave., Champaign, IL 61822

a wooden sign that states Glenn Park

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


This park was acquired in 1924, which is absolutely wild to me, since this sits just off Mattis Avenue and the idea that Champaign was developed in any way out this far west one hundred years ago is mind boggling for some reason. Alas, city planners must have known that the resident neighborhoods moving that way were going to need green space, and someone with the last name Glenn must’ve been hopped up on enough opium to deliver the goods. Hard to say. 

There is a wonderful playground for kids to run around in, as you’d expect, since that is truly one of the more important programming aspects of any ol’ park anywhere you go. 

There is a great, wide open walking path, big enough for bikes or skateboards, as well. It’s not a huge park by any stretch but once you are there, you can find plenty of space to spread out and feel like you are in the natural world, so to speak. 

a skateboarder rolls down a cement path and there is a children's playground in the backdrop

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

See, this person is on a skateboard. They might be a poser, of course. I don’t see them donning any Vision Street Wear, though. They might just be having fun!  

Anyhow, while it is true that this park sits next to Mattis Ave. and just south of the largest factories in town, along with a foundry, you’d never know it if you were there. That is the sign of good, solid design. Well done, CPD! 


Look at this lovely waterfall set against a bunch of lovely stones! 

a small waterfall tumbles down stones into a small pond; there is a gazebo above it

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

By God, I would take a family photo in front of that lovely vista. And the park is filled with them. 

Glenn Park sits in the middle of Glenn Park Drive, which is a street that is bisected by the park, which is, of course, called Glenn Park. The street is sort of on what you or I might call a boulevard, something this city could use more of, honestly. After all, have you ever been sad going to a friend’s house when they live on a boulevard? No, you have not been sad. You have been enamored, thinking to yourself, “Fuck, this is a boulevard? I wish I lived on a boulevard. Just saying the word boulevard improved my day! I am going to say boulevard in some fashion as often as I can from here on out.”

A decade ago, this park was a bit decrepit. That’s not any one person’s fault, of course. I have stated time and time again that we do not spend enough on our parks systems to truly expect for all of our green spaces and programming to truly meet the moment, and afford us the sort of robust opportunity and majesty we deserve. A reminder: eat the rich.

But now, here and now, in 2020, Glenn Park is a magnificent example of what happens when the Park District has the funding and places priority on a rehabilitation. The fact that there’s a dentention pond on site makes it important from a functional perspective as far as drainage and the neighborhood and businesses that surround it go. But this is how we know Champaign Park District has been on the right path for a couple of decades now: they take shitty spaces and improve them to the point where they are not just tolerable, but celebrated.

Top image by Maddie Rice. 

Related Articles