Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: King Park, Urbana

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


King Park


915 W. Wascher St., Urbana 

a children's playground surrounded by old trees

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


This eight acre park sits just to the north of King Elementary School, and is a really nice place for families and students to congregate at all times of the year. There’s enough space to play sports of various kinds, and if it is racket type sports you are into, then you are in luck. The park features two tennis courts, and from what I can gather, are in pretty decent condition, too. 

There’s also the Jettie Rhodes Pavilion, available for rental at a nominal fee in non-plague times, with grills for cooking and lots of tables for seating. Always a very good thing. 

Who was Jettie Rhodes? Well, let’s just mosey on over to an article that our venerable Culture editor Julie McClure wrote back in 2017 about an event that carries her name as well. Ms. Rhodes was a well known figure in the Black community, and who was famous for asking a simple question: “Who’s your neighbor?” 

It’s a good question to ask, indeed. The fact that her community created a day that celebrates her in a park named after Martin Luther King Jr. is a reminder that no matter how bad it might seem at times, in the corners, there is light, if you look for it. Read that article above; LaShaunda Cunningham, who is an Urbana Parks commissioner, and is also Ms. Rhodes granddaughter, gives a robust background on the celebration. 

Beyond that, there’s a nice children’s playground, shown above, which lends itself well to sitting on the grounds of an elementary school. Also, as I mentioned, lots of open space for people and their canine friends to run around. Isn’t this a nice photo of that very thing happening? 

two people talk as two dogs run around a park

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

Additionally, there’s a very cool sculpture by Preston Jackson called Byways to Equality, a project that was developed by the Urbana Public Arts and Culture Commission. It’s a very cool sculpture indeed, made from stainless steel and cast bronze: 

a metal sculpture by Preston Jackson

Photo by Maddie Rice. 
detail of a sculpture showing Black people walking to their freedom

Photo by Maddie Rice. 
a plaque that states Preston Jackson Byways To Equality 2013

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

Isn’t that weird? It’s like, when a city develops a program specifically designed to promote arts and culture, then artists get paid to do their work, and the community that surrounds it benefits from its placement. It is WEIRD. URBANA IS SO WEIRD with their socialist — no COMMUNIST! — programs to make art a priority in its community. Gross! Get it together Urbana. This is America, after all. There’s no room for this kind of deviant behavior. 


I’ve always liked this park; when I was a kid I rode my bike a few times all the way over here from south Urbana to play football in the autumn with my friends Joseph and LaMarcus. The open field that sits on the east part of the park off Lincoln Ave. is basically a perfect rectangle. 

Screenshot from Google Maps. It appears as though the author lives 8 minutes away by car from this park. Details! 

To that end, what would be awesome is if there were an actual pitch / football field with goalposts and soccer goals so that kids and adults could get some real game action going. Wishful thinking, I know, but there’s something about playing sports on actual fields that makes it seem like you are IN THE GAME. 

But the field exists nonetheless, and you can play on it still. Plus, I really like the walking paths they’ve put into the space as well. While it’s not necessarily a loop that fully connects (which is always the best thing for any park), it has enough turns and steps to make it a good place to stroll. 

Top image by Maddie Rice. 

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