Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Noel 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


Noel Park


1134 Sterling Dr., Champaign

a picture of a cardinal perched atop a pine tree

Photo by Maddie Rice.


This park was donated by the Noel Family Trust in 1981 with a massive $225K grant to help fund the operation. It sits in the center of many homes off Galen Dr. and various cul de sacs that populate this neighborhood, filled with pretty expensive and very nice homes. It sort of feels like a private park in that there is no public parking, and no visibility from any major road. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never find it. In order to get there, you have to walk through paths along neighboorhood homes to arrive. 

But once you do get there, it is very cute and a nice place to be. There are plenty of older trees to sit under, and a wide open field for playing sports ball games, or maybe even some ultimate Frisbee. 

The children’s playground is super nice and brand new, and the park is well kept and there are always families around for kids to interact. 

Last year, the Park District added more walking paths to allow for better exploration and to give the local residents a place to get exercise. This is a great trend that Champaign Park District has adopted. The more paths to walk along, the better. 

a picture of a family walking on a concrete path in a park

Photo by Maddie Rice.
a picture of a children's playground

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


I have always had some misgivings about Noel Park, but mostly because it’s not really the sort of public park that is very inviting to anyone who lives outside the neighborhood. As I stated above, I doubt really anyone even knows that it is there outside of the folks that live in the neighborhood. That isn’t really the Park District’s fault, and I am glad it exists, of course, but I do think it would be better suited as a private park, paid for by a Homeowner’s Association, and with donorship from those who live around it, the way people who live around a private pond or lake maintain that as well. In that model, funding that currently goes to service its upkeep and improvements could be better spent on parks in the other parts of town that have a much longer way to go, and need improvements far more than this one does. 

The homes that sit on and around the park are very nice. Like, VERY nice. Alas, the homeowners all pay a good chunk of taxes and deserve the same benefits in their own neighborhoods as well. But there are a ton of parks in the south part of Champaign, and not really many that look like this.

You just wish there were more of these in the north part of Champaign as well, or even the center of Champaign. Again, not this current staff’s problem; they inherited an imbalanced system, and it will take decades to undo it. As it happens, the last twenty years has seen the Champaign Park District working diligently to rectify these issues from the past, and seems to be improving upon that vision every year. It might be slow moving, but it is improving for sure. 

a picture of a wooden table with benches under pine trees

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

Here is a table that you could sit at and have a picnic style lunch, hidden among the trees, and you could pretend to be someone who lives on the park, and speak in bold phrases about day trading and the perils of progressive taxation or the newest star on the PGA tour.

I am kidding, that’s not really what the wealthy set around here talk about. I like golf and discussing the perils of progressive taxation too! I am being a jerk. Sorry!

Top Image by Maddie Rice. 

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