Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Robeson Meadows, 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


Robeson Meadows


2865 S. Duncan Rd., Champaign 


This two acre park was obtained by the Champaign Park District over a number of years in the 1980s and 90s. The land was donated and previously owned by Robeson Inc. The family namesake is as ubiquitous to Champaign as any; they have a rich and remarkable history in this city. Remember: there’s also Robeson Park, which is not Robeson Meadows, so, I think they are important enough to the parks system that I did a little deep dive on them for you. 

The Robeson family started a department store a long time ago, in the heyday of Champaign’s downtown shopping scene. They were among the most successful and long-lasting local family department stores in the country, if you truly examine it. When they closed in 1990, local kid gone national TV reporter documented the moment for CBS. Boasting a cool 116 years of business before finally calling it, they were one of the last of their kind nationwide. 

They also wore, and still wear, many hats. The family pedigree also includes authors, 1920s movie stars, childcare center operators, commecial real estate developers, philanthropists, and yes, donors to the park system. Indeed, they were the developers of Robeson Meadows and Robeson Meadows West. They are the highlight of both of these subdivisions.

And with that being said, let’s get to the park already.

a picture of a pine tree with lots of room to hide under it

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


I have publicly referred to this park as “Shangri-La” on multiple occasions. I will do so again, now. Robeson Meadows West is the Shangri-La of southwest Champaign. It’s a pretty young park, a mere infant compared to its older siblings like Crystal Lake or Carle in Urbana, or West Side and Douglass in Champaign. At first glance, Robeson Meadows West Park is a decent sized meadow surrounded by gentle hills, with a neat play structure at the end. Continue down the trail in whatever manner suits you, and there is plenty waiting to be discovered. In short, this park is so much more than meets the eye.

a picture of young trees on a small hill

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

Some long time regulars like myself may recall it being referred to as “Swan Lake”, in honor of the elusive white swan that would glide across the ponds. That’s “ponds” — plural: three to be exact. Now, you could walk or bike past that big archway and beautifully landscaped front garden right into the 2 acre meadow, let the kids tire themselves out at the playground, and call it a day.

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

That’s a lovely afternoon, and a very popular choice among visitors. However, take that paved trail a little deeper into the neighborhood and you won’t regret it. The 2 mile trail spans nearly 4 acres of land, and is a truly delightful ride, jog, or walk, with a surprising amount of hills. These hills are a rare find for champaign, and, if I may be so bold, a whole lot of fun to ride a bike down. Some have said it can be difficult to navigate on Google Maps if you haven’t had the pleasure of going in person. This presents the splendid opportunity to simply take off and see what’s in store. 

A picture of a pond with ducks swimming in it

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

The Robeson Meadows West ponds are, in a word, enchanting, at least by Champaign standards. They’re broken up quite nicely, with hills, bridges, shrubs and weeping willow trees well placed along the banks, and they feature little islands in the middle. If you like to read, paint, draw, or write outside, this is the ideal destination. The subdivision backdrop enforces a calm and quiet energy that is very conducive to independent creative work.

Or a nap. I’ve done both.

Top image by Maddie Rice. 

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