Founded in 1907, Crystal Lake Park has been the bedrock of the Urbana Park District for over a century. Created out of a privately owned park from the 1880s, the park we now know eventually became a “summer resort” by damming a branch of the Salt Fork and has since grown into 144 acres of forest, playgrounds, aquatic facilities, and of course, the lake. A local and regional destination, the lake has suffered from a high nutrient load in the water, an eroded shoreline, and outdated infrastructure. The Crystal Lake Park Rehabilitation Project has been working diligently for five years to improve water quality, recreation areas, habitats, and the shoreline. In this month’s blog, we check in on the project’s progress and what is yet to come.
Sediment Basin Project
In 2017, the Urbana Park District partnered with the City of Urbana to improve storm water collection in the sediment basin at the northern end of the lake. Hundreds of truckloads of rocks, sediment deposits, and other debris were dredged and removed from the lake. This first phase of the project helps the sediment basin continue to collect potential pollutants and keep them from spreading throughout the lake. As a result, the lake can continue to serve as valuable green infrastructure for the city—by collecting urban storm water—while keeping it clean and safe for recreational use.
Park Street Multi-Use Path
In 2019, phase 2A of the rehabilitation project was made possible thanks to a grant from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Project (ITEP) and a match from Carle Hospital. The 10-foot-wide multi-use path was designed for pedestrians and cyclists along the south side of the park. The edge of the lake was re-graded in sections, in order to provide safe, adequate space for the trail while ensuring that the lake would not lose capacity and risk flooding.
Partial Lake Edge/Access, Playground, and Pavilion Improvements
This past year work was done on a variety of amenities along the lake’s edge, thanks to a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, along with park district capital funds. Improvements have focused on improving the shoreline, water quality, and access to the water. Once this phase of the project is complete, you’ll find a family game area, a nature-themed playground, a new grand pavilion, limestone fishing outcroppings, and a new boat dock. In addition to the accessible boat dock, the park district will be adding two ADA accessible paddle boats. As part of the shoreline improvements, invasive shrubs have been removed while preserving native trees and adding more native shrub varieties to fill in the lakeshore. Construction also began on more naturalized water makeup features in the form of pools around the lake that will tier down towards the lakeshore and help maintain water levels. The features will be planted with native vegetation to clean the water before it reaches the lake.
What’s coming up?
In November 2020, a grant was awarded by the American Water Charitable Trust Foundation to help build a kayak launch, along with limestone outcroppings that will improve water access for kayaking, fishing, or simply enjoying the water.
The UPD is also applying for additional funds to expand the Broadway Avenue sidewalk into a multi-use path similar to the phase 2A path along Park Street. Longer term plans include improvements to bridges, lighting, and the Lake House.
Thanks to state and local support—including the recently concluded Urbana Parks Foundation Campaign for the Next Century—all these projects add up to a cleaner, safer, and more accessible park. The improvements will help our community enjoy this beautiful setting on foot, by bike, or by boat, creating even more great opportunities for families to gather outdoors and enjoy nature.
Keep track of Crystal Lake Park updates here and don’t hesitate to take a trip out to the park to see the updates for yourself!