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 more like August or September 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 [email protected].
501 E. Curtis Rd., Savoy
HISTORY AND FEATURES
Dohme Park was completed in 2006, I think, based on some reading I have done about it online. The Village of Savoy website gives you literally just about no information about the park outside of listing its amenities, which include a "large gazebo, a walking path, and many memorial trees."
Photo by Maddie Rice.
Here is a flagpole sort of feature:
Photo by Maddie Rice.
I don't know who this Dohme character was, but perhaps they were related to the people who ran Dohme Produce, which pre-dated Central Illinois Produce? My next door neighbor was in charge of that operation when I was a kid, and my brother and his friends worked there, packing all kinds of fruit and vegetables up for delivery to restaurants and grocers in the region.
This is a Savoy Park, which are generally fairly boring and pedestrian. Colbert is not so bad, though, as I will describe later this summer. When I wrote about John L. Jones Park last year, it was just after one of our readers lit me up for not diving into the history of the person they named Glenn Park after in Champaign. I maintain my position, and you can read it here.
I am sure this Dohme character was a person of some reverence, in some way, but since there's nothing about them at the ready, I am not going to make phone calls or send emails to find out more. I think it would behoove all of the park districts to make this sort of information available to the community on their own, quite frankly. They named parks for them, and they should tell people about who these people were, and how the parks came to be.
Anyhow, in doing a little research about how Dohme Park came to be, I found an article from the News-Gazette from 2004 that gave me all I needed to read. Savoy and its elected officials from the past (and the recent past) seem to sort of just suck at this whole thing.
Here are is a very relevant quote from that article from Art Skelton, who has a park named after him in Champaign, but shouldn't, quite honestly, as far as I am concerned. It seems he was more interested in pooh-poohing the best ideas for this park in favor of doing the bare minimum because it will "cost money." Yeah Art, that is sort of the idea! Anyhow, here you go:
The village board Wednesday rejected an alternative proposal to include a water fountain and sculpture at the center of the park. That proposal would have cost $215,000, but village board members were more concerned about the greater expense of maintaining the fountain.
"As far as I'm concerned, you can tear up the plans with the fountain," said village board member Art Skelton.
"While fountains give people a soothing effect, it can be expensive to replace their pumps," Helton said. "I like water fountains, but, when I have to pay to maintain them, they aren't so attractive anymore."
The Helton quote comes from Dick Helton, who was Village Manager for 17 years in Savoy and oversaw a lot of growth during his tenure. Both Art Skelton and Village President Dick Helton rejected this idea of a water fountain, and in no uncertain terms. Dick even personalized it. Of course, no one was asking him to personally pay for the maintenance on the fountain. And yes, I get that he was using the "I" pronoun colloquially, and in the royal sense. In his role, I get the use. But it's just a bit too ironic, a bit too perfect as a showcase for the problem here.
Building parks, and placemaking, and finding the best ways to fund exceptional civic projects are never aided by staunch, dyed in the wool, conservative thinkers. They have neither the courage, or the inclination, to successfully lead such endeavors. They are literally in place to block these things from coming to fruition.
I mean, why even put your toes in the water if you aren't even going to get in, Dick? Why buy a car if the muffler is gonna have to be replaced one day, Art? Look, Art Skelton is dead now, so apologies to any of his family members or to his friends who might read this. I have probably tore him up enough in this series, but I think Art Skelton is representative of the reasons why our park programs, like our education programs, or arts programs, suffer.
And I think that says it all about Dohme Park. It could be great, you know? Why not? Why couldn't it be great? Any park could be great, but we'd actually have to put in the work and budget for maintenance and improvements and plan for the future in the process. And I am using the pronoun "we" deliberately. Our park services are a collectively funded "socialist" operation. Ohhhhhh socialism! So scary! Help build parks and roads together... mew mew mew... so we can all benefit equally.... mew mew mew.... such a frightening idea!
I realize the very idea of taxation makes men like these soft but Jesus H. this is why we end up with shitty parks like Dohme Park. You can thank men like Dick Helton and Art Skelton, two ill-equipped public servants that literally fought against making parks great, all the while, serving on the very boards that dictate the funding of them.
This sort of henhouse shit reminds me of John Dimit, the longest serving Urbana school board member in its history, and who has actively tried to disenfranchise teachers, students, administrators, and the entire Urbana community for his long tenure. He has spent almost 35 years literally fighting against making schools a better place to learn. Some short-sighted Arby's enthusiast will probably try to have a school named after him as well. Watch and see in the coming years.
This is our culture, evidently.
Anyhow, I cannot recommend that you spend any time at Dohme Park in Savoy. It is the sort of place that reminds you that moving away from Champaign-Urbana and its singular suburb is still an option. I mean, you shouldn't move, of course. You should stay here and work to make this city greater and more well funded than ever before. We can do it, together!
But you could move, and if you spend some time at Dohme Park, and it becomes the tipping point, I wouldn't totally blame you.
Have a great weekend — go to Hessel or Carle if the rain lets up at all. Those are really nice parks.