Editor’s note: Ron Brohm travels the region experiencing the multitude of activities offered in communities small and large. This is his “dream list” of additions that might pique the interest of people who live in and enjoy Urbana and Champaign County.
It’s that time of the year to put on some rose-colored glasses and have a little fun by imagining the possibilities of what could be in our future this new year and beyond.
The year 2020 has now arrived so let us toast the new year off with a large “Champaign” glass of wild dreams and big wishes.
Sometimes you have to think big and/or outside the box if you want things to change and have your wishes come true. In order to get the proverbial ball rolling, motivate the powers to be and get things done in the name of progress you first need get the message out.
So here’s this contributing writer’s wish list for Urbana and Champaign County for what it’s worth and let’s hope it might get the ball rolling.
Champaign County’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ Wish List of Big Ideas for 2020
Wish 1. A Big Beautiful White Sandy Beach at Kiser Lake
With a fine beach already in place at Kiser Lake State Park, it only takes a mere application of pearly “white” sugar sand to create a first-class summer destination for area residents that would be the envy of all beach goers in Ohio. White sand is usually only found on tropical beaches but there is no reason it can’t be on the beach right here in Champaign County.
Additional enhancements to the beach could include permanent cabanas, a large group beach fire pit, a beach workout and yoga station, small boardwalk beach trail and paddleboard and kayak launch stations on the beach.
With ample undeveloped shoreline adjacent to the existing beach a second phase of improvements could include an expansion of the the beach to double its length creating a curved “half-moon” white sand Acapulco-style beach.
This is a great opportunity to take one of the park’s current assets and re-tool and re-create it into a phenomenal summer destination.
Wish 2. A Champaign County Mountain Biking Area
This exciting outdoor activity/sport is booming in the United States and abroad. Let’s bring some trail riding adventures to Champaign County. Potential sites for a first class mountain biking area with 4-8 single-track trails from beginner to expert would be at Kiser Lake State Park or Davey Woods.
Wish 3. The Urbana Baja (Rallycross Racing)
Well, maybe a real Baja race in Urbana isn’t feasible because, well, we don’t have 1000 miles of dirt roads or a desert, but the next best thing would be Rallycross racing. How cool would it be to have a Rallycross “Baja Style” Race track in Urbana. Rallycross is a timed competition pitting a driver against a defined scaled down course in dirt, gravel or snow. All you need is a non-paved plot of land and drivers can race in their everyday vehicle. Let’s do it!
Wish List . Outdoor Ping-Pong (Table Tennis ) at Melvin Miller Park
It’s the new rage in many cities and it’s a really fun activity/sport. Many private outdoor ping-pong clubs are opening in large cities. Let’s be on the cutting edge and be one of the first park systems in America to offer outdoor ping-pong to its residents.
Wish 5. The Champaign Marathon
Nothing makes more of a bold statement for a community than having their own 26.2 mile marathon. The race can traverse through downtown Urbana over to Urbana University out to the park, then down to Kiser Lake and back. Simply start by getting a sponsor, hiring a race management company, advertise the race and your off to the races. Many marathons have grown to become a week of festivities with a very positive economic impact.
Wish 6. The Urbana Soapbox Derby
With a race car speedway just miles north and a go-cart track in West Liberty, Soapbox Derby racing is a natural fit for Urbana. Soapbox Derby racing has gone high-tech these days with STEM partnerships and gravity racing teams. Let’s find a big hill to race down, at Kiser Lake State Park or near the Davey Woods area and get on the circuit with a regional race of our own! The world championships are held every year in Akron, Ohio.
Wish . Kiser Lake Lighthouse Point
What a focal point this could be at Kiser Lake. Sure, it would serve no functional use for boat navigation, but what a signature landmark it would be. It could be built on the waters edge on one of the earthen fishing peers at the lake. Add a spiral staircase system inside the tower to the top for scenic views and you’ve got an instant hit and tourist attraction.
How to pay for these types of ideas is always the first question asked when new ideas are initially attempted to be shot down. Funding is usually just a function of information, networking and determination. The following resources can be sought and utilized to make dreams come true: sponsorships, state grants, park grants, corporate grants, non-profit funding, private funding, visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, local company and factory donations, public donations, private donations, city/county funds and the list goes on. If you really want something you can usually find the money if you look in the right places and talk to the right people.
So there you have it, some big ideas and some fun things to think about for the future of Urbana and Champaign County. If we are lucky, maybe the movers and shakers of the community will align themselves with one or more of these proposals and get the ball rolling. Or, better yet, maybe regular ordinary citizens who have an interest in any of these ideas or one of their own, will take the bull by the horns and make something happen. After all, isn’t that how a community really works anyway?
Ron Brohm is a regular contributor to this newspaper.