The Urbana Park District was formed in 1907. The first park that was designed and laid out under this new authority was Crystal Lake Park. Measuring just over 90 acres, including nearly 60 sylvan acres known as Busey Woods, this picturesque landscape primarily follows the alignment and contours of the Saline Branch of Crystal Lake – largely the result of a 1906 dredging project that led to the present-day water feature.
The park was designed by University of Illinois Professor of Horticulture Joseph C. Blair, who also designed sections of the nearby University of Illinois campus and Carle Park. For this largely linear park, with fingers that reached back into adjacent neighborhoods, Blair created passages of scenery that paralleled the linear water feature while offering spectacular panoramic views of the lake immediately beyond. Blair’s 1924 plan for the park’s “landscape development” guided initial park improvements including a municipal swimming pool constructed in 1926 in the northernmost section.
In recent years, a 1980 renovation project resulted in a new, Modernist water feature designed by civil engineer, Tom Berns (Berns Clancy & Associates). This sculptural object pumps ground water into the lake while improving water quality.