Michael Walker

Michael Walker

Questions & Answers

For the April 2019 Election

What is the importance of Park Commissioner to residents of Urbana?

The importance of the office of Park Commissioner to residents of Urbana is grounded in the value of parks and open space to the health and well being of the community and its residents. There is abundant research showing the positive health effects of ready access to open space and recreation programs. Acting together, the 5 commissioners of the Urbana Park District Board are charged with the governance of the vital community assets that our parks, environmental activities, and recreational programs represent. The policy and financial decisions of the board directly affect the quality of life of every Urbana resident.

Why are you qualified to be a Park Commissioner?

I have served as an active and involved UPD Commissioner since 1983 and have been the board president since 2004. During my time on the board, the UPD has become an acknowledged leader in urban natural areas, environmental education, innovative recreation programming and facility design, and art in public spaces. I have become the commissioner most knowledgeable about the district’s finances, and I am proud that the UPD has received the Government Finance Officers’ Associated Certificate of Excellence for several consecutive years.

If elected, what is something you want to accomplish as a Park Commissioner, and how long will it take?

As a long time incumbent, I would work hard to achieve progress on three top priorities we have set for Urbana Park District, each of which will be an ongoing effort:

Outreach to the underserved residents of the district: We are more than 2 years into an effort to identify underserved populations, understand the barriers they face in utilizing what the UPD offers, and adjusting our offerings to improve participation in both formal and informal recreation and environmental activities. This will be an ongoing effort.

Improvements to Crystal Lake Park: We have some wonderful facilities in CLP (notably the Anita Purves Nature Center and the Family Aquatic Center). Other areas of the park, and especially the lake and paths, are in need of significant work. Our recent efforts have resulted in nearly $1M in external grants to combine with existing UPD capital funds that will pay for multi-use path construction and lake rehabilitation beginning this spring. There is more that will need to be done in the next phase(s) as we obtain further funding.

Trails and Connectivity: Trails and paths are consistently one of the top priorities when we survey residents. We have recently put up a “trailhead” in Weaver Park to serve the newly opened Kickapoo Rail Trail. We are working in partnership with the Forest Preserve District and the City of Urbana to improve the connections from location to the existing KRT and to plan for routes further into Urbana. This too will be an ongoing effort.

Is there anything else you would like to say to an undecided voter?

I am a lifelong user of the Urbana parks and committed to making sure that your tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently to provide recreational and environmental benefits to our community. I believe our parks are vital to Urbana, and I am eager to continue serving as a UPD commissioner. I pledge to maintain the open design processes and responsiveness to the public that have been a hallmark of the UPD decision making process throughout the time I have been on the board. It has been a privilege to serve you. Thank you for taking time to study the candidates, and I hope you will consider giving me your vote for a new term.

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