CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign County African American Heritage Trail launched a fundraising drive this week to support Skelton Park’s transformation into a state-of-the-art park, plaza, and performance area. The park will celebrate Champaign County’s African American musicians.

Visit Champaign County said the heritage trail is a community-based project co-chaired by Barbara Suggs Mason and Angela Rivers and facilitated by the Visit Champaign County Foundation. The transformation of Skelton Park, located at First St. and Washington St., will be overseen by the foundation, the Champaign Park District, and the City of Champaign.

Donors can purchase and inscribe a brick which will be installed along a new pathway at Skelton Park later this year. Donors can either purchase an 8’’x8’’ brick for $250 or an 8’’x4’’ brick for $100 here.

Visit Champaign County said fundraiser proceeds will help support the park’s plans. These include the installation of interactive musical instruments, new pathways, a designated play area, a plaza with ample room for small gatherings, and a seating wall and gentle slope for watching performances.

“This is a wonderful way for people to literally be part of the Heritage Trail by having a brick with their name, the name of a loved one, or a positive message for future generations installed at Skelton Park,” said Jayne DeLuce, Visit Champaign County President and CEO. “The brick program makes the Heritage Trail more accessible and tangible for many residents, visitors, and supporters. Every brick sold and every dollar raised makes a big difference to the future of the Trail.”

The transformation will be made possible in part by the Rotary Club of Champaign’s support in partnership with the Champaign Rotary Foundation. The Farnsworth Group is also managing the park’s engineering and design.

“I am proud that they are supporting this important project and bringing much-needed attention to the contributions of Champaign County’s African American musicians,” says Shandra Summerville, Immediate Past President and member of the Rotary Club of Champaign. “I hope many others will see the value of this park and show their support by participating in the brick fundraiser.”

Visit Champaign County said the project’s centerpiece will be a steel sculpture designed by African American artist Preston Jackson that reflects the musical heritage of Champaign County’s African American community.

“I am thrilled that the Champaign Park District can support the Champaign County African American Heritage Trail in such a big and visible way,” says Champaign Park District Executive Director Sarah Sandquist. “The transformed park will provide a beautiful new amenity for residents and visitors to enjoy for many years to come.”

Planning for the Skelton Park transformation began in 2021. The Visit Champaign County Foundation and Champaign Park District currently estimate that the park will be largely completed this year. You can learn more about the project here.