By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – The city’s five-year recreation master plan goes to the city council for approval Wednesday to guide community decisions, address immediate challenges and long-term solutions, and meet state grant eligibility standards.
The Parks and Recreation Commission approved the plan Feb. 8 and recommended the City Council adopt it at its Feb. 15 meeting following a public hearing.
Public input was sought at a December open house at the ice arena complex, focusing on four key areas: major park improvements, neighborhood parks, trails and park funding.
One concern echoed by many residents was improved park maintenance, including “adopt-a-park” options.
Attendees were divided on how to replace outdated facilities: some said removing outdated structures and converting parks to a more “passive” use was a good option, especially in underutilized areas. Other residents said facilities would continued to be underutilized if the absence of amenities failed to attract community users.
Participants favored corporate partnerships to fund parks, while some residents wondered why existing parks, like Kiwanis and Lions, were not more actively maintained by the naming groups.
The proposal to sell under-utilized park properties to fund improvements for more heavily used parks created the most controversy. Opponents said that once park land was sold, it would be difficult if not impossible to acquire and develop new park parcels in the future.
Most residents agreed that city parks could be better marketed to encourage increased use by different groups. Expanded programming in Market Center Park, including band and other competitive events, were suggested.
Participants said if more people used city parks, support for public park funding would also likely increase.
Public surveys drew respondent suggestions for a splash pad, new playground equipment, and the addition of more trails. Respondents favored a park millage for funding, with 58 percent of those surveyed saying they would support a park millage, and 35 percent saying they might support a millage.
Drafts of the recreation master plan have been available for review since December in the ice arena, senior center, library and city hall, and a down-loadable plan was posted on the city’s website.
The plan addresses the need to establish recreation plans for a diverse population with a wide variety of needs, with a balance between natural and man-made environments, and expressing concern that maintaining a park’s natural ecology be factored into future plans.
Establishing and prioritizing park system maintenance are top priorities with the residents responding to the survey, as were playground safety, and removing accessibility barriers.
Realizing the potential of Market Center Park as a community focal point for development also continues to be a priority.
To view a link to access the plan, go to southgatemi.org/index.php?idpage=288.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at email@example.com.)