Dog park, walking paths are most-wanted park upgrades

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published November 20, 2013

FERNDALE — The idea was created, the council approved it and the committee was formed. All that was left was to collect the data and see what the public wanted most in Ferndale’s parks.

On April 18, Mayor Dave Coulter talked to the public about the Blue Ribbon Commission on Ferndale Parks as part of his State of the City address. He wanted local officials and business owners to get together and find out how the city could improve parks and pay for those improvements.

Not even two weeks later, City Council approved the creation of the committee, which is headed by Department of Public Works Director Loyd Cureton and Parks and Recreation Director Jill Manchik.

At the Nov. 12 council meeting, Manchik and Cureton presented the results of an extensive public survey on what the public wanted in the parks and ways to fund the improvements. The most requested additions or improvements were a dog park, a disc golf course, walking paths and improved play structures.

“A dog park is something we have heard again and again, and heard for years,” Coulter said. “Paths are interesting to me because they first came from seniors who talked about them as a way to get out, especially in the colder months.”

The survey was distributed to the public in July and August through the city’s website, community groups, the city’s Facebook page and in an email newsletter. In September and October, the committee compiled the results to look at trends and what was most requested.

Instead of retooling a similar survey from the master plan in 2009, Manchik said the committee decided to create a brand new survey. There were 281 responses to the survey with the highest response rate from 35- to 44-year-olds. Of the respondents, 53 percent have children ages 5-12.

The most commonly used parks were Geary Park, Martin Road Park, Harding Park and Garbutt Park; the top reasons for using the parks were sporting events, picnics and gatherings, walking, or school and community events.

Another of the most-recommended additions was a pool, but Manchik said such an amenity is not possible with the current budget. However, the committee came up with other options to accommodate the residents.

“A pool and splash pad is not feasible at the moment to build on our own, but we are working with Oak Park to utilize their pool at resident rates,” Manchik said. “Something else we could offer our residents: We currently have a joint-use agreement with Ferndale Schools where we offered swim lessons in the past, and there is an opportunity to bring that back.”

When it came to financing options, the committee had a plan they presented to the council for each of the other four most-requested improvements.

The play structures, which had an estimated cost of $160,561.06 for five new structures, and the walking paths, which would run $252,579.50 for 7,576-linear feet of path in all nine parks, would be paid for by grants from the Department of Natural Resources.

Manchik said the committee would apply for the grants in January, with the city needing to match 25 percent of the grant if they received it.

Charging users a fee would pay for the dog park, which the committee estimated at $10,000, and the committee has been approached by private business owners in the area who were interested in sponsoring the disc golf course, which would run between $8,000-$10,000.

Councilman Scott Galloway brought up concerns of how well-maintained any of the new amenities would be, and Cureton said the DPW would maintain the parks from the beginning, and it would not be difficult or pricey for the city.

More specifically, Cureton said the plan was to keep the new walkways maintained all year to accommodate the residents who want to walk regardless of the season.

“All the paths are (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible, and it would not be labor intensive to keep those open year-round,” he said. “There might be a slight delay if we get a heavy snowstorm, but we could clear it with a broom or truck or properly sized equipment. Our goal is to keep the paths open all year.”

Bathrooms also were mentioned on the survey, as none of the parks in Ferndale have bathrooms open to the public all day. Cureton said security has been an issue in the past, but the DPW and committee is working on options to keep the facilities open for the residents.

“Bathrooms are only open during scheduled events, and that is due to extensive vandalism we have in the parks and security concerns,” he said. “We are addressing that with more visibility, such as lighting and tree-trimming, and also exploring an opportunity of possibly adding park rangers that would be on a schedule at high-priority times to make rounds at parks and be a visible security presence.”

Council will look at the options the committee presented and decide at an undetermined later date what parts they want to pursue.