HUNTINGTON WOODS — This was a good month for a pair of community improvement projects, as the Huntington Woods Men’s Club wrote a check to cover the cost of one and announced plans to donate a large sum of money to the other.
At the Huntington Woods City Commission’s Jan. 15 meeting, Men’s Club President Scott Kube revealed that the organization will be contributing $65,000 of the funds raised at its 32nd annual service auction March 23 toward the Burton Community Park playground improvement project.
Kube also presented Mayor Ron Gillham with a check for $68,808 to be used for various city projects. The donation includes $60,000 allocated to revive the city’s long-dormant tree trimming and maintenance program, as well as funds set aside for the Fourth of July parade and family fun night, the Hay Day and public safety open house event, the Huntington Woods Teen Council leadership symposium trip and a handful of other expenses.
Trimming the trees
“This is a very timely donation, and we’re very grateful to the Men’s Club for their generosity,” Gillham said in a subsequent interview. “This money will go toward trimming all the city-owned trees in the community. We would have had to do something like this eventually, because some of those trees are becoming a hazard to the public. But still, without this donation, this project unfortunately would have probably gotten kicked even further down the road.”
Kube said that the Men’s Club was happy to contribute to the tree- trimming program. Every year, the 105-member organization donates a sizeable portion of the money raised at its hugely popular service auction to help fund community projects that the city would otherwise be unable to afford. The 2012 auction, which was held last March, raised nearly $117,000 in gross revenue and brought in more than 800 guests.
“To me, this certainly seemed like a worthwhile cause,” Kube said. “Last year, (Public Works Director) Claire (Galed) came to us and talked to our board about the huge need for tree trimming in the city. The trees of Huntington Woods are so important to our overall aesthetic and character; they really help make our community what it is.”
The restoration of the city’s tree- trimming program will allow officials to pay for routine maintenance on the more than 6,000 public trees packed within Huntington Woods’ 1.5 square miles. According to Galed, the city used to have a winter tree-trimming program that had to be eliminated about 12 years ago due to budget constraints.
City officials also plan to match the Men’s Club’s grant and commit $120,000 throughout the next three winters in order to address the city’s tree trimming needs. They then hope to continue the program annually, once the initial three-year period is over.
Galed stressed the importance of removing dead wood from trees to keep them healthy, pointing out that many trees are lost in urban areas due to a lack of proper maintenance. She also noted that property damage and injuries occur far more often when trees are not trimmed, becoming overgrown.
A safer place to play
Looking ahead, Kube hopes that the Men’s Club’s $65,000 donation to upgrade the outdated playground area at Burton Elementary School will put smiles on the faces of the children of Huntington Woods.
“I feel like that’s a very worthy cause, because Burton has the biggest, most centralized park in the city, and it’s used by lots of kids in our community,” he said. “(The current playscape) is in bad enough shape that we can’t just make some minor repairs and throw a fresh coat of paint on it — this needs to be a significant investment if we really want to improve that play area.”
Susan Witus, chair of the Friends of Burton Community Park, said that she is “beyond thrilled” that the Men’s Club selected the school playground as its primary undertaking for 2013.
“Our committee has been working so hard to generate energy and support for this project, and it looks like it’s starting to pay off,” she said. “The Men’s Club is just such a powerhouse of fundraising in our community, so it means a lot to have them behind us. Their stamp of approval really sends the clear message that we can meet our goal. It’s terrific validation for us.”
Witus noted that, with the Men’s Club donation, the Friends of Burton Community Park will be nearly one-third of the way to their fundraising target of $440,000. The full project includes installing a new, sustainable, cutting-edge playscape at Burton Community Park that will last for up to 50 years, as well as sprucing up the surrounding basketball courts and other play areas. It also will feature the construction of an outdoor pavilion and classroom in memory of Maureen Simon, a beloved former first-grade teacher at Burton who passed away suddenly in May 2011.
The existing wooden playscape was built by hand by a group of Huntington Woods residents in 1994 as a gift to the community. However, over time, the structure has gradually begun to deteriorate. Issues of safety and handicap accessibility have become increasingly common, as have wood splinters and infestations of small animals and insects.
Gillham agreed that it’s about time for the park to see some upgrades. “This equipment will provide a newer, safer, more modern place for our kids to play,” he said, “which will really add to the vitality of our community. It’s also very expensive, so it will not necessarily be an easy task. But it’s certainly a noble undertaking that I think will be well worth the investment. We were one of the few cities in this area whose population actually went up on the (2010 U.S.) census, and I think that’s largely because of Burton school and great amenities like this.”
According to Witus, the Friends of Burton Community Park hope to begin construction on the project in the summer of 2014. To help them get there, they have a couple of public events planned for Feb. 6. The first is a community presentation, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntington Woods Recreation Center, 26325 Scotia Road, outlining their plan for the park. The second is a fundraiser at Noodles & Company, located in downtown Royal Oak at 470 S. Main St., where a portion of the sales earned from 4-9 p.m. will go toward the project.
“Our committee is small but mighty,” Witus said. “We’re still hoping to get shovels in the ground by June of 2014, which I think is a realistic timeline. We just need to keep pushing hard to reach our goal, and I feel like this donation from the Men’s Club is something that can really take us to the next level.”
To make a contribution to the Burton Community Park project, visit www.crowdrise.com/burtoncommunity park. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www. facebook.com/fobcp.