Township to improve playground at Waldenburg Park

Upgrades to address special needs access, flooding issues

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published October 2, 2013

 With the help of federal grant money, Macomb Township is improving the playground equipment at Waldenburg Park near 21 Mile and Romeo Plank roads.

With the help of federal grant money, Macomb Township is improving the playground equipment at Waldenburg Park near 21 Mile and Romeo Plank roads.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Waldenburg Park is getting a facelift later this year when the township addresses issues of handicap accessibility and flooding with the park’s playground equipment.

Parks and Recreation Director Sal DiCaro is eager to get started on the project.

“To have a boundless playground over there will allow us to serve all children in the community, including those with special needs,” he said. “I think our goal as a department should be to provide recreation activities for all residents, no matter what their personal situation is.”

DiCaro estimated that most of the work at Waldenburg Park — located near 21 Mile and Romeo Plank roads — would be completed before the end of the year and that the new and improved playscape would be ready for action by the spring of 2014. Miracle of Midwest, the Okemos-based company that originally built and installed the equipment in 2001, will be performing the upgrades.

According to Township Clerk Michael Koehs, “That park has been open for quite a while and gets a lot of use from the community, so we want to keep it in the best shape that we possibly can. Given the number of parents who take their kids to that park, the township’s investment in this project is definitely worth it.”

The $219,430 renovation was approved unanimously by the Macomb Township Board of Trustees at its Sept. 25 meeting. It will involve retrofitting Waldenburg Park’s existing playscape equipment to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. DiCaro noted that Miracle of Midwest still has to come out and assess the structure’s needs, but he estimated that the improvements would mostly focus on adding ramps for wheelchairs and installing sidewalks that connect the playground area to the rest of the park.

Township Supervisor Janet Dunn pointed out that Waldenburg Park is located only one mile away from the Glen H. Peters School, which serves about 315 disabled students ages 3-26 across northern Macomb County.

“We want to make sure that children with physical and mental disabilities — children who go to that school or who live in that area — are well taken care of,” she said. “Making anything handicap-accessible is a good idea, so it was a no-brainer for us to do this at a place as popular as Waldenburg Park.”

The other major park upgrade will involve relocating the entire playscape to a section of the park that is more elevated.

As DiCaro pointed out, “That area is usually under water for at least a few months out of the year, so we will be moving the equipment to higher ground. We’re hoping that flooding will no longer be a problem over there, and kids will be able to use the playground year-round.”

Dunn noted that the biggest complaint that the Supervisor’s Office receives about Waldenburg Park is that “it’s always flooded,” so she was happy to see that issue being addressed, as well.

“Moving the whole structure up to a higher area should help alleviate the flooding problems that have affected that park so often in the past,” she said.

During the planning stages of the project, Miracle of Midwest made four proposals to Parks and Recreation officials ranging from $176,000-$239,000. As DiCaro explained, his department ended up recommending the $219,000 option because it allowed the township to secure the largest amount of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds — $69,700 — for the renovation work, and thereby spent the smallest amount of township funds.

“There was only so much of this project that could be paid for by block grant funding,” DiCaro said, “so we really wanted to maximize our ability to use that money. The bottom line is that this option will give us the most bang for our buck … and it will also allow us to save some dollars for other projects that we might want to look at next year.”

Koehs and Dunn both pointed out that because Macomb Township is a wealthy community, it has had trouble in the past finding projects that it could tackle using CDBG funds.

“It’s good to have federal money to spend on different things,” Koehs said, “but I also feel very fortunate that we don’t have a lot of areas that qualify (for CDBG funding) here in the township. Those funds are mostly intended for low-income communities, so these kinds of opportunities don’t come along for us very often.”

This is yet another reason why DiCaro is so happy to be moving forward with the Waldenburg Park renovations. “We’re thrilled to be able to use these funds for a great project like this,” he said. “I truly can’t think of anything better that we could be spending this money on.”