City Council approves mayor’s park committee

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published May 8, 2013

 Mayor Dave Coulter’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Ferndale Parks was approved by the City Council April 29. The commission members will take public opinions and look for alternative funding options to improve local parks.

Mayor Dave Coulter’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Ferndale Parks was approved by the City Council April 29. The commission members will take public opinions and look for alternative funding options to improve local parks.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

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FERNDALE — In Mayor Dave Coulter’s State of the City address April 18, he talked of the city’s numerous parks and the need to improve them, despite a tough economy. Coulter talked of creating a task force to oversee public opinions and alternative funding sources to make such changes.

At the City Council meeting April 29, council members approved the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Ferndale Parks.

The committee will consist of nine public officials, business owners and residents who will gather public input and identify needed additions and improvements to the city’s 15 parks and recreation centers that span almost 90 acres. Committee members also will look for corporate sponsorship, grant money and other funding options to implement their suggestions.

“I’ve seen, for several years now, that parks get shabbier because cities don’t have the funds to make the kinds of upgrades people are asking for,” Coulter said. “Our Recreation Department’s budget has shrunk dramatically, so I tried to think of how we could put things in our parks that would make people use them more. This is a group of people who love parks and are knowledgeable about raising funds.”

Loyd Cureton, director of the Department of Public Works, and Jill Manchik, the director of recreation, will head the committee. Jack Aronson, Brett Tillander, Shaun Butler, Jeannie Davis, Cristin Spiller, Greg Pawlicka and Scott Helmer will round out the committee.

Cureton said the first thing the group will do is tour all of the city’s parks and then meet at least once a month to discuss public input, suggestions on improvements and funding options. More walking paths, more accommodations for people with disabilities and play structures were some of the top improvements to come to mind, he added.

Funding will be a big priority, Cureton said, and it will be a big topic of discussion early.

“The biggest challenge will be funding, and it will really call on the creativity of the committee to come up with the dollars we need to redo the parks,” he said. “There will be grants we need to apply for by early 2014. In the next coming months, we want to get input from interested parities and have an impact on the city and provide amenities for the community.”

One of the most-recommended additions to the city’s parks in past years has been a dog park, Coulter said.

“We have heard for years that a dog park would be ideal, and everyone, from single people to large families, have dogs, so it would make sense,” he said. “We have a lot of dog owners and they have to go for a bit of a drive to get to a park where they can take the dog off the leash. I would be surprised if it is not somewhere on the list.”

One of the stipulations Coulter gave to the committee was a request for suggestions presented to City Council by the end of the year. The city will do what they can this summer with painting and working on trees and broken structures, but Coulter wants to be able to begin implementing suggestions in the summer of 2014.

Manchik said she is excited to be part of the committee and have the chance to help the city and its residents.

“I am looking forward to working with the group members throughout the next year and soliciting feedback from the community on our park needs,” she said. “My hope is that, by this time next year, we will have made clear recommendations to council on specific park improvements, as well as the funding options available.”

Coulter intentionally excluded himself from the committee so he wouldn’t influence the members and they would take more opinions from the community. Still, as mayor, Coulter has a vested interest in the city and wants to see the neighborhoods improve in the next year.

“I think parks are very important to the community, and they give people a place to gather and are attractive to families with children, as well as people of all ages,” Coulter said. “I think parks can create a greater sense of community than we have. They are a foundation of a community and they need some attention.”

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