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City partners with schools to name future smart park

Royal Oak Review | Published November 18, 2015

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ROYAL OAK — Local children will have the opportunity to name the city’s upcoming smart park following approval last week to enter into a partnership with the school district.

Members of the City Commission gave their unanimous support during the Nov. 9 meeting to allow Royal Oak Schools elementary students the chance to name the future Center Street smart park. The park was made possible through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

“I think it’s very good to engage them at this young of an age, and I’m very happy to support this,” said City Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle.

“Students in grades two through five — following the stringent guidelines to name a public property — will submit ideas to the Royal Oak naming committee,” said Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids.

Davids said that although the naming committee is not bound to use any of the names, she hopes that, at the least, the students’ submissions will be inspirational in the final naming process.

“We have six elementary buildings that are very interested in this, and we’re hoping, by building, we can come up with about six to bring to (the naming committee),” said Lisa Shannon, Royal Oak Schools curriculum supervisor.

Shannon said she has been working with Davids to build background information that will be passed along to the elementary teachers to serve as guidelines.

“We want to make it so that it is a real-world application for our students, and how cool it is — something they can be involved in, and they can name it, hopefully,” Shannon said.

Davids said the guidelines for naming public property state that a park may be named after a local, county, state or national person; an event; a group of donors; or a location or characteristic of the the facility.

“So they have a lot to work with, and we’re sure they will come up with some great ideas,” Davids said.

City Commissioner Patricia Paruch said she hopes that involving the students will result in greater civic involvement in the future.

“The fact that the kids are going to get excited about this will mean the parents are going to get excited about it, and it will spread,” Paruch said. “And I think the more we can do this type of thing to engage Royal Oak residents of all ages, it will spin off into greater voter participation and greater understanding of what we do.”

Davids said construction documents for the new park are being prepared and city officials hope to break ground in the spring.

In May, more than $160,000 was raised via a crowdfunding campaign to create what the city dubbed a “smart park” in the area bounded by the Center Street parking deck, the railroad tracks and the businesses fronting Fourth Street.

The successful crowdfunding meant that the city of Royal Oak was eligible for a 100 percent matching grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The city had to raise a minimum of $60,000 to be eligible for the match.

The smart park’s features would include mobile charging stations for laptops and smartphones, walkways, a children’s running pad, sustainable landscaping with a rain garden and bioswale, tables for eating and working, public Wi-Fi, civic art, covered bicycle parking, and an interactive wayfinding kiosk highlighting downtown destinations. Seating would consist of knee-high walls throughout, picnic tables, benches and possibly lawn chairs provided by abutting businesses during daytime hours.

Davids said the students’ suggestions will be presented to the naming committee in early 2016.

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