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Civic Center to serve as site for Clinton Township’s inclusive playground

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published July 20, 2020

 This map shows the approved Clinton Township Civic Center site for a new inclusive playground.

This map shows the approved Clinton Township Civic Center site for a new inclusive playground.

Map by Jason Clancy

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Civic Center has been chosen for the site for the township’s first inclusive playground.

On July 13 the Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved the site, located off the campus’ main parking lot and on the same side as the proposed splash pad.

The process to develop the inclusive playground began last October, when a presentation was delivered to the board relating to the park’s opportunity and how it fulfills the township’s future outlook as part of its master plan.

Clinton Township is home to about 4,600 special needs individuals.

The 14-member playground committee is composed of chairperson AnnMarie Ottoy, vice chairperson Justin Michalak, Public Services Director Mary Bednar, Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, trustees Jenifer “Joie” West and Ken Pearl, administrative assistant Stephanie Mittelstedt, Kelly Spagnuolo, Lisa Valerio-Nowc, Paul Sassin, Terri Nekoogar, Marilyn Wittstock, Martina Pardue and Frank Bayer.

Ottoy, a Clinton Township resident who serves as community relations specialist for The Arc of Macomb County, wrote a letter July 7 to the Board of Trustees saying how the committee has continued to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic. That included filling the committee roster, creating organizational documents and establishing subcommittees — including site selection, building and design, fundraising and grant writing, and community research — to bring recommendations to the main committee.

The site selection committee is composed of Bednar, Gieleghem and Pearl.

In Ottoy’s letter she noted the baseball and soccer fields already present on the grounds of the Civic Center, as well as the proximity from the Macomb Intermediate School District building and dedicated schools.

In an interview conducted prior to the board’s July 13 approval, Ottoy said the Civic Center made the most sense due to its central location and being “already a hub of activity.” In addition to sports fields and school proximity, the Civic Center is also home to the Parks and Recreation Department, the senior center and a dog park.

“It’s just a community-centric location that we think would be ideal,” she said.

Ottoy has a 20-year-old son with multiple disabilities. She said “awareness and inclusivity have been near and dear to my heart,” saying that parks such as these help “plant a seed (for children) to build awareness.”

“Their hearts are more open,” she said.

Pearl said this park could be beneficial not only to special needs individuals, but also the people who work in the field and help those people.

“I think it’s needed,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in the community that can’t access our regular parks. We’re trying to make sure it’s available for everybody.”

Gieleghem said Bednar helped put together an aerial view of available space in the township and how a playground would mesh with an existing site. Criteria included looking at economies of scale, families in the vicinity, staff availability for maintenance and care issues, and amenities already available to keep costs down.

They also looked at other communities that have barrier-free parks, such as McKinley Park in Fraser.

“We said if it’s here, it’s close to where people who are attending school or picking their child up from school, or going to the ISD,” Gieleghem said. “Everything sort of pointed to this as the location.”

The Arc of Macomb County is the fiduciary of the project, he noted, and has been designated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Gieleghem said corporate groups, local companies and national chains have expressed interest in the continuation and completion of this project.

Pearl acknowledged a lot of work will go into seeing this through to the end.

“This is going to require a large fundraising benefit,” Pearl said. “We’re going to have to go out there and raise the money. We don’t expect the township to put this up.”

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