Farmington pursues DIY park playground

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published June 29, 2018

 Farmington resident Sarah Davies and her daughter, Grace, stand at the developing playground at Flanders Park last year, before some of the work was done to it.

Farmington resident Sarah Davies and her daughter, Grace, stand at the developing playground at Flanders Park last year, before some of the work was done to it.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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FARMINGTON — New playground equipment could be headed to Flanders Park after the City Council unanimously approved a letter of intent to partner with a nonprofit at a June 18 meeting.

The 2.26-acre public park — tucked between a subdivision and a neighborhood at the corner of Flanders and Meadowlark streets, east of Farmington Road, between Eight Mile and Nine Mile roads — could receive grant funding for new playground equipment through the national nonprofit Ka-Boom!

City Council member Joe LaRussa and Finance Director Chris Weber attended a meeting with engineering consulting firm, OHM Advisors in early March and looked into grant funding opportunities for projects in the city, according to a Farmington City Council staff report.

After the meeting, LaRussa looked into Ka-Boom!, which connects funding sources with project applicants who seek to increase the “play value” of their communities, according to the report.

One of the programs operated by Ka-Boom! is Build it with Ka-Boom! That program uses funding from a partner organization to execute a community-designed and community-built playscape project within a municipality, according to the report. In May, LaRussa submitted a grant application, and Ka-Boom! community outreach staff responded back on additional steps recommended for funding.

According to the report, the city is currently being considered for two potential projects: a Ka-Boom! standard build project, which typically includes a 2,500-square-foot playscape, and an enhanced build project, which includes a 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot playscape, landscaping and other enhancements.

According to the report, one of the prerequisites needed in order to be considered for funding is a Community Partner Playground Agreement. In the agreement, the city of Farmington would bring matching funds of $8,500 to the project.  

According to the report, if the grant were approved, the matching money would need to come from $10,000 budgeted in the 2018-19 budget for plantings in Flanders Park. Additional expenses would need to have a budget amendment and would come from the general fund’s unrestricted fund balance, the report states.

City Attorney Thomas Schultz said during the meeting that the letter of intent signifies that both sides are firmly committed to a deal.

“There is a difference between the letter of intent and the actual contract,” he said.

“It is saying we’re interested in the project and we intend to sign on an agreement if we can reach one,” he said.

City Councilman Bill Galvin said that there has been “good dialogue” on the park, and it should be understood that there are time and cost commitments.

The build day is scheduled for Oct. 6, for which the city would recruit up to 300 adult volunteers from the community to be involved in a one-day installation event.

Galvin added that this is not a typical park project but a build-it-yourself project.

“We are not going to have a subcontractor come in and building this for us like they do roads or other parts,” he said, adding that if the community does not have enough volunteers to build the park, the city’s Department of Public Works will step in. “The end result is going to be closer to $30,000.”

City Council member Maria Taylor said that she thinks people understand it is a do-it-yourself project, and they are ready.

“I can see people willing to go door to door,” she said. “If we need the extra money you …  can knock on somebody’s door … (and say) I am raising money for a park — they are going to contribute,” she said.

Farmington resident Steve Bombeck supports the grant-seeking for playground equipment at Flanders and said that with a 4-year-old and a child on the way, he could easily invest in the playground for the 15 or so years his family will be using it.

“Early on in the discussion on this, I volunteered with Joe to lead this project. I’d like to contribute my time, my skills. I’m also willing to contribute financially to the success of this project,” Bombeck said. “A park in that area will increase property values. … That will have an influence there.”

Farmington resident Sarah Davies, who runs a Keep Farmington Beautiful Facebook page, said in a follow-up email that last fall, a new swing was put in and a piece of the slide was updated.

“We hoped after the park opened that the city would update the equipment, but pretty much they put in a new swing and maybe made one other small update and then called it a day,” she said, adding that when LaRussa found this opportunity, he thought it was the perfect way for the city to get an upgraded park.

The park was renovated last fall by Farmington Public Services workers. The park had its beginnings when a developer purchased the site of the former Flanders Elementary School and agreed to keep 2.26 acres as a public park, which was built into the residential development plan.

Davies reached out to City Councilwoman Sara Bowman two years ago to put the fall 2017 park dedication together.

“Today we are already collecting names of committed volunteers who can commit to volunteering on the one day build,” she said. “If anyone is interested in committing, they can contact me either via email, sarahmariedavies@gmail.com, or the Keep Farmington Beautiful Facebook page. … We need as many committed volunteers as we can get.”

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