Flanders Park, at the former Flanders Elementary School site, sits adjacent to the Farmington Meadows subdivision on Farmington Road, between Eight and Nine mile roads.

Flanders Park, at the former Flanders Elementary School site, sits adjacent to the Farmington Meadows subdivision on Farmington Road, between Eight and Nine mile roads.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Flanders Park to receive new playscape

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published July 27, 2020

 Neighbors involved in the fundraiser for a new playscape for Flanders Park would also like to see the gravel path at the park paved.

Neighbors involved in the fundraiser for a new playscape for Flanders Park would also like to see the gravel path at the park paved.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

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FARMINGTON — Farmington Mayor Pro Tem Joe LaRussa let out an enthusiastic “hell yes!” July 20 when Farmington City Clerk Mary Mullison asked for his vote on a motion to approve the purchase of a new playscape for Flanders Park.

Since April 2019, neighbors in the Farmington Meadows, Farmington Oaks and Riverwalk of Farmington subdivisions led by LaRussa and resident Steve Baumbach have been raising funds for a new playscape for the playground at the former Flanders Elementary School site.

With the community raising $15,176, City Council members unanimously approved the motion July 20 — Council member David Delind was absent — to contribute $50,000 from the city’s budget, a 23%-77% financial split, respectively, for a total of $65,176. City Council first expressed its intent to help fund the park project in 2018.

“There was a lot of hopefulness building up, and now that hopefulness is really transforming and evolving into excitement toward the completion and execution of the project,” LaRussa said. “It’s really gratifying to see a big goal get achieved.”

“I’ve been down at the park, I think, every day for the past two months staring at where the play structure is going to be, and it’s one of my happiest moments we’re moving forward,” Baumbach added.

The city will be buying the equipment from Holland-based Sinclair Recreation, a representative of GameTime Playgrounds, who provided a $33,709.50 grant to the city.

The playscape will cost $55,192.10, including the GameTime grant. LaRussa said installation takes roughly five-six weeks after purchase. The group hopes to have the playscape installed by Labor Day.

The original goal for the community fundraiser was $40,000, though as time went on, LaRussa said, the neighborhood began to realize how long it may take to raise enough to complete the project. “The neighborhood was really interested in seeing (the project) move along quicker than that,” he said, adding it would likely take another two years to reach the original goal.

The playscape will include a number of slides and climbers and some motion-based elements, and it will be attractive to a wide age range — from roughly 4- to 13-year-olds — LaRussa said. He believes it will improve the value of the park and have a positive impact on property values in the adjacent subdivisions.

For Baumbach, the focus has always been on enhancing the playground for the kids. He believes it will help children develop friendships and encourage them to use their imagination.

Farmington resident Sarah Davies, who runs the Keep Farmington Beautiful online group and helped host a Dine Out fundraiser with the Farmington Jaycees that raised over $3,300 for the project, thinks the playscape will foster community connection.

“I think we’ll see people spending longer time there and really getting to know their neighbors more, which is something that’s extremely important, especially in this day and age,” she said.

Davies’ daughter Gracie, 5, is just excited for a real twirly slide that is “actually fun,” she said, and for the “ridiculous plastic tire swings to go away” because she always falls off. A tire swing in the northwest corner of the park will be removed to make room for the new playscape.

A major milestone has surely been achieved, but that didn’t stop Baumbach from immediately thinking, “what’s next?” The city and community have roughly $10,000 left after the purchase.

Davies and Baumbach both would like to see the walking path around the park, which is currently gravel, be paved, as well as some picnic tables added. Davies also wants to see a recycling bin placed there, and Baumbach would like some additional trees planted to increase the amount of natural shade.

“This is a big first step, but it’s not the end of the work for Flanders Park,” Baumbach said, adding that he’s looking for people to help prepare the site for installation by clearing wood chips, an activity that would save the group around $3,500.

LaRussa said that while any additional improvements have only been preliminarily discussed, smaller equipment, such as spring riders or another climber, is also a possibility.

“Really if we could think big, if it didn’t cost more than $10,000, I would say we’d love to see some plumbing facilities and a restroom, or even just an outhouse. I’m pretty simple,” Davies said.

The group expressed its gratitude to the individuals and groups involved for their support. LaRussa said it spoke volumes to have broad community support for a project focused on south Farmington.

“This goes to show that the community can get things done. We can work together and accomplish anything we set out to do,” Davies added. “Way to go, Farmington!”

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