Grant money to benefit Fraser park with new sensory garden

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 28, 2019

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FRASER — Another year of grant writing has led to more good news for the Fraser community.

The DTE Energy Foundation awarded Fraser First Booster Club $10,000 to construct a new sensory garden at the barrier-free McKinley Park.

FFBC members said the nonprofit applied for the grant in April and didn’t find out the good news until the first week of September. They made the news public Oct. 1, after getting an OK from DTE.

“It feels great,” FFBC President Sherry Stein said. “It has been a dream for many members and supporters. This sensory garden is very important to the next step of us completing this park.”

All the money must go toward the garden, which will consist of a labyrinth-style walking path, raised garden beds, and musical and educational panels, and most importantly will be accessible to individuals of all ages and abilities.

The musical element is expected to contain pieces that are less disruptive, but more serene, utilizing chimes and low tones. A hope for the future is for the community itself to plan projects related to the garden and provide a treasure trove of different sensory experiences.

FFBC member Vania Apps called the garden “a multigenerational piece” and a “tactile-sensory experience” for people of all ages to eventually enjoy for many years.

“The sensory garden is something we wanted to put in since day one,” Apps said. “It kind of works out great it’s coming in now, because I think the walking path really paved the way for the playground. … I feel like this is perfect timing because it’s a place for kids to be rambunctious and get out their energy, and now there will be a garden for kids to explore and bring them down a couple notches.”

This garden is the next step in a park that has helped galvanize a city and a community. Apps said FFBC and volunteers were “on the front wave” of creating a place of inclusivity and accessibility. Today, visitation is consistent and smiles are everywhere.

“We really wanted it, and we wanted to do it right,” she said. “We wanted to make it as sustainable as possible. It kind of took a life of its own, this project, and I can’t state enough the length of time it took surprised all of us.

“But being a grassroots effort, we had to really manage our money and use it as best as we could. With each piece, it highlighted the need for the next piece.”

The hope is for the garden to be ready by spring. Stein said the club will work with people who do brick and cement work, while volunteers will help aid the full transformation.

Following the installation of this garden path, Stein hopes to get climbers and possibly an all-accessible, exercise-type space. She said she has received numerous compliments from members of the community on the changes that have been undertaken within the park itself.

“This has been a long time coming, but everybody has to remember it’s all been sponsors and fundraisers and spaghetti dinners, and this community has stuck with us,” Stein said.

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