Madison Heights Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss and City Councilman Robert Corbett meet at Edison Park April 3 to discuss future improvements that the city hopes to implement with a state grant.

Madison Heights Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss and City Councilman Robert Corbett meet at Edison Park April 3 to discuss future improvements that the city hopes to implement with a state grant.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Madison Heights City Council applies for state grant to improve Edison Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 5, 2019

MADISON HEIGHTS — This past winter, the playscape at Edison Park in Madison Heights was removed due to its dilapidated condition and the liability this posed for the city.

But the City Council is hoping that the state will award Madison Heights a grant to help fund a replacement for the playscape — one that will be built with accessibility in mind.

“For many families in Madison Heights, the exciting part of the Edison project is the full inclusion of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant features in the park,” said Robert Corbett, a member of the City Council who has pushed for accessibility features. “Not only will swings and play structures accommodate special needs children, but for the first time, swings allowing for wheelchair accessibility will become standard features in the updated park system.”

Edison Park, 27701 Hampden St., is located between 11 Mile Road and Gardenia Avenue, one block east of Interstate 75, next to the former Edison Elementary, now home to the KEYS Grace Academy charter school.

The council unanimously approved the grant application at its regular meeting on March 25. The grant is through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), and the deadline to submit was April 1. The amount applied for is $87,000.

This, along with $50,000 the city budgeted for in the current fiscal year, would go toward replacing the playscape. Since the earliest the grant would be awarded is the spring of 2020, that’s the earliest the new playscape could be implemented, too. And so a budget carry-forward for the $50,000 would be necessary in the next fiscal year’s budget.  

The project would include the installation of two new universally accessible playscapes: one for kids ages 2-5, and another for kids ages 5-12. These would feature engineered wood-fiber surfacing; traditional and ADA-compliant swing sets; a barrier-free pathway from the existing sidewalk to the new park amenities; three benches; two universally accessible picnic tables; and several additional ground-play features.

The city has already received letters of support for the project from such groups as the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce, the GFWC Madison Heights Women’s Club,  the Madison Heights Downtown Development Authority and the Madison Heights Men’s Club.

“The play structure was removed this past winter,” said Melissa Marsh, the city manager of Madison Heights. “The structure was being held together with duct tape — literally — and had become a safety concern. I know the children in the area will miss the play structure this summer; however, it is better than someone getting injured.”

Mayor Brian Hartwell said that the play equipment was severely weathered, showing its age with rust, bent frames and cracks in the materials.

“The dirt parking lot was a disaster, and the single picnic table was inaccessible to anyone in a mobility device or using a stroller,” Hartwell said. He described feedback he received during an event held at Edison Park several summers ago. “We spoke with parents with children and senior citizens about what they would like to see in the park. Parents of young kids recommended that we build different-sized playscapes to cater to different-aged children. We also heard from residents who specifically wanted to see ADA-accessible play equipment, not just sidewalks.”  

Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem, said a recurring line of feedback that the City Council has been hearing at town hall meetings and other public functions is that the parks are in “desperate need” of an upgrade.

“Until recently, our newest play structures were nearly a decade old. They also weren’t designed with amenities for all ages, so even a well-maintained structure could sometimes still be unsafe and poorly designed for small children. This makes it so residents either can’t utilize the parks, or even limits the amount of potential new residents who want to move into those neighborhoods,” Bliss said. “Safety, design and accessibility matters — and as a parent with young children who spends a lot of time in our parks, I’ve personally seen how much that matters.”

Corbett said that the council is committed to ensuring that accessibility features are the standard rather than the exception going forward.

“Regardless of budget constraints or limited funds, we will ensure our facilities are open to all children of all physical abilities and health,” Corbett said.