More parks details revealed at budget meeting

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 2, 2017

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The creation of the Recreating Recreation campaign’s attractions and amenities will be well underway in the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to presentations at an April 25 Sterling Heights City Council budget meeting.

According to Finance and Budget Director Jennifer Varney, the voter-approved 2016 millage for parks and recreation funding is largely responsible for boosting the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget, which is estimated at $16 million for 2017-18, compared to around $1.96 million the previous fiscal year.

“As you can see, due to the new millage, there is a large increase over the prior year,” Varney said.

Varney said annual senior center attendance has recently been healthy, at around 101,800 participants, and special events participants have risen sharply from around 46,400 in 2014 to around 114,300 in 2016. Varney attributed the latter’s increase to the farmers market and the recent expansion of the Music in the Park summer concert series schedule.

Regarding the new Recreating Recreation projects being planned, City Development Director Denice Gerstenberg showed renderings of the upcoming new and bigger community center, which she said includes “clean lines and lots of glass.” The building will be surrounded by city flags, outdoor seating and public art, she said.

The community center’s groundbreaking will take place next fiscal year, but it will be in the 2018 calendar year, according to city officials.

In addition, Gerstenberg said, construction of a skate park at the city center is expected to begin later in the summer and should be completed about four months later.

“The design team has been talking to skate park designers across the country,” she said.

Park improvements dealing with playgrounds, pathways or other amenities have been planned for Chappelle, Hadley, Hampton, Imus and Washington Square parks, Gerstenberg said.

At Dodge Park, a spray park will serve as a focal point. The current recreation center building will be torn down, and a farmers market pavilion that doubles as an ice rink will be installed, she said. She also said the existing Dodge Park amphitheater will be demolished as well, and a new one will be built.

Parks and Recreation Director Kyle Langlois announced that an interlocal agreement with Warren to use the Warren Community Center’s amenities — particularly aquatic ones — will officially start July 1. But he said Warren has already decreased its rates to Sterling Heights residents “as a show of good faith.”

City officials said additional Recreating Recreation work, such as a kayak and canoe livery and launches, a dog park, and a pedestrian path from Delia Park to the Plumbrook Nature Preserve will be worked on further in the future.

“What makes this truly exciting is that we are just scratching the surface, and there are so many great things to come in the next couple of years,” Langlois said.

During the meeting, some of the City Council members had questions and concerns about the plastic Sport Court surfacing that is supposed to be installed at city park play areas such as tennis courts. Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Ziarko wondered whether people would get injured from falling on it like they would on asphalt.

Langlois said that while the flooring costs more to install at first, he said the surfacing was equipped in Davisburg, Michigan, years ago and it still looks beautiful. However, he said Sterling Heights hasn’t spent any money on the tiling yet.

“By all research that I’ve found, they play pretty much the same under dewy conditions or rainy conditions,” Langlois said. “We find it to be an even playing surface compared to what we have — probably better, like I said, in terms of the impact on our bodies, our joints. This surface is going to be better over the long run.”

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor called the parks and recreation improvements “kind of transformational” for the city.

“It was really something exciting while it was being proposed and while it was being debated last year and while we were seeing the renderings, and now to see it kind of coming together is even more exciting to me,” he said.

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.

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