New Parks and Rec plan has big goals; funding remains the key

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published February 9, 2011

 The new Parks and Recreation master plan approved by the Berkley City Council on Jan. 24 will help to keep the city’s recreation programs — such as the kids’ Jump-a-Rama classes at the Community Center, shown here — alive and well. Pictured, teacher Angela Jackson shows Lucy Clark, 2, of Berkley some gymnastics moves during class on Feb. 4.

The new Parks and Recreation master plan approved by the Berkley City Council on Jan. 24 will help to keep the city’s recreation programs — such as the kids’ Jump-a-Rama classes at the Community Center, shown here — alive and well. Pictured, teacher Angela Jackson shows Lucy Clark, 2, of Berkley some gymnastics moves during class on Feb. 4.

Photo by David Schreiber

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BERKLEY — The city is moving forward with a strategy to improve and maintain its Parks and Recreation facilities over the next five years despite the financial difficulties that Berkley is currently facing.

On Jan. 24, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Parks and Recreation Department’s new master plan for the years 2011 to 2015. The plan is a loose guide designed to assist the city in meeting the recreation needs of the community and making improvements to Berkley’s parks, as well as the Community Center and Ice Arena.

Still, city officials recognized that with the budget challenges that must be addressed this year and beyond, they have a very difficult task ahead of them. Councilman Dan Terbrack pointed out that a year after the council was forced to reduce its general fund budget by nearly 10 percent, its task in 2011-12 is expected to be even more arduous.

“My No. 1 goal for Parks and Rec this year is to continue to provide the same level of services that we have right now,” said Terbrack, who also serves as the council’s liaison to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. “The most important point about the new master plan is that it’s only a plan. Given our economic situation, we know that not everything on that list is going to get done.”

Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Price explained that in crafting the master plan, he and his staff relied heavily on the results of a 2009 community survey in which Berkley residents shared their biggest Parks and Recreation needs and priorities, as well as suggestions for future improvements.

“We really wanted to focus on the things that people identified as being the most important to them,” Price said. “We tried to accommodate those things unless they were totally unreasonable from a cost standpoint. Luckily, there were a lot of things that seemed very doable because they did not involve any huge expenditures.”

One major project outlined in the plan is the reconfiguration of Merchants Park, where upgraded playground equipment would be installed and new facilities, such as a dog park or skate park, would be added. Another goal is to purchase land at Merchants Park owned by the Berkley School District that the city currently leases from it for park use. Over at Community Park, the city would install new lights on two of the baseball fields.

Parks and Recreation also hopes to add a new park in the southwest corner of the Roseland Park Cemetery to honor the area’s war veterans, install a mini-park near Edgewood Boulevard and Woodward Avenue, and add bicycle paths along Coolidge Highway from downtown Berkley to Beaumont Hospital. In addition, all parks would receive new restrooms, shelter/pavilion buildings, shade trees, playground equipment, picnic tables and drinking fountains.

At the Community Center, the city plans to construct a new storage building for vehicles and equipment, and make the building more handicap-accessible. The Ice Arena, meanwhile, would receive playing turf in its former studio ice area to make room for soccer and baseball practices, expanded locker rooms, renovated bathrooms and improved ventilation. The parking lots at both facilities would also be resurfaced, and fire suppression systems would be installed.

Price said that to cope with its limited funding, the city is looking to establish partnerships with other recreation providers and is soliciting grant money from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. However, he noted that the last major DNR grant that Berkley was able to obtain — which totaled about $100,000 for new tennis courts at Community Park — came in 1999.

Terbrack believes that the new master plan is “very practical” because it mostly sticks to goals that the Parks and Recreation Department could realistically accomplish in the next five years.

Alan Kideckel, chair of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, is confident that most of the ambitions in the master plan can be accomplished if the city finds inventive new ways to save money and receives greater assistance from volunteers in the community.

“These are realistic goals,” Kideckel said, “but if we can get more people involved, then it won’t be such an uphill battle. Yeah, these things do take money, but they also take man power and heart power. We just need to stay on our toes, get creative and make things exciting for the residents.”

Price knows that this is easier said than done, but he hopes that new projects, such as the turf installation at the Ice Arena — which would make the facility available for not only sports practices, but also craft shows and festivals — will generate new revenue for the city.

“We’re just going to have to do a really good job of selling these potential developments and improvements to the community,” he said. “But it’s certainly going to be very difficult.”

For Kideckel, one recent event seemed to serve as a model for the department’s future success: the first WinterFest on Jan. 29, which was organized quickly and for very little money, but attracted a huge turnout.

“It was just unbelievable,” he said. “That event brought people in from all over, and you could not find a parking spot anywhere. I think it was very important to us because it showed that Berkley Parks and Recreation is still a viable part of the city.”
 

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