New playground comes together at Scout Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published June 7, 2019

 Build week is underway for the new playground at Scout Park, just east of Hazel Park Junior High.

Build week is underway for the new playground at Scout Park, just east of Hazel Park Junior High.

File photo by Deb Jacques


HAZEL PARK — The community is coming together to build something special at Scout Park — and more volunteers are needed.

At press time, the installation of the new playground at Hazel Park’s most centrally located green space was set for June 10-15. Scout Park is just to the east of Hazel Park Junior High School, which is located at 22770 Highland Ave., north of Interstate 75 and south of Nine Mile Road.

The new playground there is being built with funding from a $350,000 grant from the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation. The idea is to stretch the value of the grant as far as possible with sweat equity from the community, and to that end volunteers are sought for build week.

The shifts each day are from 8 a.m. to noon, from 12:30 to 5 p.m., and from 5:30 p.m. to dark. People can sign up to help by either filling out a volunteer form in person at Hazel Park City Hall, located at 111 E. Nine Mile Road, or by visiting the city’s website at

“The park build is open to anyone, regardless of building experience. But we are looking for volunteers who have building experience, like using a circular saw and power tools,” said Jared Gajos, the special projects coordinator and HR coordinator for the city of Hazel Park. “These skill sets will enable us to help speed the process along.”

The work to be done includes framing, where posts are planted in the ground to form the outline of the structures; painting, which will be done by the city’s Arts Committee; attaching the roofs and building the sides to each structure; putting down mulch; and more.

The end result is expected to be a new destination point for the Friendly City, including such features as a zip line, a maze, a double slide, a snake tunnel and a treehouse.

The playground was designed by Leathers & Associates, the same firm that previously worked with the city of Birmingham to renovate Booth Park at the southwest intersection of Old Woodward Avenue and Harmon Street, north of the Rouge River branch.

The proposed playground was designed with community feedback, including input that residents provided on Design Day, March 5, when they gathered at Hazel Park Junior High to share their ideas and review the schematics.

Earlier that same day, members of various steering committees had interviewed local elementary school children, asking them what features would be in their dream playground.

Jim Houghton, a designer from Leathers & Associates, then created the design based on the children’s responses, unveiling it that evening following a presentation on the overall process to build the playground. That playground is now being built.

A steering committee has been coordinating the project since January. In addition to Gajos, other key members of the committee include Amanda Taylor, from the city’s Recreation Department; Linda Yono, from the City Manager’s Office; and community member Melissa Baldwin.

At the end of build week, it’s expected that the only item left remaining will be the surfacing, which will be poured in place.

“However, once the surfacing is complete, after installation of the playground, the playground will be open,” said Sareen Papakhian, the recreation director for Hazel Park. “Everyone can go wild!

“Residents and community members are always looking for meaningful ways to connect with the community and to work on projects that will impact their current way of life, and the way of life for future generations,” she continued. “Hazel Park is known for its civic pride, and volunteering for this project is a testament to the civic values that Hazel Park residents hold so firmly.”

Added Yono: “This is all about bringing the community together. The physical aspect of engaging longtime residents with newer residents and surrounding business owners as volunteers, and being able to form lasting relationships, is the premise of this project.

“Fifty years from now, individuals will be able to say, ‘Hey, I helped bring that to life; I remember drawing out that snake tunnel/shipwreck when I was just a kid; it was just an idea in my head, and I helped bring it to life,’” Yono said. “With that said, no one can take that proud moment away.”

And this project marks the latest way that the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation has benefited the community of Hazel Park. Other contributions include its ongoing commitment to the Hazel Park Promise Zone, which helps send local high school graduates to college, as well as recent plantings to replace trees that were removed in the city’s right of way.

“The city is forever grateful for (the foundation’s) continued efforts in helping our high school kids pursue their goals of obtaining a higher education, and now this,” Yono said. “The students that were involved in bringing this idea to life will be able to enjoy it soon, and perhaps their kids can enjoy it in the years to come. The structure itself is eye candy, which will naturally add more curb appeal, potentially aiding in higher property values.”

Papakhian agreed.

“This gift (from the foundation) is an investment in Hazel Park’s future,” she said. “I am so grateful to be a part of this project.”