The playground at Red Oaks Waterpark in Madison Heights is slated to get a makeover in 2020.

The playground at Red Oaks Waterpark in Madison Heights is slated to get a makeover in 2020.

File photo by Donna Agusti

Oakland County parks 2020 budget features local splash pad upgrades

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published September 30, 2019


OAKLAND COUNTY — The Oakland County Parks and Recreation system is always dreaming up new fun activities for residents to enjoy, like the new archery range, the upcoming off-road vehicle park and family-friendly programming.

But when it came to building the budget for the 2020 fiscal year, the focus was largely on maintaining the goodies already in place.

“We do a survey of the county residents on a periodic basis, and the direction we get from those surveys is that we maintain our parks system at a high level of cleanliness, safety and security,” said Dan Stencil, the executive director of the Parks and Recreation Department. “A lot of this budget is projects within a park system that’s 54 years old, so there’s focus on maintenance and day-to-day operations.”

The county Parks Commission approved the proposed $28,111,556 budget during its Sept. 4 meeting, which was then was OK’d by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Sept. 25. The system boasts 230 assets, buildings, natural areas and recreation features between its 13 locations, including campgrounds, dog parks, water parks, golf courses, nature centers, a year-round farmers market, and special programming and events.

The department welcomes more than 2 million visitors annually and is supported by a 0.2329-mill bond that will be up for renewal in August 2020. Revenue is also derived from service fees and other charges within the parks.

One of the biggest draws of the park system, Stencil said, is the nearly 80 miles of trails between all of the locations. Some of the budget will go toward maintaining those trails, adding clearer signage for visitor navigation, and resurfacing some areas to make them more accessible to those with wheelchairs or strollers.

A capital improvement program and a maintenance management plan, available on the department’s website, detail pages and pages of projects budgeted for a total of $3,087,450. That represents a 100% reinvestment in existing assets and facilities, according to a press release.

But of course, 2020 can’t be all about housekeeping. Red Oaks Waterpark in Madison Heights is slated to get a new interactive splash pad to replace the park’s existing, outdated playground.

“It’s near the end of its life cycle, basically,” said Red Oaks Park Supervisor Matt Pardy.

He said the investment is a smart one for the location, which even after a lifeguard shortage at the beginning of the season saw its busiest summer on record in 2019.

“We did about 112,000 (visitors) in a little over two and a half months. Even though we opened late because we had some struggles with staffing, it was a great summer,” Pardy said.

The 2020 budget was prepared using results from a county-wide survey, a history of revenue and expenses, service demands, and outcomes from planning sessions with operational staff and the Parks Commission.

For more information, visit