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Oakland County Parks to invest in Catalpa Oaks

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published March 23, 2011

 Catalpa Park became Catalpa Oaks in 2007, after Oakland County Parks opted to make it an official county park. This summer, an $850,000 renovation project will begin, adding concessions, restrooms and a playground to the property, as well as utilities.

Catalpa Park became Catalpa Oaks in 2007, after Oakland County Parks opted to make it an official county park. This summer, an $850,000 renovation project will begin, adding concessions, restrooms and a playground to the property, as well as utilities.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — Catalpa Oaks will receive $850,000 worth of renovations this year, with Oakland County Parks green-lighting the first phase of plans to improve the newest park that services residents in the south end of the county.

The project is set to begin in late summer and is expected to be completed by mid-November.

“The scope of the work is to construct a service building that will have restrooms, concessions and storage — it’s going to be about 1,800 square feet,” explained Dan Stencil, executive officer of Oakland County Parks. “There will be a playground. We’re bringing the utilities to the site — that is water, electric, sewer (and) gas. We’re putting supply lines for a manual watering irrigation system, something that’ll be in a future phase. We’re going to provide a 10-foot path from Greenfield Road along the south side of Catalpa, to connect the park with the city sidewalk. And there’s going to be a kiosk, an information display, with events and programs (listed).”

Janet Jackson, Oakland County commissioner representing District 21, is thrilled the plans are coming to fruition, albeit just the first phase of them.

“For someone that is a resident of this part of the county, that’s very beneficial because we don’t really have a real large parks facility on that end of the county,” she said. “With Catalpa Oaks in that area that is very densely populated, it’ll give those folks a very nice recreation facility. People can get out in their neighborhood and be able to recreate. Also, the county has a lot of wonderful programs that are a draw — concerts (and) events that are focused toward all age groups. It’s really a great facility to enjoy.”

The county has long owned the property that is now Catalpa Oaks — since 1964 — but the city of Southfield leased it for nearly 30 years, until 2007, when the park was in danger of being sold to a developer. Residents and local officials responded with overwhelming opposition, and county leaders stepped in to assume operations and eventually improve the park.

“It was really functioning as a regional facility, with over 17 different south Oakland communities using that site,” Stencil said of why the county ultimately decided to keep the park and upgrade it. “It also helps with us wanting to have more of an urban recreation initiative and a greater presence in south Oakland County.”

It is estimated that more than 50,000 people from 17 communities utilize the park annually. The 25-acre space includes four soccer fields and two baseball/softball fields.

In December of 2008, the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission approved a master plan for Catalpa Oaks. These improvements soon to be made were included in that plan. The rest of the plans for the park could cost up to $5 million, but poor economic times leave the future of those plans uncertain.

“We’ve cut $5 million from our budget in total the last two years,” Stencil said. “From what we’re proposing for fiscal (year) 2012 that quarter-mill of tax levy that we operate on is going down … because of property values. We’re doing our operations, our maintenance, and our acquisition and capital improvements all out of the same fund. We’re a 13-park system, and every two years we do a recreation needs assessment countywide, and what the respondents have continued to tell us is these four things are most important to them: No. 1, that we maintain the parks system at a high level — we take care of what we got.” Residents also want the county to “acquire additional green space, provide more opportunities for trails, hiking/biking, walking, equestrian; and continue to have high customer service standards. In order to do all of that, it’s a juggling act.”

For more information about Oakland County Parks, visit www.destinationoakland.com.

 

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