Parks commission looks for survey input on improvements

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published July 31, 2013

 Mayor Dave Coulter’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Ferndale Parks has set up an online public survey to gather information from Ferndale residents on what they want to see in the community’s parks. The survey is open now on the city’s website and will be open through August.

Mayor Dave Coulter’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Ferndale Parks has set up an online public survey to gather information from Ferndale residents on what they want to see in the community’s parks. The survey is open now on the city’s website and will be open through August.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

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FERNDALE — Mayor Dave Coulter’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Ferndale Parks was set up in April as a way for the city to improve its parks with help from local organizers. The two main goals were to get public input and find a way to finance any improvements without using tax dollars.

The commission has started working on the first part of the plan, opening up a public parks survey that will run through the end of August on the city’s website. The survey seeks input from residents on what they think would improve the parks, which parks they use, and even asks how they think projects should be funded.

“I think it is important to this group that we find out who is using these parks and why, and if they are not using them, what are the reasons for that,” Jill Manchik, recreation director for the city, said. “We want to know if there are amenities missing or if people find the parks unsafe. We also want to know what improvements people would like to see, and obviously, you want public input because we don’t want to put something in the park that the community isn’t all supportive of.”

Coulter first introduced the idea of the parks commission during his State of City address April 18, with City Council approving the formation of the commission April 29. Manchik and Department of Public Works Director Loyd Cureton head the commission that is made up of public officials, business owners and residents.

The city has 15 parks spanning about 90 acres, but Coulter said the Parks and Recreation Department has taken a big budget cut recently, making it hard to maintain the parks the way residents may want.

“No department in the city has taken a bigger hit to their budget by percentage than the recreation department,” Coulter said. “We have a small group of people who are passionate about the parks, and this survey has a simple mission of finding out what the residents want and will use in the parks and how they think we should go about paying for these things. The parks need improvement; we just want to do it creatively and without tax dollars.”

Manchik said the parks department has a master plan that was put in place in 2010 and runs through 2015. When putting the plan together, the department sent out surveys to residents similar to the current online one.

In order to not make the current survey too overbearing, the parks commission pulled from the master plan survey and used questions that were specific and to the point, Manchik said.

“Some of the ideas that have been put out there were in the master plan, like a splash pad or making paths more (Americans With Disabilities Act) accessible,” she said. “We have a number of play structures that are outdated and old, and DPW officials and myself have went out and observed things we think need improvements, as well. We didn’t want to list 100 things, but we used about three main areas we think people are going to want to see improvements.”

The three main areas on the survey are park design, including paths, sitting areas and community gardens; park infrastructure, encompassing play structures, a dog park and a community gathering place; and sports facilities, which could include Frisbee golf, pickle ball courts or other athletic fields.

“Because we are a diverse community with a lot of diverse interests, we do not want to assume we know best about what brings people to the parks,” Coulter said. “A couple years ago, we converted a lot of tennis courts into inline skating rinks and now they aren’t used anymore. I just want to make sure we are spending our time getting things people will actually like, and that could be different for young people and seniors, so it is important to talk with as many people as we can.”

The survey also includes a question on funding options, which includes selections such as user fees, bonds or fundraising. The possibility of a community build project is also mentioned, which would require volunteers from the community to help build new improvements.

“We want to know if we put in a dog park, would people be willing to pay a user fee or how else do they think we should pay for it,” Manchik said. “We have a group that works with communities to help fundraise and organize community builds, so we want to know if people are interested in participating in something like that.

“We are looking forward to getting the feedback and want to get as many opinions as possible.”

To view the parks survey, visit www.ferndalemi.gov and look in the “News” section.

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