The Fitness Court at Huffman Park may not be too busy now, but in the warmer months residents will enjoy the outdoor exercise equipment it provides.

The Fitness Court at Huffman Park may not be too busy now, but in the warmer months residents will enjoy the outdoor exercise equipment it provides.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Plan to fund park initiatives in Madison Heights proposed

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 26, 2022

 City officials have been devising new ways to fund more additions to the parks, usually by taking advantage of matching grants.

City officials have been devising new ways to fund more additions to the parks, usually by taking advantage of matching grants.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MADISON HEIGHTS — In recent years, the city of Madison Heights has been making highly visible changes to its public spaces, from the new Fitness Court at Huffman Park to outdoor murals at Civic Center Park, Rosie’s Park, and the Madison Heights Public Library. 

During the regular council meeting Jan. 10, Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss proposed a model to help fund even more initiatives in the future: The Parks Special Projects Fund.

In essence, it’s an escrow account designed specifically to cover the city’s portions of any grants received for park additions. Grants were key to funding the outdoor exercise facility at the Fitness Court and other projects currently in the works, such as a disc golf course and improvements to the city’s tennis courts. 

By setting aside money for future public/private partnerships, Bliss feels the city will be able to confidently pursue opportunities that can result in tangible new amenities and services.

“Initially, I’d like to see us fund it at $50,000 this year, but that amount can go up or down depending on the budget in future years. In fact, if we hit a major recession, council will be able to vote to leverage this money for urgent repairs if needed,” Bliss said in an email. “Ideally, though, we’ll allow it to grow long enough to add something new and exciting for our residents that we otherwise would have never been able to add, like a splash pad, a bandstand, or even an outdoor games park with weather-resistant versions of games like chess, table tennis and cornhole.

“While this initiative is really just a budgetary move, I think it will make a big difference in which grants we can apply for, and therefore which awesome things we can add to our parks with that grant money,” Bliss said. “It’s my hope that with this fund, the ‘big idea’ projects our residents mention to us that other cities have can finally have a real shot at being implemented here in Madison Heights.” 

While the idea was still being developed at press time, Bliss’s colleagues on the council appeared favorable to it.

“I think laying aside sums of money — an annual savings account, as it were — is an excellent idea. Of course, the trick in politics is to avoid spending it for something else,” said Madison Heights Mayor Pro Tem Robert Corbett, in an email. “I also think we need to take a balanced approach to some of these projects we’re talking about. Large-scale water parks being built within a city that already contains a prominent water park doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense. However, smaller splash pads strategically placed in one or two of the more heavily-used neighborhood parks might be more easily justified from a fiscal and logistical standpoint.”

Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein said she appreciates the idea. 

“Last year, we were able to fund the Fitness Court at Huffman because of matching grants, but it wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t had some money available already,” Grafstein said in an email. “Intentionally setting money aside specifically for this type of program makes sense. We are slowly updating all our parks, so it is practical to set up a line item for this specific funding to be used for one-off matching opportunities.”

Quinn Wright, another member of the Madison Heights City Council, agreed.

“I share Mark’s vision of adding to the quality-of-life programs offered through city services. Improving our parks and community services is a priority of mine,” Wright said. “I envision Madison Heights staying true to being a ‘City of Progress’ and finding innovative ways to create community spaces that allow people to work on not only their physical health, but their mental health too. My challenge to any idea we bring forth is that we do it in a way that incorporates both public and private funding, ensuring we decrease the impact on residents and the city budget.”