Among the upgrades to the park are a 0.6 mile walking trail and two raised soccer fields to help combat poor drainage.

Among the upgrades to the park are a 0.6 mile walking trail and two raised soccer fields to help combat poor drainage.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Southfield’s Catalpa Oaks Park celebrates reopening

Improved county park to serve most densely populated area of Oakland County

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published October 7, 2020

 Gary R. McGillivray, the chairman of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, speaks at the Catalpa Oaks Park reopening Oct. 2 in Southfield.

Gary R. McGillivray, the chairman of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, speaks at the Catalpa Oaks Park reopening Oct. 2 in Southfield.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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SOUTHFIELD — If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught people anything, it’s the importance of outdoor activities. The need for recreational space has become much more important with residents, who may feel stuck inside the house for what seems like months on end.

Now residents of south Oakland County can get out there, thanks to a $702,000 investment into Catalpa Oaks County Park in Southfield. Members of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department, along with some elected officials, gathered at the park, located off of Greenfield Road, Oct. 2 to celebrate the official reopening of the park.

“The center of population in Oakland County is in south Oakland,” said Dan Stencil, the executive officer for Oakland County Parks. “So the need for field sports all comes from the communities down here because they don’t have a lot of greenspace. So the 25 acres that we manage here for the residents of Oakland County is just like 1,000 acres up in the northern part of the county. They have a high value for greenspaces.”

Residents who visit Catalpa Oaks this fall will notice a new 0.6 mile walking trail around the park complete with a crushed stone surface to accommodate people with disabilities. Wheelchairs and strollers should be able to navigate the trail.

Park-goers will also notice two newly renovated soccer fields. The fields have been raised using leftover soil from construction on Interstate 696 to allow for easier drainage and irrigation. The quality of the turf became more and more difficult to maintain without that proper drainage.

The cost of upgrading the fields was $421,000, and there are plans to upgrade the other fields the park features at a later date.

“It makes the playability of the fields much better. It’s safer,” Stencil said. “We’re able to provide green grass when we don’t have rain. When we have a bunch of rain, we can drain it off. That’s been the biggest challenge of this site since day one.”

As beneficial as the upgraded park will be for residents, it almost never happened. There was a time when the city of Southfield could no longer afford the upkeep of the park and developers came to the city hoping to buy the land and build homes.

Concerned parents of kids who played in soccer leagues approached a group of Oakland County commissioners, one that included current Oakland County Executive David Coulter, with a plea to keep the park around.

“Even though I was representing Ferndale, a lot of us county commissioners in this end of town heard from parents who said ‘this is where our kids play soccer,’” Coulter said. “We began lobbying to the administration when the parks and rec board put this into the parks system. We continued to make the case, and eventually they agreed that this would be a good spot to capture for youths.”

The case Coulter and the other county commissioners made was simple. Most of the residents in Oakland County live in the south end. The commissioners’ biggest argument stemmed from the need for more recreation facilities in the south end. Eventually, the proposal was agreed upon and Catalpa Oaks became what it is today.

“I was thrilled that we were able to preserve this land,” Coulter said. “Now to be able to add enhancements like this, like the paths, are very exciting. Not just for people in Southfield but for everyone in the south end of the county. It’s just more easily accessible.”

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