St. Clair Shores approves parks and recreation master plan

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 30, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Despite qualms about some plans contained in the document, the St. Clair Shores City Council approved the five-year parks and recreation master plan.

Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill said that the last parks and recreation master plan was approved for 2011-2015. The plan is required by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in order for the city to be eligible for various grants offered by the department.

“The big thing to keep in mind with these things in the master plan is we’re not obligated to do anything,” he explained to the City Council Nov. 19.

The city has been told to put anything it could ever potentially want in a parks or recreation program into the plan, he said, because if the city were to apply for funding for something that wasn’t in the master plan, it would first have to amend the master plan before applying for grant money from the DNR.

The goals laid out in the master plan, which covers 2019-2023, include: maintain and upgrade existing park facilities; develop new park facilities that respond to residents’ recreational needs; address the need for a community center; participate in the establishment of a citywide nonmotorized pathway system; acquire future parkland and open space; continue to offer outstanding parks and recreation programs; and provide for an efficient and fiscal administration of parks and recreation.

Councilman John Caron said that a community center has been part of previous plans, but that he was not aware of any space the city would be able to buy for future parks.

“We like to leave that in there as a general statement,” said Patrick Judd, of Environmental Consulting and Technology, which helped to put together the plan. “It allows not having to go through an amendment process with the state DNR. It’s just in there as a default if, in fact, something does come up.”

Caron also took issue with a statement in the plan calling for a dedicated parks millage to be sought.

“I’m not in favor of that statement,” he said. “That is not up for consideration by this body.”

The document has to be submitted by Feb. 1, Gambill said, but Councilwoman Candice Rusie said that she didn’t like having to vote on the plan before a new parks and recreation director was on the job.

“We’re committing to a five-year plan, (and) that person hasn’t been able to give their input,” she said.

She said that there is a lot that needs repair and maintenance in the parks and facilities that the city currently has, so she didn’t like that a new facility like a community center was being mentioned in the plan without a business case being made.

“We have more pertinent, relevant existing needs,” she said.

In order to amend the plan, the city has to get public input, hold meetings, put the plan together have time for the public to respond, and then the amendment has to be adopted by the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission, Judd said, which is why there were so many goals and projects included that may not come to fruition.

“I understand why you want to put everything in there, because it makes things easier down the road,” Councilman Peter Rubino said. “But there’s been things that have come up in the past and we’ve asked why this and been told, ‘Well, it’s in a plan.’

“Just because it’s in a plan doesn’t mean we should do it.”

Gambill said that nothing in the plan is obligated just because the City Council approves it. Councilman Ron Frederick pointed out that the City Council is “the stewards of making sure we don’t spend the money if we don’t have it.”

He made a motion, supported by Councilman Peter Accica, to adopt the plan. It passed 6-1, with Rusie opposed.