Campaign signs like this one — posted on the fence of the Grosse Pointe Rotary Tot Lot in Grosse Pointe City — outline plans for new play features and how to contribute.

Campaign signs like this one — posted on the fence of the Grosse Pointe Rotary Tot Lot in Grosse Pointe City — outline plans for new play features and how to contribute.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Support sought for Rotary Tot Lot renovations

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 6, 2019

GROSSE POINTE CITY — The Rotary Club of Grosse Pointe is responsible for almost everything visitors see at the Grosse Pointe Rotary Tot Lot in Grosse Pointe City, but not the plastic trucks, shovels and other playthings in the sandbox.

Those are left voluntarily by children who use the park, so that they can share them with others.

“It’s such a wonderful expression of love by kids in the community,” said Rotarian Dino Valente, who noted that this tradition has been going on for at least 20 years. “Year in and year out, kids leave their own toys behind for other kids to play with.”

During a press conference Aug. 1 at the tot lot at Waterloo and St. Clair streets, Grosse Pointe Rotary Club officials announced plans to install almost all-new play equipment and play surface material as part of a $250,000 renovation to bring the playground up to date with the latest standards. New playscapes for children ages 2-5 and ages 5-10 are planned, as is a new swingset that will enable parents and children to face each other.

“We’ve been told that developmentally, it’s a very important thing for the mother and child to experience together,” Grosse Pointe Rotary Executive Secretary Michael Carmody said of the swingset design.

An elevated sandbox that’s wheelchair accessible will be added, as will a wheelchair-friendly picnic table. A ground-level sandbox will be available as well.

“Most everyone I talk with have a story to tell, both old and new, of the wonderful memories at this tot lot,” Grosse Pointe Rotary President Judy Masserang said.

Grosse Pointe Rotary has been behind the tot lot since its inception. It designed and installed the first tot lot for kids ages 2-5 in 1973, and undertook a major makeover in 1997-98.

The park is special because not only is it designed with little tykes in mind — unlike school playgrounds, which are for elementary and older kids — but it’s also the only park open to kids from all of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods; most other parks in the Grosse Pointes require residency and a park pass for admission.

The purpose of the park, then as now, is “to attract and encourage children to play with family and, more importantly, with each other,” said Masserang, noting that such play is critical for child development.

As part of the makeover — to be undertaken in 2020 — she said they want to create an “all-inclusive environment for children of all abilities.”

Rotarian Heather Mayernik, of Grosse Pointe Woods, said she and her brother used to play in the tot lot. She remembers they especially loved the playground diggers; Carmody said new versions of these play pieces will be part of the renovated tot lot.

“Then I brought my kids here every week,” Mayernik said. “I really loved the fact that it’s designed for younger kids. It’s perfect for the preschool-aged child.”

She said her kids — now in their teens and early 20s — would “play in the sandbox for hours,” and she would meet other parents of young children.

“I liked the fact that (the tot lot) was fenced in,” Mayernik said. “They weren’t running into the street.”

To make this project possible, Masserang said, the Rotary Club is seeking donations and volunteers to install new playground pieces. The club has created a GoFundMe page for donations, and residents can also donate using their smartphones and a QR code on tot lot capital campaign posters and literature throughout the community.

Grosse Pointe Foundation President Roger Hull said that gifts of any amount are tax deductible. He said they are seeking gifts of all amounts and from all corners of the community.

“We’re appealing to anyone who’s ever used this park,” Hull said.

At press time, he said they were in the process of creating a pledge form for those who’d like to pledge a gift over time.

Naming opportunities are available for larger gifts, but as Hull said, “We’re really looking for a lot of small gifts.”

Carmody said Grosse Pointe Rotary doesn’t know how many people have used the tot lot over the years; he laughingly said they like to say “a lot” when asked for figures.

“The use of this park is very high,” he said.

Wood chips will be replaced by a soft, poured-in-place surface, Carmody said.

“It’s the safest surface we can put in,” he said of the bouncy — but expensive — material, which can be found around some play features now, including the base of slides. “It is a major safety feature that will greatly decrease maintenance costs for the city of Grosse Pointe.”

A garden at the tot lot that was started about 35 years ago by the Grosse Pointe Men’s Garden Club and has been cared for since 2009 by the Junior League Gardeners will remain.

Weather permitting, Carmody said, they hope to shut down the park for two weeks in March 2020 to do all of the construction. If March weather won’t allow for construction, he said they’ll have to delay it until October 2020 because “we don’t want to impact use” during the peak spring and summer seasons.

All of the trees in the park now will stay, Carmody said.

“We’re excited about it,” he said. “It’s going to be a marvelous piece.”

To make a donation, visit For more information about the project or for naming opportunities, contact Carmody at (313) 598-0365 or at

For more about Grosse Pointe Rotary, visit