The West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission has taken over operations of the former Pine Lake Elementary School property, which is owned by Bloomfield Hills Schools. Residents had an opportunity to learn about plans for the park at a dedication Oct. 11.

The West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission has taken over operations of the former Pine Lake Elementary School property, which is owned by Bloomfield Hills Schools. Residents had an opportunity to learn about plans for the park at a dedication Oct. 11.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

WB parks commission takes over former elementary school property

‘We have always wanted to acquire more park land in the northeast part of the township’

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 21, 2023


WEST BLOOMFIELD — People who have been hoping for more green space in the northeast part of West Bloomfield Township have something to be excited about, as the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission has taken over operation of the former Pine Lake Elementary School property, located at 3333 W. Long Lake Road.

The property is owned by Bloomfield Hills Schools.

The parks commission and the Bloomfield Hills Schools Board of Education recently entered into a 20-year lease agreement, with the agreement calling for the property to be maintained and improved by the commission.

Bloomfield Hills Schools will maintain ownership of the roughly 20-acre property.

There was a dedication for what is now called Pine Lake Park Oct. 11.

“We are in the park business, and we love bringing green space, trails and conserving land for our residents, and we have always wanted to acquire more parkland in the northeast part of the township,” said commission Executive Director Kelly Hyer. “There’s not a lot of green space on the east side, so when the Bloomfield Hills Schools district took down Pine Lake Elementary in 2017, we let them know we were interested in maybe a partnership or talking about that land. Fast forward to now, because of some conversations continually happening behind the scenes and them not forgetting about us, and they took time to do a lot of family engagement and resident engagement on that side of town, they ended up putting together (a) neighborhood task force when they were looking at some kind of bond initiative. … It was apparent to them that keeping Pine Lake was important – keeping the land over in that area of town was important to the school district.”

According to Keith McDonald, who is the assistant superintendent of human resources for Bloomfield Hills Schools, maintaining ownership was a stipulation for the district.

“We came to a mutually beneficial agreement with WB Parks who could utilize the space to create a park for our community, while BHS would still maintain ownership of the land in event that we need it for future growth in the district,” McDonald stated via email. “As part of our bond process and long term planning, the decision was made to retain all properties that no longer hosted schools for future sites if the district needed them. Should the district decide to sell the land, part of the collaboration affords WB Parks and Rec to purchase the land first.”

McDonald elaborated on what helped Bloomfield Hills Schools decide that leasing to the township was a viable solution.

“We wanted to support the community with additional park space rather than leave the land vacant,” he stated. “This is an opportunity for our community to have a wonderful place to play and build community, while still allowing the district to own the land should it be needed for future growth. We value our partnership with West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation and wanted to collaborate on ways we could improve recreational opportunities for the communities we collectively serve. This partnership allows us to do just that, while improving the site.”

Hyer shared her rationale for the length of the lease agreement.

“That 20 years was picked because pretty much, on average, (that’s) a useful life of any kind of recreation amenity that you would put in there,” she said. “So, whether we’re putting in trails, playgrounds, or maybe we’re looking at basketball courts or maybe a picnic shelter down the road – 20 years, everyone was comfortable on both sides. So what that means is we’re gonna take over that space and it is gonna take us three to five years to make it truly a park.”

The commission now has 14 parks that it operates, with Marshbank and Drake Sports Park being two of the more popular ones among residents.

“This piece of property’s roughly 20 acres, so it’s not going to be huge like those two different parks, but what they can expect is some really nice amenities in the next five years,” Hyer said.

The commission intends to have public engagement so that people who live in the vicinity of the park can voice their opinions as to what kind of amenities they would like to see there.

Hyer already has some ideas of what people might want.

“People want walking trails, so we’re looking at putting a perimeter walking trail over there,” she said. “Pickleball and basketball (are) two other amenities that people have asked about, so we’ll do some research on those amenities. We’re working with a park planner, so all of this is going to be done with a consultant, with a plan in place. So we’re making sure we get the public engagement right, and that we do our research before we start spending money over there.”

The park is expected to cost approximately $40,000 to maintain on an annual basis, and at least $520,000 over the next three to five years.

According to Hyer, the money will come from millages that are currently in place.

“West Bloomfield Parks is funded by four different millages, so while some public parks and recreation departments, they do come from the general funds, we’re unique in West Bloomfield; we’re funded through millages,” she said. “So the taxpayers pay separately for our services in West Bloomfield.”

Fixing tennis courts that are on the property, reinstalling a playground, and maintaining a baseball field are among the plans for the park.

“We are going to do a master plan for that park and public engagement, just to make sure we’re getting these amenities right,” Hyer said. “And that’s why we’re splitting it up (for) the next three to five years, because we know it takes time. All good things take some planning and some time.”

Hyer said that residents can expect to see general maintenance done at the park. The  park’s hours are 8 a.m.-sunset.

From her perspective, the addition of the park is in line with what residents want.

“We’ve heard from the residents on the east side that they want a space, green space, that’s closer to their homes, and we responded,” Hyer said. “So, thanks to Bloomfield Hills Schools; we couldn’t do it without their vision and leadership, having those conversations, and willing to do this partnership with us. We’re very grateful.”

McDonald shared a similar sentiment.

“We would like to thank our community members who participated in the Pine Lake Task Force and/or engaged in the community survey sharing what amenities they would like on the site,” he stated. “We could not have entered into the agreement without the support of West Bloomfield Parks & Recreation, the Board of Directors and the Bloomfield Hills Schools Board of Education. It was truly a coming together of all stakeholders for the benefit of the community.”