Flint, MI–For the last five years, Director of Keep Genesee County Beautiful Nancy Edwards said most residents’ complaints about parks in Flint have had to do with replacing playground equipment.
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“They’re old, they didn’t meet current safety standards, and they’re frankly, quite dangerous,” Edwards said.
The Genesee County Board of Commissioners voted to change that last week, by approving a contract between the county and Miracle Recreation Equipment to install playgrounds and equipment at McCallum and William Durant park.
The contract, which is for $76,652.50, will be entirely funded by grants.
The Community Foundation of Greater Flint awarded a $25,000 grant to the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission to remove the old playground equipment at McCallum, and replace it.
The grant also mentions adding picnic tables and grills to the park.
The remaining $51,652.50 is coming from the Ruth Mott Foundation grant that funds Keep Genesee County Beautiful. That money will go to development at William Durant park including installation of a playground, basketball court and bleachers.
Edwards said redeveloping these parks has been a goal for a while which is why the Adopt-A-Park program was started in 2004.
“Adopt-A-Park was born so that Flint residents could help take care of public spaces in the city,” she said. “Almost all of the parks are adopted by neighborhood residents or groups who dedicate time at least once a week to going out and cleaning up the parks.”
Edwards said that in talking to residents through this program, she found out that at McCallum park, residents wanted the basketball court redone, and a new playground.
The basketball court was resurfaced last year.
“We take those comments and try to figure out how to make it happen,” she said.
But it is a challenge.
“The city of Flint does not have the capacity in terms of resources and doesn’t have a Parks and Recreation Department anymore,” Edwards said. “One quarter of the work done by one person in the Planning Department has to do with overseeing park work.”
Flint’s Parks and Recreation Department disbanded in 2013 with the adoption of a new master plan, Imagine Flint. It is now a function of the Department of Planning and Development, and exists as a millage with the majority of millage dollars going towards mowing and utilities.
Flint has 1881 acres of parks divided into 70 different parks and public spaces.
Edwards said that in Genesee county, there are very few communities that actually have Parks and Recreation departments, but that cities the size of Flint usually do.
Talking to residents through the Adopt-A-Park program and finding grant funding is how Edwards says, “we get things done.”
“I kind of refer to these things as a house of cards,” she said. “I stack things, hope it doesn’t fall down, and then hope to get things done.”
Installation of the new playgrounds likely won’t begin for at least a couple months, Edward said.
She has to wait for the actual purchase order, submit the order, and then wait for delivery and installation which she says will most likely be delayed due to COVID-19.
“I hope we will be able to get in the ground before the ground freezes but it’s entirely likely given what’s going on, that it might not happen until next spring or early summer,” she said. “I hope it will be in before December but I’m not holding my breath.”
Still, Edwards said she’s excited about these two playgrounds and that she’s in the process of working on getting playgrounds for other parks now, too.
Why are all grant monies being used in one area of the city? The south side of Flint us a very diverse community. Freeman School has a lot of potential. The baseball field has been neglected for years. McKinley Jr School should be torn down as blight continues to get worse with the closing of the building. Tear it down like Cody School was and turn that property into something the entire community can enjoy.
Some local foundations have identified focus areas for their funding. The majority of the funding is being funneled to the north side of Flint.
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