Something new may be brewing at Marine City’s parks.
After green-lighting the pursuit of grant funds for smaller improvements at two recreational sites — Marine City Beach and the Tot Lot — officials emphasized the new push for parks and recreation at a recent commission meeting.
Some commissioners have said they want to be better kept in the loop as opportunities emerge, including mulling over future options to turn the city’s King Road Park into a destination site.
But moving forward, Marine City Mayor Jennifer Vandenbossche said she was looking forward to learning what those opportunities would be — and what ideas local residents could also contribute.
“I would like to actually have some public concept meetings, as well,” she said. “Just something where the public can come in maybe a little bit ahead of time and give us what they think."
Listening to residents became a theme among candidates in the recent city election. Three new voices appeared at the Nov. 17 commission meeting with Vandenbossche and Commissioners Rita Roehrig and Mike Hilferink filling two of the three open seats this year.
The meeting ended with a report from Marine City Manager Holly Tatman, recalling the hope among city staff to pursue grant efforts for recreational and park upgrades — namely on King Road.
And in that, she had with a clear message to residents: “We hear you.”
“I just want the public to know we are paying attention. … We see the Facebook posts. We see all that stuff about suggestions. Please know we are working on that,” Tatman said. “We’ve heard the asks for skate parks. We’ve heard the ask for (a) splash pad. We’ve heard the ask for new playground equipment.”
The city manager attributed the latter requests to the city-owned 27-acre site at 6370 King Road, where there is space for new amenities. It already includes a pavilion with tables, bleacher seating, concessions, restrooms, a children’s play area, a basketball court, and a seasonal ice rink.
Vandenbossche later said Tatman’s report was the “most detailed” she’d heard about the King Road idea but agreed it was a good opportunity to plug in the most mentioned wish list items if grant support was available.
“I absolutely want to do that. There’s so much potential out at that big park,” the mayor said. “It’s got the grounds, it’s got the parking, it’s got the sled hills. We’ve already got some baseball diamonds out there. It’s ideally a large space we could do a lot with.”
Tatman also said they were “still on board” to pursue talks with East China Schools in picking up land adjacent to Washington Life Center for a park on the north end of town “because we know that’s a need.”
Although the timeline to bring future ideas to commissioners for approval wasn’t set, Vandenbossche said they have to finish plans for improvements at the beach and Tot Lot first.
What park improvements are already in the works?
On Nov. 17, Marine City commissioners OK’d the city’s intent to replace aging play equipment at the Tot Lot, or the mini-park at South Main and Washington streets. That’d also entail adding prefabricated bathroom facilities, as Tatman cited complaints about the lack of restrooms on-site.
Commissioners also approved the direction to renovate Marine City Beach’s restroom facilities, among other smaller improvements.
Some commissioners pushed back on the lack of detail being presented at the time, but Tatman said they were just looking for approvals to pursue the development of plans as part of the application process for a Spark Grant through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Tatman told officials some staff were left discouraged in past efforts after “how hard we’ve had to fight for grants” in getting commissioners’ approval.
“Frankly, we didn’t want to put a bunch of time and hours into this if it wasn’t going to be supported,” she said. “So, we want to know the board supports the efforts of this grant and then we will finalize the application and turn it in.”
Commissioners will be asked to sign off on state grant applications due Dec. 19 at the City Commission’s Dec. 15 meeting. Officials said it’d give both commissioners and residents time to look over project details before the grant application is submitted.
Still, some commissioners said there was a reason they push so hard.
Lisa Hendrick, newly appointed as mayor pro tem this month, said they want to make sure “the public is aware,” and that they’ve time to give input on any needed changes.
“We’re not up here trying to be a thorn in your side,” Hilferink added. “…. When you make decisions for this city, there’s this whole population here that wants to know about those decisions. And if they don’t like those decisions, it’s not your door that they’re going to knock on. It’s ours.”
Tatman said the DNR’s Spark Grant program was geared toward parks and recreation concepts and applicable in phases. Depending on approval, commissioners could be presented with more in-depth proposals that include new amenities and, unlike the initial beach and Tot Lot ideas, require engineering.
Marine City’s City Commission next meets at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 260 S. Parker St. Agendas are listed a few days in advance at www.cityofmarinecity.org.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: Marine City officials outlining future push for recreation, park improvements