It is probably fitting that the month of July is Parks and Recreation Month. It is the only full month of summer when the weather is nice enough to be outside and do something. And for many individuals, the best place and way to do that something is at a local park.
So in honor of July being Parks and Recreation Month, I decided —in a two-part series — to check out what is happening in both the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood when it comes to parks and recreation.
This piece focuses on Wyoming. To check out the Kentwood Parks and Recreation Department story, click here.
By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Besides the 28 West project finally moving forward this summer, the City of Wyoming had another big reason to celebrate the summer of 2016: Ideal Park reopened.
The park was one of the casualties of the tornado of 2014 with the city spending the past two years cleaning up the debris and replacing the trees.
“I know a lot about insurance and what it covers,” said Director of Community Serices Rebecca Rynbrandt with a little laugh. For example, insurance would help with the removal of the trees but not all of the debris and deadfall that was left. Also, the city had to fill in where the trees once stood.
“With 100-year-old trees they had pretty large bulbs which left large holes that had to be backfilled,” Rynbrandt said.
The cost for the tree removal was more than $500,000 and with like any budget, when something happens, you may have to shuffle a few things around, Rynbrandt said. So the city did a little rearranging of its almost $5 million parks and recreation budget, of which about $3 million comes from a 1.5 millage approved by Wyoming voters in the mid-1990s. The rest of the budget comes from grants at about $1.5 million and service and rental fees.
There is a lot left to do at Ideal Park — such as replacing the playground equipment, improve signage, adding a basketball court, establish a trailhead, and foliage and vegetation — which the city is hoping a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund will help cover some of the costs.
But Ideal Park is open and it’s a nice way to mark the month of July, which happens to be Parks and Recreation Month.
The current American Parks and Recreation system actually dates back to the early 1900s, when a growing concern for leisure activities gave birth to the recreation movement which had four components: the adult education movement; the development of national, state, and municipal parks, the establishment of voluntary organizations and the playground movement. Around 1935, many states were passing laws allowing local municipalities to operate parks and recreation departments and by the early 1940s, organized recreation services were firmly established in American life.
Today, Parks and Recreation Departments, like those in the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood, offer a host of programs for all ages along with overseeing the care and maintenance of its parks.
The city of Wyoming has 21 parks totaling about 700 acres and a vast majority of the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget goes for the care and maintenance of those parks such as resurfacing projects, new fencing and tree replacement. It may not be as noticeable as new playground equipment other amenities, but such general maintenance is important in keeping the parks safe and vital for the community.
“If you are on the Wyoming Public Schools tennis team, you are going to notice the tennis courts have been resurfaced,” Rynbrandt said. “Someone who uses the baseball field 8 at Pinery Park is going to notice the new backstop and if you are a passionate dog owner, you are going to notice the new canine castle at the dog park.
Along with the resurfacing and redevelopment projects at Pinery, Lamar, Lemery, and Jackson, the 30-year-old exercise equipment at Pinery Park was replaced this year.
But the parks are only one component of what the Parks and Recreation Department handles. The Department oversees the Wyoming Senior Center, which received security upgrades along with a new front entrance. The Department also provides support for special events such as the Concerts in the Park series run by the Wyoming Community Enrichment Program as well as community programs, such as the Pumpkin Patch and T.E.A.M. 21 Fun Run, and athletic programs such as the football program formerly run by the South Kent Recreation Association (SKRA).
And another of its biggest projects for the summer is the renovation of the Wyoming Library facility, which the city owns the building and Kent District Library owns the collection. The $800,000 project includes resurfacing the parking lot, new carpet and furniture and converting the former Book Warm Cafe into a new multipurpose area for meetings and other activities.
There is more on the horizon, Rynbrandt said. The city’s five-year parks plan shows more than $26 million in capital need, which includes major maintenance and replacing of assets such as playgrounds, fencing and trail work. Among those capital improvements is funding the master plans for Ferrand, Oriole Phase II, Jackson and Gezon.