Royal Oak seeks residents' views on master plan for city's 50 parks

Posted on December 12, 2016

With Royal Oak planning a 40-acre park at the former Normandy Oaks golf course and possibly another park downtown, residents are being asked to weigh in on what features they want to see at the city’s 50 parks.

City park officials are in the process of drafting a new master plan for the parks. A workshop at 7 p.m. Thursday is open to the public at the Mahany-Meininger Senior Center at 3500 Marais.

“We want to hear what people are interested in,” said Mike Ripinski, vice chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. “It will also be helpful in our overall priorities with what we do with Normandy Oaks, and a park downtown if that comes to fruition.”

Residents will also have other chances to speak out about features at Normandy Oaks and a downtown park, which is part of a proposed $100 million development of Royal Oak’s civic center.

But the vast majority parks are smaller and spread throughout neighborhoods in the city where residents picnic, jog, walk dogs and children play sports and other games.

A master plan for the parks is updated every five years and is necessary for the city to get government grants for improvements at parks.

Royal Oak’s last large recreational grant from the state Department of Natural Resources was for $750,000 to construct a second gym at the city-owned Salter Community Center on Lincoln Avenue near Campbell Road, said Tod Gazetti, superintendent of recreation in the Department of Public Services.

That was 16 years ago. Now, officials such as Gazetti and others are crafting a new master plan for parks with an eye toward getting more funding from the DNR.

“Every year we do a survey of residents,” he said. “What people have said they wanted ranges from a water feature to renovation of baseball fields, new playground equipment, picnic shelters and pathways.”

Cost and circumstances come into play, of course. Water features are too expensive to put into a small neighborhood park with relatively low usage. Similarly, it makes little sense to create a quarter-mile pathway or nature trail around a smaller park, Gazetti said.

In the past few years the city has installed about $110,000 worth of new playground equipment at two of the larger parks, funding much of it with city parking profits from the annual Arts, Beats & Eats festival.

Greg Rassel, head of the DPS, said the budget for parks in Royal Oak is just over $1 million a year and half of the money goes to maintaining them.

“This year we are doing new place signs and some play structures,” he said. “We get money from (federal) community block grants and Arts, Beats & Eats, but it’s not included in our budget because we can’t depend on that money being there every year.”

Thursday’s workshop at the senior center is the last chance residents will have to offer suggestions for the parks master plan. Like the city’s master plan, it gives officials a goal to work toward in updating parks as recreational desires change over the years.

Royal Oak in the past couple of years has focused on investing more in city parks as part of an initiative started by outgoing Mayor Jim Ellison.

Parks and recreation funding took a hit during the lean years following the Great Recession.

The process of working to create the city’s largest park at Normandy Oaks over the past two years has drawn increased interest in how the city designs and funds its parks.

A park at Normandy Oak will be funded with about $3.8 million the city gets for selling 10 acres of the former golf course to home developers. Details of amenities for the park, beyond the inclusion of soccer fields and nature areas, have yet to be determined.

Mike McConnell, Daily Tribune News .