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Madison Heights uses grants to fund park and recreation improvements

MADISON HEIGHTS A new playscape is coming soon to Rosie’s Park, paid for with a mix of city funds and grant dollars and it’s just the latest example of how Madison Heights is leveraging outside sources to realize park improvements.

The Madison Heights City Council accepted a GameTime Sinclair Recreation grant last month for $66,000 toward the replacement playscape at Rosie’s Park, 1111 E. Farnum Ave. The city will pay $157,000 to cover the rest of the project.

The new playscape will feature a summery vibe with bright yellows slides, lime-green railings and orange climbing structures, as well as a separate set of swings nearby. Originally, the project had been planned for the next fiscal year, but the grant opportunity means it will be completed this spring.

Madison Heights City Manager Melissa Marsh credited Adam Owczarzak the assistant to the city manager and Public Works Supervisor Sean Ballantine with applying for the grant. The city has a history of making diligent use of grant opportunities, but has been especially proactive in seeking them during a pandemic that has put the squeeze on the local economy.

Near the end of last year, the city received a $54,000 Play Everywhere grant from Kaboom, which is paying for the addition of play features, signage, and an outdoor patio and performance area at the Madison Heights Public Library. The city recently completed installation of interactive musical instruments on the library grounds as part of this project. That project is called Playful Tranquility, and also includes a new outdoor mural on the library facade.

In June 2021, the city partnered with the National Fitness Campaign and Priority Health to install a $150,000 Fitness Court at Huffman Park, which included $50,000 in city funding, $50,000 in private donations, and a $50,000 grant from Priority Health. The facility features a variety of outdoor exercise equipment that visitors are free to use.

And in August, Madison Heights Progress Forward funded a replacement baseball backstop at Edison Park, while the Michigan State Housing Development Authority provided $12,500 for the addition of a small playscape at Exchange Park. Madison Heights Progress Forward is funded by two local marijuana companies, Puff Cannabis and Liberty Cannabis.

Marsh said that the vision for recent projects was first articulated back in the fall of 2018 when the Madison Heights City Council conducted its first strategic plan, during which the focus for the next several years became clear, including public safety, financial stability and quality of life, with a specific emphasis on the parks.

The city also conducted a master plan for parks and recreation, which relied on feedback from residents to determine how the city would begin this investment.

Parks are proven to have many benefits to residents and the city, including increased property values, attractiveness to homebuyers and businesses, and healthy residents, Marsh said in an email. We are very excited to have invested so heavily in enhancing our park features, especially through over $230,000 in grant funds to supplement tax expenditures.

Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett said that it’s important the parks continue to meet the moment with amenities that cater to a variety of groups, including those with disabilities.

I think it’s terribly important that we continue to move aggressively forward to meet the demands of young families in our community for renewal of the park system and updating the recreational facilities, Corbett said in an email. We need to keep up with the demands of a changing demographic profile for a community that is skewing younger.  Neighborhood parks that offer multiple opportunities for family enjoyment are a must.

High on my punch list is remembering to ensure that all of our children, including those with certain physical and emotional challenges, find opportunities for play in our parks, Corbett added. The equipment must be accessible for all. That reflects not only the best of us as a community, but our feelings towards including all children in the potential of our park system.

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