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Mar 22

Saving Riverside Park

Comments (0) 12:00 AM posted by admin |

As most people already know, the City is trying to prepare the paperwork necessary to get a $116K grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund to make improvements to Riverside Park. In order to get the $87K, the City needs to come up with local matching funds of $29K. The deadline for submission is March 31st, but the City wants promised donations by this Friday (actual money is not required until the Fall). I had the good fortune to talk to defacto recreation director, Assistant City Manager Robert Bruner, about this to see how things were coming along. The good news is the City has raised $23K so far thanks to Elvisfest, the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, Festival Latino, the Ypsilanti Area JayCees, and the Ypsilanti Heritage Foundation, along with donations from private citizens. I’m told the Michigan Brewers Guild, of the Annual Summer Beer Festival, are meeting to figure out what they will donate. Hopefully they will come up with the other six grand, but there are no guarantees. With that in mind, I’m making a half-assed plea for others to donate.

One of the interesting things about this grant is they accept labor as part of the donation process. I had hoped that the going rate was $10 an hour, but sadly it’s the Federal minimum wage rate of $5.15 an hour. Regardless, it makes sense that the fourteen or so neighborhood associations in the City would step up and do their thing. Sadly, only the Historic East Side Neighborhood Association is considering this option. Not only do they have the most beautiful web site among the neighborhood associations, but they are benevolent too. Take that Normal Park!

The money is going to go towards tridge repairs, landscaping, and new playground equipment. The best thing about all of this is that they are going to fix the electric service so the lighting works. The City doesn’t even turn the lights on because the wiring is so shorted out. My safety is certainly worth a couple bucks. If my personal safety doesn’t compel you to cough up some dough, think about the fragile environment of the Smeet Frog. Do it for the Smeet Frog.

I’ve heard some complaints about the plan. The City is broke and most feel that fire and police service is more important than green space at this point in time. More importantly, we have other organizations working to improve things like the Freighthouse, keep the Rutherford pool open, and provide free wi-fi by building the EastCrossFreeNET, all without funding from the City. All of that is true, but this is a matching grant. How can you pass up action like that? I’ve also heard some complain that playground equipment is an extravagent expense and shouldn’t be part of the plan. After all, Prospect Park is loaded with stuff for kids to play with. That’s fine for folks like me who live very close to Prospect Park, but what about the kids who live on the South Side? Are we asking them to walk through Riverside Park on their way to Prospect Park? Or are we asking them to hoof it all the way to Recreation Park? When I lived on the South Side, I hardly ever used the swing sets of Prospect Park. I would like a park choice when it comes to my swinging activities.

Riverside Park is the jewel of Ypsilanti. If I were in charge, I’d be begging every organization in the state that holds some kind of festival to have it in Ypsi. Ever try and eat out around town after the Beer Festival? No one can tell me the businesses and restaurants don’t love those kind of things. There should be a festival there every week from June through September. Not funding its improvement is shameful.

Okay. Here’s the deal. You have three days to call Robert Bruner and pledge (although Daiva told me that she’s not driving the grant to Lansing until next week). After the 25th, we might have to wait until next year to apply for this money. That’s just too long. If 60 people pledge $100 each, we have our six grand. I’ll be the first, so we only need 59 more helpful Ypsilantians. Tell them I sent you, that way the City Administration will realize this grassroots interweb stuff can make a difference. If you don’t pledge something, anything, and I find out, I’m going to do donuts in your front yard. Don’t think I’m joking either. Iggy Pop‘s not the only person who’s not allowed back in Ann Arbor.

If you use the park, then donate. If you care about your city, then donate. If you expect more from Ypsilanti, then donate.

In an effort to make this easier for everyone, I’m going to tell you exactly what you need to do. Go here, and copy my letter to turn into the City Manager’s office. They’ll take it to Lansing and do the rest.

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