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Jun 17

City Of Champion Parks

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This past weekend cemented the greatest sports year since 1979 as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings on the road in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins became the first road team to win a Game 7 since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series. They became the first hockey team do so since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens beat the Chicago Blackhawks. They also became the first hockey team ever to win the Cup after losing the first two games of a series twice. When you couple this with the amazing comeback by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl in February of this year, Pittsburgh is indeed the City of Champions once again.

Well, anyway.

So I’m in Pittsburgh this past weekend celebrating with kindred spirits when someone comes running up to me and yells, “What’s your parks resume?”

I have to be perfectly honest, I had no idea what this person was talking about. Everyone was celebrating. It was a joyous occassion. I figured this person was probably drunk. This kind of stuff happens to me a lot more than you would imagine.

“What’s your parks resume?” this person kept shouting.

It took me a second, but I figured it out. This person wanted to know what was up with the adopt-a-park program we’ve been doing in Ypsilanti’s Prospect Park for the past several months.

If you haven’t been to Ypsilanti’s Prospect Park, you should go. It’s truly the jewel of the City. Riverside and Frog Island Parks are great for festivals and walking along the Huron River, but there’s something about Prospect Park that screams community. Go there on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you’ll often see more than a hundred people playing baseketball, having a picnic at one of the pavillions, or playing on the playground equipment. Depending on the time of day, you’re liable to catch a game of street hockey on the tennis courts. Prospect Park gets used. A lot.

The Historic East Side Neighborhood Association spearheaded a project to restore the old Luna Lake site into a modern interpretation of its Victorian past. The project evolved and eventually encompassed the four neighborhood associations that surround the park. The goal was to take the energy of the residents who live near the park had for the park and channel it into something spectacular for the neighborhood and City.

This past Saturday was the annual spring work day for the project. Reports that upwards of 35 people showed up to move nearly thirty cubic yards of mulch, plant flowers, shrubs, and trees, and do some general weeding to keep the project looking top notch. The project continues to thrive under the direction of landscape architect and East Side neighbor Rachel Blistein of Veris Design. Lunch was generously provided by the Sidetrack Bar & Grill.

Back in March, Council member Pete Murdock and I organized the first ever Prospect Park Summit. The goal behind this was to build on the moment that was created by the Luna Lake project and tackle impactful, one-day projects in the park that aren’t normally handled by the City’s Department of Public Works. Nearly forty people showed for the first meeting including representatives from all the surrounding neighborhood associations, the Ann Arbor YMCA, the Recreation Commission, the City of Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Public Schools.

The outcome of this meeting was a giant list of things people wanted to accomplish. The purpose was not to organize another group to do things. The real intent was to find something someone was passionate about and have them lead the project. For example, if you had children who used the playground equipment, you might be inspired to get new chains for the swing sets. Or you might be motivated to add mulch for fall protection under that same equipment. People are more engaged when they have a personal stake in a project. We want everyone to feel like they have ownership in Prospect Park.

The first and most simple thing to come out of the summit was that of a weekly litter patrol. On Sundays at 6PM, folks from the neighborhood go to the park and pick up any trash they find on the ground. Each of the four neighborhood associations is repsonsible for a week. The Historic East Side does the first Sunday, Prospect Park does the second, Miles Street does the third, and East Prospect Park does the fourth. If there happens to be a fifth sunday like there was in May, we hope that everyone shows up to help.

The litter patrol has been very successful. It usually ends up taking only 30 minutes to go through the park. The DPW has noticed the park is cleaner when they come to cut the grass. By picking up the trash, we make it easier for the workers to cut the grass. No longer do they have to waste time picking trash up off the ground before they mow. Cleanliness is contagious. The point behind this project was not to save money for the City. The point was to make the park even better than it is now.

While it’s often said a camel is a horse designed by committee, Council member Murdock successfully took input from everyone who wanted to give it and came up with a list of rules for the park. With a generous donation from the Ward’s two council members, signs were purchased and installed. Presently they are about fifteen feet off the ground with one by the
basketball court and the other on the pavillion near East Cross Street.

In the coming weeks, groups will be painting the pavillions as well as the cannon on Prospect Road. In addition, there has been interest in fixing up the baseball field. Finally, Wireless Ypsi will come to the park by the end of July.

What is happening now — in fact what is happening this weekend — is the delivery and installation of 260 cubic yards of engineered mulch for the playground equipment. The Ypsilanti Public Schools were gracious enough to split the cost of the mulch with the City of Ypsilanti. The residents of the neighborhood are going to put their Puritan-like work ethic on display and move that mulch beginning this Friday morning. Another generous donation is allowing Council member Murdock to rent a bobcat to do the heavy lifting.

Seriously now, if you have a wheelbarrow or a shovel or a rake, stop by sometime this weekend and pitch in on the project. Just like Luna Lake is the largest rain garden in the entire City, moving this mulch will be the largest such undertaking in more than fifteen years.

If you’d like to help or want more information on what is needed, or if you have access to a bobcat, drop either me or Council member Murdock an email and let us know you want to work.

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