By Ian Perrotta
If only it really was the thought that counts.
On Wednesday (March 24) the Hamtramck Recreation Commission hosted a special meeting for the public on parks in the city. Unfortunately, the public didn’t show up to provide their input.
One person who did show up, however, was Leah Murphy of Interface Studio, an urban design company helping update the city’s Master Plan. She was there to talk about the team’s findings and to get the commission’s opinion on park-related issues.
Murphy said that the Master Plan update team received a total of 250 responses to their open space survey, and that a two-thirds majority of respondents felt unsatisfied with the community’s parks and their facilities, believing that there was room for improvement. Regardless, she felt that the negative perceptions could be changed.
“Despite the problems faced by the parks, there really is a lot of potential,” said Murphy. “Our main focus is to make parks as inviting as possible.”
To do so, the proposed plan will try to incorporate suggestions from the public on what to place in the park. Among the citizen requests were calls for dog parks and tot parks at Veterans Park, as well as a desire for a cricket field to be added somewhere. More pedestrian, bike and vehicle circulation through the park is also a priority, as is adding light for safety and visibility.
The meeting wasn’t all fun and games, however. At several of Murphy’s suggestions Recreation Commission President Dave Olko was vocal with his opposition, providing reasons why he felt they would not work.
A particularly sore spot was reached when ownership of Veterans Park came up, with Olko saying he didn’t want to get into the politics of the issue. But while he said that it was “the biggest roadblock to anything,” he also expressed a willingness to resolve the dispute.
“We’re willing to work with anyone to fix it,” he said.
The city officially owns the park but for several years the Public School District leased the park and maintained it. A few years ago, city officials kicked the district out amid intense political in-fighting.
Also on Wednesday, the regular meeting of the Recreation Commission was held. Abbreviated due to the length of the preceding forum on parks, only a few issues were discussed.
One issue was a continuation from a previous meeting, at which there were talks of reconstituting salvageable playground equipment from closed-down schools in Detroit for use in Hamtramck. Recreation Commission Director Craig Daniels said that the ownership of the equipment has since transferred to the demolition companies, but he is still keen on moving forward with the plan.
A preview of how that could be done may come from the transfer of a playscape already in Hamtramck. The sole action-item on the night’s agenda was a vote to remove the existing playscape at Pulaski Park, which is built for 5-to-12-year-olds, and relocate it to Holbrook Elementary. The cost to do that is estimated at $13,000. A playscape targeted for 2-to 5-year-olds is planned to replace the existing equipment.
“Over at Holbrook there isn’t a play structure,” Daniels said. “We want to provide a play structure.”