FERNDALE — Looking to earn more money to make citywide park improvements and continue Ferndale’s economic development, the Ferndale City Council, on July 28, approved decommissioning Saratoga Park from the city’s master plan. The city will try to sell the property to a nearby business.
Saratoga Park is located on East Saratoga Street, between Bonner and Farrow streets, and is just less than a half-acre of land. Community and Economic Development Director Derek Delacourt said the lot is a city block wide and only about 80 feet deep.
Delacourt told council that the park rarely is used and consists of one basketball hoop, a grill and a few picnic tables. Nearby parks, such as Vester and Wanda parks, are within a reasonable distance for residents living near Saratoga Park.
“Saratoga Park is identified in the city’s park and recreation plan as a park, but it has no programming for the park and it is a piece of property that has the potential to maybe allow relief for parking issues in the industrial area over there with the expansion that has taken place,” he said.
“We have been looking at all options to look at parks and make improvements in accordance with the master plan and the mayor’s park committee, and when we presented the idea to the parks and recreation board, they made the motion to de-list the property as much for the fact as there is no programming for the park and it is surrounded by industrial use.”
Another big reason for the Parks and Recreation Commission’s decision was a lack of accessibility to the park. Both Bonner and Farrow streets are dead-end streets and the park lies near the railroad in the city’s industrial zoning area.
The park has 119 households within a quarter mile, making it the park with the least demand in the city. Other parks have an average of 436 households in a similar distance.
Residents in the nearby vicinity were notified of the proposed decommission, and Delacourt said resident Frank Reid came forward with a concern not on decommissioning the park, but on getting rid of the basketball hoop. Reid helped get the basketball hoop put up in honor of his father about 15 years ago.
“When we got the basketball hoop up, it was not just for the kids, but for my dad who was a coach for 30 years, so it is a personal thing for me,” Reid said to council. “I would like to see the hoop moved over to Vester and repurposed, and I have no problem at all as long as that is done. It would be a shame to lose something we already have.”
Councilman Greg Pawlica, who serves as council’s liaison for the Parks and Recreation Commission, said the nearly hourlong discussion in June ended with everyone deciding that decommissioning the park was the best option for the city.
“Everyone was a little hesitant of removing park space from our city; however, most if not all agreed a lot of resources were being wasted on a small strip of space with no programming in the park,” Pawlica said. “With the approval, a number of recommendations were made: with money being raised through the sale being reinvested in our parks; the removal of equipment being redistributed in other parks; with any existing trees on the property having new trees be planted in an existing park; and pedestrian crossings to make it easier to cross Nine Mile to get to Vester Park.”
Delacourt said an estimated value of the parkland has not been identified yet, but the most appropriate use would be for a nearby business to purchase the land from the city and turn it into additional parking. With council’s approval, the plan is to mark the lot for sale to gauge interest.
If the park doesn’t bring in as much money as city officials determine it is worth, Delacourt said council always has the option to recommission the park into the master plan.
With the industrial area of Ferndale growing in recent years, Councilwoman Melanie Piana said it makes sense not to have a park in the middle of that area.
“It is clear to me that this property area has changed over the years, and I just think it is not a great place where you want children congregating to play,” she said. “I am not one to want to remove park space, but it doesn’t seem like it fits this area anymore. I am in favor of exploring what the cost can be for the city if we sell it and if it is worthwhile.”
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