Published August 27, 2014
Parks and Rec Dept. maps out future projects
By Jeremy Selweski jSelweski@candgnews.com
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — With the adoption of its new master plan, the Macomb Township Parks and Recreation Department put in writing its intentions to add more parks to the township, as well as open a long-awaited dog park and build a new facility for hosting community events.
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Aug. 13 to approve the master plan, which covers the years 2015-2019.
The 95-page document includes a huge amount of information, but at its heart, it discusses many of the department’s goals and ambitions over the next five years and beyond.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Sal DiCaro, “This master plan is really just a wish list for us. We’d like to do all of (these projects), but we also know that realistically, that will be a very difficult thing to do. The important thing here is how it all relates to funding, because you can’t apply for grant money for anything that’s not on your wish list.”
Township Clerk Michael Koehs added that it will ultimately fall to the Board of Trustees to give each of these items the green light.
“There’s no commitment of (township) funds to any of these projects at this point — they’re still just plans,” he said. “It’s up to the board to prioritize which projects actually get done, because we all know that resources are limited right now. But I think overall, what you see in this plan is a really valid list of projects. They all have their merits, and they all have their parts that need further consideration.”
The most immediate goal outlined in the master plan will be to establish the township’s first dog park. The Board of Trustees voted in May 2013 to allow DiCaro to begin creating a site plan and receiving cost estimates for the project, and DiCaro initially anticipated that the park would be completed in the spring of 2014. However, the project encountered a number of delays along the way and now will likely not be finished until next year.
The dog park will be located behind Macomb Township Fire Station No. 2 along 21 Mile Road between Garfield and Romeo Plank roads. The property, which is roughly 5 acres in size, is currently an unused open field that township officials had never previously found a good use for.
DiCaro stated that he is waiting for the township and the Macomb County Department of Roads to move forward with their planned resurfacing of 21 Mile from Garfield to Romeo Plank, which will involve the addition of a bypass lane in front of the fire station in order to reduce the amount of traffic buildup in that area.
Once that job is complete, DiCaro believes that construction of the dog park should be a “pretty quick and inexpensive” process. Most of the costs will go toward building a fence all around the park, installing water lines to provide drinking fountains for dogs and their owners, and putting in an electrical line that will power the electronic front gate.
“The dog park was never part of our master plan before,” DiCaro said, “but now that there’s been such strong public support for it, we decided to add it to our new master plan. The spring of 2015 is probably a realistic estimate for when we’ll be ready to open it to the public.”
Another major goal of the master plan is for township officials to purchase two or three new properties for the development of both active and passive parks. According to DiCaro, active parks are those like Macomb Corners Park, which has numerous amenities and plenty of space, and encourages residents to spend an entire afternoon there. Meanwhile, passive parks are those like Waldenburg Park, which is smaller and has fewer things to do, so residents are more likely to stay for just a little while.
While DiCaro does not have any specific properties in mind at this time, he noted that his options are limited, as the southern half of the township is fully developed and the northeast quadrant already has Macomb Corners Park.
“One area where we’re truly deficient is additional acreage for park land,” he said. “The north end of the township, west of Romeo Plank, is very inviting for us because we don’t have any properties over there right now. We would definitely like to establish another big active park like Corners, but smaller parcels of land are welcome, too.”
There is no specific timeline for developing these new parks yet, DiCaro added. However, the master plan lists a goal of acquiring land for the first park during the 2015-16 fiscal year, acquiring land for the second park in 2016-17, acquiring land for the third park in 2018-19 and completing the first two parks in 2019-20.
The plan also calls for the development of new trails and walkways across the township, as well as the creation of a sledding hill. DiCaro stated that the sledding hill is “a good idea, but it’s just an idea at this point,” as officials have not yet had any formal discussions about it.
Perhaps the biggest and most ambitious project outlined in the new master plan, though, is the construction of a Community Center that would be located in the Town Center area near 25 Mile and Broughton roads. The new facility would be built on the plot of land directly across from the Recreation Center and Township Hall. It’s the same site where Macomb Township had been negotiating with Shelby Township for the last several years to construct a new 41-A District Court building before those plans were ultimately abandoned last November.
As Koehs explained, “The Community Center would be a place for (private) groups to gather to host conferences, wedding receptions, banquets, dances and other events like that. And the township could obviously use that space, too. I think that’s a valid endeavor for any municipality to pursue.”
DiCaro also supports this project because it would give his department a place to host events such as its annual Halloween Hoopla, which ordinarily is held at the Recreation Center but requires DiCaro and his staff to close the facility down for the evening.
“That whole project picked up a lot of steam after the new courthouse (negotiations) fell through and we had that big parcel of land just sitting there, not being used for anything,” he said. “We started thinking about, ‘What should we put there?’ and this seemed like a really viable possibility.”
The master plan calls for a Community Center feasibility study to be conducted during the 2016-17 fiscal year, design work to be done in 2017-18, the first phase of development to be implemented in 2018-19 and the facility to be completed in 2019-2020.
All of these projects add up to a parks and rec master plan that is meant to accommodate a rapidly growing community, one whose population DiCaro believes will hit 100,000 in just a few years.
“The township is growing so fast right now,” he said, “and the new people who are moving here want the same types of amenities that they had where they used to live. So even though it seems like we’ve got a lot of big projects lined up in this plan, I think this is still just the tip of the iceberg.”
For more information, call the Recreation Center at (586) 992-2900 or visit www.macomb-mi.gov and click on the “Parks and Recreation” tab.