City applying for grant funding toward park

EVART — Evart municipal planners aren’t letting any grass grow under their feet — even when it comes to work on the city’s park areas.

In 2011, the city began developing master plans to guide planners in a variety of fields — including the city’s parks and recreation program.

Hard on the adoption of a Recreational Master Plan last year, city administrators contracted with a landscape design team to create a new vision for the parks and recreation program.

City Council members approved the hiring of a planning consultant, Marlis Manning, of Manning Design, to make sure everything was in order as they work their way through the grant application process.

While city planners are looking to develop the North End Park into a useable recreational complex, and to expand opportunities in the East Riverside Park area, first at hand is the development of growth plans for the existing Riverside Park.

Plans for park development were divided into six phases.

Phase One involves the improvement of playground facilities and activities in West Riverside Park.

To date, and not necessarily connected with the new Master Plan program, the park has enjoyed some development with the paving of a walking path along the Muskegon River, the construction of a fishing pier, (mirroring a second pier on the east side of the river), and some improvements to the camping area.

Now city officials hope to create better opportunities for families and young people with the creation of a playground center.

“We decided the first phase of any program we might take on would be to replace old and unsafe playground equipment,” reported City Manager Zack Sczakas.

“This will create a play area in the northeast corner of the park designed for kids from ages 5-12,” he continued.

“The extended program will not only involve playground equipment and play areas, but will also include expansion of some camping facilities.”

Initial work will begin in the northeast because of grading and flooding issues as work gets nearer the river on the east and south portions of the park.

The city is in the process of applying for grant funding through the state Department of Recreation — a $100,000 Recreation Passport grant.

Actual cost of Phase One is expected to come in at just over $97,000.

The city’s local match will be approximately $52,000, but some $12,000 of that sum could be absorbed in ‘in-kind’ work by city DPW crews.

“We have the money set aside for our portion of the project,” noted Sczakas. “We’ve been saving a number of years in order to be ready to undertake this program in measured phases.

“We’re ready to go, and hope the state will award us the money.”

Manning is excited at the potential the new park development holds for residents of Evart and visitors to the area.

“This is a project that will directly benefit the people of Evart, the users of this park, and neighborhood kids specifically,” she pointed out.

“There really is no easy access to playground equipment for children in this area of the city. They need to cross U.S. 10 in order to get to a playground.

“Also, the equipment now at Riverside Park is really outdated.

“We would hope to see the park system in Evart start being better used when facilities are updated.”

Manning said she hoped people in and around Evart would better realize the great park system they had close at hand.

“Riverside Park really is a hidden gem,” she pointed out.

“Passing through town, it is hard to know these beauty spots exist.

“We hope this program will better highlight some of the good things this community has to offer.”