City commissioners approve amendment to park and recreation master plan

During a special meeting on Monday, members of the Big Rapids City Commission approved amending the park and recreation master plan 2017-21 to include text explaining specific elements to add to the Anna Howard Shaw Memorial Park next to the Big Rapids Community Library. These elements include implementing a literacy-focused playground, expanding the community garden and adding more parking. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — City staff are continuing efforts to bring an early literacy playground to children in the community.

During a special City Commission meeting on Monday, members of the board approved amending the language of the park and recreation master plan 2017-21 for the park next to the Big Rapids Community Library.

Director of Neighborhood Services Paula Priebe said the city’s master plan already included a general outline to add more playground equipment and other amenities to the Anna Howard Shaw Memorial Park. However, as more detailed elements have been considered, it was necessary to update the plan.

The amendment to the master plan states a literacy-themed playground and a community garden area would be added to the library park.

Specific details to be implemented include upgrading and expanding the playground area, adding paved walking paths and seating structures, increase lighting, improve the community garden, redesign and pave the parking lot along the alley, install interpretive and educational signage, install bicycle parking and improve the connection to the library for education and programs.

Lauren Moran, library director, said previously the elements to be in the literacy playground have not all been finalized, but it may include aspects such as panels with the alphabet and numbers on them for children to learn from as well as musical equipment.

“Any public space is good for the community, and it will help attract people to the library,” Moran said.

Priebe explained city staff currently are working with Fleis and VandenBrink, a civil engineering team, to update and complete site plans for the playground, as well as looking into methods for obtaining funding for the project.

One method being considered is applying for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passport Grant.

According to the DNR, the objective of this grant program is to provide funding to local units of government for the development of public recreation facilities, including the development of new facilities and the renovation of old facilities.

Priebe added several city departments are working together to complete the grant application by the April 1 deadline.

“We’re just waiting to see what happens with the grant,” Moran said. “We’re looking forward to getting the project underway.”

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