BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Nothing lasts forever, even the playground equipment at Bay Court Park.
Thus, changes are coming – and for the better.
The Independence Township Parks, Recreation and Seniors Department is in the process of applying for a Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant through the Department of Natural Resources to assist with the renovations of the Bay Court Park playground.
Independence Township Director of Parks, Recreation and Seniors Derek Smith said the playground is one of the premier attractions at Bay Court Park.
“Due to its size and appeal to all ages of children, and the relaxing nature of the park, the playground has a large number of visitors throughout the spring, summer and fall,” Smith said. “ITPRS currently has $200,000 marked in its 2020 Capital Improvement Plan for the replacement of the amenity. The Land Water Conservation Fund Grant would add the additional $200,000 towards the completion of the project’s estimated cost of $400,000.”
The current playground at Bay Court was originally built in 1994, “a labor of love for our Department and many in the community,” said Smith.
“The community not only came together to raise funds to support the project, but it was also a community build,” Smith added. “Unfortunately, all good things must come to end. The level of safety at the playground has become a major area of concern. By securing a grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we will be able to guarantee safety and provide the benefits of the modern standard.”
Smith also outlined what the renovations would include if the grant is attained and the project starts next spring. The grant application deadline is April 1, and ITPRS would receive notification of receiving the funds in late 2019 or early 2020.
“The playground replacement would entail preliminary drawings from playground manufacturers that preserve the historical blueprints of the original structure,” Smith said. “ITPRS would then need to purchase the equipment and bid the installation of the amenity. Removal of the old structure and excavating the site would follow. Upon receiving the new equipment, several manufacturers/installers have suggested having a ‘community assembly’ day that would reduce cost and a provide an opportunity for the community to have a hands-on volunteer experience to recapture the spirit of the original community-built structure.
“Once the equipment is assembled, a certified contractor will install the equipment following the requirements established by the National Park and Recreation Association’s Certified Playground Safety Inspector guidelines. ITPRS is seeking public input for the usage and preservation of the donor fence pieces and signage. One idea is to hang the donor sign in Brady Lodge with photos and historical timeline of the original structure.”
One of the grant application’s requirements is to collect letters of support from the residents. The letter submission deadline was March 22. Getting the public involved was an easy task for Smith to ask for assistance.
“The popularity and historical significance of the Bay Court playground should promote an enormous amount of community stewardship for the project,” said Smith. “ITPRS has taken into deep consideration the time, efforts and emotional investment of the people who constructed the original structure back in 1994. The Department is working closely with playground manufacturers who have experience in producing replicas of these types of community-build projects using modern materials and safety specifications to replace the structure with a near identical amenity.”
The project will include the complete removal of current playground structure and the installation of a new structure using all updated materials, technology and safety standards. All wood fibar (ground cover) will be replaced, and new seating will also be installed.
“This project will truly benefit the quality of life of our park visitors and program participants,” Smith said. “If awarded this grant, not only those that visit the playground with benefit, but so will the other amenities offered at the peaceful, and picturesque Bay Court Park including facility rentals, the disc golf course, Brady Lodge, the beach, day camps, and walking trail. Renovations also add economic impact value as destination facilities and increase property value for our community.”