By Madison Morse
Living in the Ledge Staff Reporter
Two of Grand Ledge’s most well-known parks are getting a makeover.
Starting this construction season, Jaycee Park and Oak Park will be undergoing expansions. The motion was brought forward at the April 11 City Council meeting. The additions will be made to fit the needs of the community, according to City Administrator Adam Smith.
“The acquisition will provide for the expansion of Jaycee Park and enhance a connector trail for the existing river walk and new non-motorized trail facility,” said Smith. “As discussed in city’s 2011 Parks and Recreation Plan, the need to provide fishing opportunities, wildlife viewing and public recreation opportunities.”
“Oak Park contains some of the most spectacular outcrops of bedrock ledges in the area. The project will enable improved access to recreational opportunities and will provide for improved maintenance of the natural features of the site through addressing erosion control and storm-water run-off.”
University of Utah Parks, Recreation and Tourism Professor Jeff Rose said that he believes the project is a smart move for the community.
“Jaycee Park boat launch adds a bit more water front opportunities. This is one of the trends that is occurring across the country. Boards are trying to get money donated and purchase land adjacent water resources,” said Rose. “Oak Park has lots of multiple use opportunities. All of which are looking for multiple uses of particular resources. Lots of different groups are satisfied. Everyone is happy. I believe these expansions are fairly intuitive and reasonable.”
The new expansion will provide multiple new amenities to each of the parks as well.
“This project (Jaycee Park) will provide increased public access to the Grand River shoreline available for fishing, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking and wildlife viewing,” said Smith.
“The added lands (to Oak Park) will also provide approximately 270 additional feet of Grand River frontage for public fishing, wildlife viewing, recreation, urban trail connection, and education,” Smith continued.
However, a project of this size does not come without having to lose a piece of property in the process.
“We just purchased a house right at the end of the park with a lot of property, maybe 200 feet or more waterfront property. The house is going to come down in the next few weeks,” said Grand Ledge Mayor Kalmin Smith. “Then right where the house itself sat is going to be a parking area for some of the trailers that bring boats. Once we get control of the property we will be able to connect the walking paths.”
No reward comes without risk, said Pennsylvania State University Recreation, Park and Tourism Management Professor Benjamin Hickerson.
“The unfortunate thing for parks is that land is worth a lot of money and many people view land differently. They say it’s a place to develop or live,” said Hickerson. “It’s difficult to acquire land for parks. You would hope that you’re not forcing anyone into losing a house or their land but it’s all apart of the plan. It’s a difficult thing to do but expand in a way that accommodates everyone.”
Despite the loss of the house, residents of Grand Ledge are excited for the expansion to be underway.
“I am really looking forward to the expansions at Oak and Jaycee Park. One of the biggest factors in moving to Grand Ledge was all the beautiful parks. My fiancé and I enjoy taking our dogs on walks at all the local parks. So I was super happy to hear of the approval of the park expansion,” said Grand Ledge resident Courtney Kilbourn.
“As an avid kayaker, I really hope the boat launch makes the Grand River more accessible,” she said. “As the owner of three dogs, I really hope they add a dog park at Oak Park as part of their addition. Myself and the community are very excited for this great opportunity we have been given.”
Now that a plan is set in motion, it’s full steam ahead said Kalmin Smith.
“I think most of the basic problems of the city are under control. Our budget is pretty solid right now. So the little things we keep doing depend on where the opportunities are. We’ve got all this property along the river and it’s time to get it better developed.”