New plans to improve Bailey Park include eliminating “dog park” atmosphere

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Talks to improve one of East Lansing’s oldest outdoor spaces, Bailey Park, were advanced in the city’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Located in Bailey neighborhood north of Grand River Avenue and south of Burcham Road, Bailey Park has been used by the residents of the Bailey community and East Lansing since the 1920s for a wide array of outdoor recreational activities such as soccer, frisbee and a site for young children to play. But Wendy Longpre, Assistant Director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Arts, said dog owners in the community have been frequently using the park as a space to exercise their pets, which has been detrimental to other community members wanting to have access to the park.

“I think one of the big things with Bailey Park right now is because it is fenced it’s used like a dog park, which really limits other people from using it for park purposes,” Longpre said. “ It’s not a whole lot of fun for young people to go out and play soccer when there’s dog droppings all over the place, and moms not going to be really comfortable bringing her toddler there when there is a large dog running off leash in the park.”

Longpre said dog owners have been taking advantage of the park’s fenced structure to allow their pets to run freely, to exercise and participate in a recreational activity of their own.

“If we remove the fence then there’s nothing to keep their dogs on the park site if they let their dogs off leash, and that’s one of things a lot of them were doing was letting their dogs off leash so the dogs could run. And dogs need exercise, they need to run, so it was a convenient space for that purpose,” Longpre said.

Longpre said the committee’s desire to eradicate the dog park atmosphere from Bailey Park was one of the main driving forces behind the proposed plan to improve the park. And although a number of dog owners in the community originally objected to the proposal, Pam Weis, Vice Chair of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission said they eventually came to their senses.

“They’re aware that it’s not really legal to have your dog off leash and that’s not really a kosher use,” Weis said.

The state of Michigan’s dog leash law states that whenever dogs are not on their owner’s property, they must be restrained with a leash. And while some cities and townships in Michigan give some leeway to dog owners in regards to this law, those exceptions are not applicable to the city of Lansing.

Weis and Longpre said despite the changes to the park, they still hopes the committee can find another area close to the Bailey community to mark as an official dog park.

“We did hear another option raised of a possibility for another location in that neighborhood, that’s something we’re willing to look into,” Longpre said. “We’re willing to talk with people about some other options and some other ways to provide for that use, but this park is no longer going to be available for that use.”

Michael Duke

East Lansing Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee deliberate improvements to Bailey Park, including eliminating fencing. (Weis pictured third from the left).

Bailey Park has increasingly been made available for the personal use of dog owners since late 2016, when the Bailey Community Center, formerly located adjacent to the park, began to be transformed into a senior housing structure after it was leased by a non-profit agency.

Weis said she was not originally in favor of the changes to the Bailey park, but is confident the new plans for the park will offset some of her past uncertainties.

“I didn’t support the leasing of the building for rental, even senior rental. It will definitely be an asset to the neighborhood and it’s an improvement on that park,” Weis said.

Capital Area Housing Partnership completed the senior housing project and unveiled the Liberty Hyde Bailey Center in September 2017. Longpre said the construction caused consequential impacts to Bailey Park, and that CAHP agreed to help fund some of the proposed plans to improve the worn park located adjacent to their newly-built senior housing structure.

“One of the parts to the agreement was that the non-profit that was doing the senior housing project would fund some improvements to the park to offset those impacts,” Longpre said.

The estimated $240,000 project to improve Bailey Park will need to go through a process to try and receive funding before construction can begin, which Longpre hopes will start no later than summer of 2020.

You can view the full concept plan for Bailey Park here.