Joint meeting looks to solve park problems

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By Phil Zielinski
Lansing Star staff writer

Lansing is a city proud of its 114 parks; that is until they stopped being mowed

On Wednesday the Lansing City Council held a joint meeting with the Lansing Parks Board, in an attempt to get to the bottom of the city’s “Naturalization Plan” for many parks. The two bodies were joined by a collection of concerned citizens, who were looking for answers to questions ranging from why their parks weren’t being mowed to what they were going to do about drug dealings in seemingly abandoned parks.

“We had an opportunity to listen to the public, that brings constructive input,” Councilman Derrick Quinney said. “I was glad to see people out here that we don’t normally see at our weekly meetings.”
For the first time, both the City Council and Parks Board had a chance to discuss the growing problems with the “Naturalization Plan” and hear from citizens directly. The talks focused on many issues, including how the changes were leading to parks not being mowed, in save money.

“We have been working on some kind of naturalization for four years,” Board President Rick Kibbey said. “It’s not naturalization that’s taking place, they’re just not mowing.”

The parks budget for Lansing currently stands $7 million, including the $2 million from the recent parks millage. To save money, the Parks Board had suggested a group of parks to “naturalize” but didn’t expect the mayor’s office to act on anything until the two groups discussed the issue further.

“We thought it was a proposal; we didn’t know it was implemented,” board member Adam Hussain said. “The sites were chosen, and we didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in.”
After years of confusion, light is finally being shed on the issues. The three groups hope that moving forward, communication will be better and that this week’s meeting is a step in the right direction.

“I am extremely encouraged. I originally suggested that we have a meeting, it is essential that we know where the parks board is [on these issues],” Councilwoman Carol Wood said. “They should have been engaging the community on this as well. We need to understand the impact and how it affects the surrounding community … these are their parks, their neighborhoods.”

Although communication has been improved, and everybody seems to be on the same page; there is still much deliberation to come.

“We will be discussing it for a long time to come, “Hussain said, “It is a reality for even five to 10 years down the road.”

The City Council plans to meet again with the Parks Board in a month, to further discuss how these issues are being solved.

“There will be tough decisions to be made,” Council Vice President  Kathie Dunbar told the citizens at the meeting, “But you all can be a part of these decisions.”

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