By Zachary Manning
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — According to a recent survey, residents in the city of DeWitt would like to see more walking paths, a marked crosswalk on Bridge Street, and a splash pad added to DeWitt Memorial and Riverside Parks.
DeWitt Memorial Park is located at 404 S. Bridge St. and Riverside Park is located at 405 S. Bridge St. The parks are across the street from one another, so a marked crosswalk on Bridge Street is vital for people who want to get from one park to another.
“Walking paths are one of the primary municipal factors that are identified by younger families. Walking paths are a priority to attract younger families,” said Dave Hunsaker, city council member and member of the DeWitt Area Recreation Authority board of commissioners. “Getting a crosswalk is something we need, because there isn’t one and people have to cross the street to get to the parks.”
The splash pad could be the hardest item for local officials to plan for, because they are very challenging in terms of money and infrastructure.
“Splash pads are popular and highly used by younger kids. They are challenging from a municipal perspective, because they aren’t cheap and there are infrastructure issues,” said Hunsaker.
Splash pads are hard to plan for, but they are really good at bringing people into a city, because children love them and it allows relief from hot weather in the summer time.
“A splash pad is a useful thing to entertain children in a park. It’s a useful investment that you can drop in a public place. Water features like a splash pad are successful at bringing people into a place,” said Glenn Pape, regional land policy educator for Michigan State University Extension.
Parks are a priority for cities, because they are used to attract people from the city and even those from outside of the city to come and enjoy themselves.
“Parks are a community asset for quality of life. Officials want to build up amenities for people who can choose to live there,” said Pape.
The city population is 4,507 and the city received 460 survey responses, which is 10.2 percent of the population. That seems like a low number, but officials were excited about the number of responses.
“We expected to get 50. That is a phenomenal number that is an indication of the emphasis the community places on their parks. We were excited,” said Hunsaker.
City officials received hundreds of comments from residents and they were reviewed at the last Parks and Recreation Committee meeting.
“We discussed what was said. From there, the committee determined future park amenities to include in the Memorial and Riverside Park Master Plan,” said Robert Eggers, city consultant.
Residents were glad that their requests were heard and more walking paths are the one thing that the residents really want. One problem that could arise with more walking paths in the parks is the amount of space the parks have.
“A lot of young people like to get out and walk among the community. People want to make connections to other paths that are in there,” said John McCarty, resident of DeWitt. “Everyone would like a path along the river. The parks are pretty limited in terms of where paths can go.”
City officials know there is a lot of work to be done, but one of the biggest challenges in the future will be funding. These amenities cost money and the city will look for grants to pay for them.
“One of the biggest challenges for the amenities is funding. For example, a splash pad was identified and splash pads can cost up to $250,000,” said Daniel Coss, city administrator.
The local city officials have come up with long and short term plans for the park amenities. In the short run officials want to analyze the results and share them with the residents of the city. A master plan will be created in the coming months and presented to the people of the city.
“We’re in the process of utilizing the survey data and putting together a master plan. We are due to get back together in April. We’re working to conclude the master plan,” said Coss.
Residents of the city would like to see the amenities added right now, but they understand the time it takes for local officials to make the right decisions going forward.
“I would like them tomorrow, but it all comes down to money,” said McCarty.
In the long run the city officials want to be able to work towards the necessary changes to the park that they see fit. Money is one of the biggest factors in the long run and the city wants to make the best financial decisions possible.
“The priority at this point is to design the park, to take a forward looking approach to plan the park. It is a long range plan. We want to make the best financial decisions going forward,” said Hunsaker.
“The Park Master Plan will be completed in the next few months. From there, the city will continue to work on making the planned improvements over the upcoming years,” said Eggers.
Residents should expect to hear more information regarding DeWitt Memorial and Riverside Parks in the near future from city officials. Residents are expected to to hear the results of the survey soon and will see a master plan in the coming months.