By Holly Osmer
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
BATH — Access to public parks can have positive attributes to communities, no matter the size. According to an article published by The Trust for Public Land, some of these benefits include exposure to nature and greenery which makes people healthier and increased property value.
“Research has shown that cities with good parks and recreation services have stronger economic growth so they can attract residents and businesses because they are seen as amenities,” said Director of the Global Urban Studies Program and Professor of Political Science Dr. Laura Reese at Michigan State University.
According to Reese, parks can also positively contribute to public health and lowering crime in local communities.
“Public events can bring in tourists that shop and eat in the community,” said Director of the Global Urban Studies Program and Professor, Political Science Dr. Laura Reese. “They can also make the community more attractive for residents and businesses and can contribute to economic growth.”
In Bath Township, the parks consist of Bath Township Soccer Park, James Couzens Memorial Park, Fletcher-Robson Nature Park, V. Jack Wiswasser Memorial Park, along with the Park Lake Beach and the Rickard Boat Launch, said Bath Parks and Recreation Director Rebecca Goodwin.
According to Goodwin, they also have a piece of land on Upton Road that is underdeveloped.
“Our hope is to someday make into a park but there are no plans currently,” said Goodwin.
A topic of concern to local residents could be cost for maintenance. According to Reese, most funding comes from the general revenue fund budget, property taxes, and from fees for using the parks such as from baseball leagues.
“Township Public Works Department does the majority of the maintenance,” said Bath Township Superintendent Dan Wietecha. “Last year we had the Clinton County RESA program re-roof a couple of the picnic shelters.”
According to Wietecha, there are no direct financial benefits to the city from the parks, but that does not mean it doesn’t contribute the community in other ways.
“Our hope is that people will visit from outside the township and like what they see to return either at another event or as a resident,” said Goodwin.
Parks can be utilized in many different way, such as leisurely walks, running, or social events.
“In some cases, there might be a financial benefit to an organization,” said Wietecha. “For example, the Summer Solstice Festival is a fundraiser for the Friends of Park Lake.”
“The parks are generally open for public use,” said Wietecha. “There are a couple of community festivals which are located in parks. There are also a variety of recreation activities which are in the parks.”
“Planning park events is my part of my job along with developing and offering programs,” said Goodwin.
According to Goodwin, just some of Bath’s park events include: Ice Cream Social, Truck or Treat, Buck Pole, ice skating, Easter Bunny event, Fishing Contest (new in 2016 and yet to be offered), Flix on the Field, snow sculpture competition, summer park activities, and Treasure Hunt (new in 2016 and yet to be offered).
“All of the events are now offered in parks,” said Goodwin. “When we need a large venue with ample parking we are able to partner with Bath Community Schools for use of their facilities.”
“The festivals themselves are free but might have some charges such as concessions or carnival rides,” said Wietecha. “Most recreation activities are free, but some require registration with a fee.”
According to Goodwin, all events are for the family, however the Easter Bunny event is limited to ages 1 to 10 years old for the safety of those in attendance collecting eggs.
“Events that focus on youth bring in the most attendance,” said Goodwin. “With outdoor events, weather plays a role in the number of participants.”
According to Wietecha, the most commonly used parks are either Wiswasser Park, which has a playground and is used daily by families with young children, or the soccer park which might not be used daily, but draws bigger crowds for games.
“We are not able to use all parks for our events due to a lack of parking,” said Goodwin. “The V. Jack Wiswasser Park is the one most commonly used as it has a barrier free playground, flush potties, and a rentable pavilion.”
A positive attribute to holding events like these can be bringing a community together, given enough of the community members attend.
“On average from the past 3 years, we have served 2,880 participants in sports programs and events. Attendance is always an issue in the sports programs. As a community of a smaller population you are competing with the Parent-led organizations and travel teams for numbers.”
“Some recreation activities may be a dozen kids,” said Wietecha. “The Flix on the Field may have a couple hundred attend. The Summer Solstice Festival had about 600 people last year.”
The most attended event, according to Wietecha, is Bath Days, which draws thousands of people.
“I hope they are fun and enjoyable for participants,” said Wietecha. “They help provide a sense of community pride.”