Five-year plan driving St. Johns park renovations

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Entrance to public playing area provided by Jason Dunn

Entrance to a public playing area. Photo by Jason Dunn

By Jason Dunn
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

ST. JOHNS — The city of St. Johns has seen an improvement in the quality of its parks over the last three to four years.

The recreation department in St. Johns proposed the five-year master plan, which was to be orchestrated for the years of 2011 to 2015 in order to tackle much-needed renovations to its parks and suggestions from the surrounding community.

Prior to the actual rebuilding and revamping, a community survey was conducted to discover what the needs of the community truly were in regards to its parks.

According to William Schafer, Recreation Director of St. Johns, there was mixed feedback. He went on to mention that he issued out the survey, striving to give the masses of St. Johns a voice.

Excerpt from the community survey provided by Jason Dunn

Excerpt from the community survey. Image by Jason Dunn

“Some are positive, some are negative. We do it for community input. There was a lot of opposition. We get mixed responses,” he said. “We want to hear both, though. That is why we conducted a community survey.”

Schafer, who was responsible for other aspects of the project, described the necessity for developing the five-year master plan.

“In order for the city of St. Johns to be eligible for state grants, we need to have a master plan on file. We just became eligible for the Michigan Natural Resources Grant. We’ve received four in the past, though. So, with no master plan we cannot receive any money from the state,” he said. “In regards to my position, I was the lead person for communicating with the plans. I constructed the plans. I pretty much orchestrated the park tours for RJM Design Inc. (the engineering firm charged with rebuilding and revamping).”

Jennifer Leslie, a frequent visitor of St. Johns’ parks, likes the progress that has been made as a result of the plan. Though she has only lived in St. Johns for roughly a year, she has still seen enough done to encourage her to continue bringing her son.

“With this park here, I think they’ve re-painted the play structure areas. Though, I’m not completely sure they’ve added anything extra in that is new. But I know they’ve put down new mulch and things like that,”: she said. “And I’m not completely sure if this a part of the city park, but I know they added in the new spray park this past summer.”

Newly designed spray park proposed in 5-Year Master Plan provided by Jason Dunn

newly-designed spray park proposed in a five-year master plan. Photo by Jason Dunn

She goes on to say that location definitely plays a role in her frequenting the parks of St. Johns.

“I feel like it is worth it for the kids. I think it’s a really nice structure and I’m really excited about the spray park because here in St. Johns, we’re still a ways away from the Lansing/East Lansing area,” she said. “So, it’s nice to have something right in town that we can use. As I said, I think that it is worth it.”

For teenagers like David Wilcox though, the newly-designed spray park and playing areas for toddlers do not quite grab his attention. Coming to the park since he was a young boy, Wilcox has progressively become more interested in the refurbished basketball courts.

“I’ve been coming around here since about fourth grade. About a couple of years ago, I began to see a lot more maintenance and upkeep of this place,” he said. “I’ve started to see more workers around, trying to keep the place up. Most of the time now though, I come to play basketball”

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