East Lansing community members have been able to return to Bailey Park after a ribbon-cutting ceremony reopened the park on Oct. 23.
Bailey Park is north of Grand River Avenue and south of Burcham Road neighboring the Liberty Hyde Bailey Center.
Several years ago, the City of East Lansing decided to close the community center, due to the age of the building and the improvements that were needed. The city entered into an arrangement with Capital Area Housing Partnership.
The partnership renovated the historic 1922 elementary school to provide 25 affordable apartment units for income-qualified households and five market-rate units. This resulted in the removal of a playground to accommodate parking for the apartment complex.
Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation Wendy Longpre said when the partnership removed the playground, it allocated $25,000 to replace the playground.
Longpre said, “$25,000 does not buy much when you look at public playgrounds.” She said, “We immediately started looking at the other needs that the park might have, and we started looking at the potential for other revenue sources to assist with both replacing the playground and addressing the other park needs.”
Longpre said that the City of East Lansing Parks and Recreation Division put together a funding package that came from a lot of different sources such as the partnership, Community Development Block Grant, neighborhood fundraising, and a grant from the Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund.
Longpre said that by starting with this small pot of money, the City of East Lansing was able to leverage that against plenty of different sources.
“So once all of those pieces were put together,” Longpre said. “We were able to amass about $330,000 to do improvements to the park.”
In the renovated park, there is a shade structure, a quarter-mile pathway loop, a drinking fountain, and improvements to playground structures.
Justin Dwrencke, the community events specialist, was setting up for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and said the feedback that he had received from the community was overwhelmingly positive.
“I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of the community members and they just absolutely loved it,” Dwrencke said. “So I definitely think the improvements are going to result in more community members accessing and using the park.”
As she was enjoying the nice weather at the park, Renee Beaufore said the newly renovated park is beneficial for the community with everything going on in the world.
“It’s critical right now for kids and families to have a place where they can be outdoors as long as they can.”