Oakland County officials Wednesday announced a collaboration with local communities to invest more than $20 million in parks and outdoor recreation facilities.
Officials made the announcement at Beech Woods Park in Southfield, but it also affects parks and facilities in Pontiac, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Royal Oak Township and Hazel Park.
“As a former Oakland County Commissioner and Mayor of Ferndale, over the years I have been passionate about the need to improve our southern county park system,” said County Executive Dave Coulter. “These projects will add or enhance 10 parks in the south of the county and provide fairer access to parks in our more populated areas, many of which are within walking distance via public transit.”
Oakland County Parks and Recreation is to improve three local parks and then take over management duties.
A portion of Beech Woods Park in Southfield and a portion of Shepherd Park in Oak Park, Hawthorne Park in Pontiac and Ambassador Park in Madison Heights will be part of the county parks system, which will account for several million dollars in county spending, he told Chris Ward, Parks and Recreation Director for the county.
Oakland County Parks also works with the Hazel Park Community Center to develop joint recreation program facilities.
Investments in the local parks, which remain under local control, total more than $2.5 million.
Hazel Park will receive $400,000 to improve Green Acres Park and $300,000 to develop recreational facilities.
“Oakland County’s investment in Hazel Park’s parks and recreation facilities is truly an amazing game changer for our community,” Hazel Park City manager Ed Klobucher said in a statement. “Our city will now be able to upgrade severely outdated facilities and equipment to provide vastly improved recreational services to Hazel Park and our neighboring communities.”
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Improvements at Shepherd Park in Oak Park include improvements to trails and trails, a public nature-themed playground, exercise equipment and a gazebo/meeting room facilities and natural resource restoration for approximately $500,000.
Oak Park City manager Erik Tungate said in a statement the city has long been committed to partnering with the county to improve parks and recreational opportunities for residents.
“This investment by Oakland County comes at a time when we are working to upgrade our public spaces in Oak Park,” said Tungate. “This partnership will allow us to take our recreational opportunities to a new level while preserving the history of David Shepherd Park.”
Ambassador Park in Madison Heights is also due for improvement.
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Common types of improvements in local parks include everything from pavilions and meeting rooms and athletic fields and fields to walking and hiking trails and outdoor exercise equipment to accessible playgrounds.
The money for the county and local park improvements comes from $15 million of the $244 million share of federal COVID relief funds Oakland County has received and approved by the County Board, along with 5, $2 million in grants from the County Parks and Recreation Commission.
Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Woodward (D-Royal Oak) said in a statement that “improving access in our more populated areas to our county parks and recreational opportunities…” has been a long-standing priority.
The major park improvements also bring nearly $11 million in one-time investments to existing county parks in Southfield (Catalpa Oaks), Madison Heights (Red Oaks), Waterford (Waterford Oaks), and Lyon (Lyon Oaks).
“The public has turned to parks and trails in record numbers during the pandemic to enjoy the positive effects that spending time outdoors can have on our physical and mental well-being,” said Gary McGillivray, chair of the County Parks and Recreation Commission, in a statement Statement and added the Parks Commission appreciated Coulter’s support in the major investment. “It will pay off for generations to come.”
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