Income Tax and Other Sources Being Used to Improve East Lansing Parks

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

The Family Aquatic Center needs more repairs, including a $150,000 pool liner, if it is to open next year.

In the midst of plunging revenues – including a 3-month net loss of a half-million dollars from the parking system – East Lansing’s Department of Parks & Rec is plowing ahead with various parks improvements by pulling together local and state funding.

The newly-passed East Lansing income tax is providing some of those funds. Voters approved an income tax that takes 20 percent of the net revenue and dedicates it “to the maintenance and improvement of streets and sidewalks, water and sewer systems, and parks, and recreation, and city-owned facilities.” (All of those things together share 20 percent net of the income tax.)

Director of Parks & Rec Tim McCaffrey told City Council in a presentation on June 16 that his department has used $235,000 in income tax money to improve four baseball diamonds at Patriarche Park. In May, McCaffrey told Council he hopes to use next year’s round of income tax funds to put $175,000 towards a new pool liner and repair of a water feature at the Family Aquatic Center.

Returning for their first meeting since February 19, the East Lansing Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee met on June 17 to talk about the changes coming to local parks. 

Patriarche Park

East Lansing Parks and Rec has submitted applications for grants that would support renovations on the pickleball, tennis, and basketball courts of Patriarche Park. The applications, which were due April 1, were submitted without public comment. The commission retroactively solicited feedback this past week.

Parks and Rec is seeking a $300,000 Michigan National Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) grant to completely rebuild the pickleball and tennis courts at Patriarche Park. An additional $200,000 in East Lansing income tax revenue would be used to support the project. If awarded the grant, East Lansing would most likely receive the funds during the summer of 2021.

The six pickleball courts and two tennis courts had been resurfaced in 2016, and the local pickleball community has also done some repairs of its own. But, staff has said, these were temporary measures.

Existing (left) and future (right) courts at Patriarche Park, if funding comes through. Images taken from a presentation by Tim McCaffrey to Council.

If funding is secured, the courts will be completely rebuilt and turned into one tennis court and ten pickleball courts. Patrons should expect to see new fencing, shade structures, and more walkways – including one extending from Alton Road.

Several pickleball players from the area attended the virtual meeting on June 17 and advocated for additional parking near the courts, water fountains, and electricity. The local pickleballers have previously purchased first aid kits, AED devices, and portable nets.

Parks and Rec is also hoping to receive a Michigan Recreation Passport Program grant for $127,500 to resurface and paint the basketball courts. Currently, the court has cracks that result in changes of elevation. An estimated $42,500 in income tax funds would also support the project. Work on the basketball court would most likely begin in summer 2021 as well.

If all the funding comes through about $670,000 in total tax funds – local and state – would be used to improve the tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts.

Patriarche Park is also slated for renovations to the pavilion and restrooms, totaling $500,000 in public funding.

Slide from McCaffrey’s presentation to Council.

The renovations on the baseball fields at Patriarche Park are almost complete, according to McCaffrey. Thanks to a Michigan NRTF grant of $50,000 and $235,000 in income tax revenue, $285,000 is being put to new fencing, backstops, benches, and bike loops. Spectator seating has been added to two of the four fields.

Slide from McCaffrey’s presentation to Council.

The softball complex on the north side of town will see about $60,000 in improvements if a campaign by the East Lansing Baseball Club raises the funds from citizens. No tax funds are slated to be used on the softball complex at this time.

White Park and Local Trails

Money from an NRTF grant ($300,000) plus funds from the Ingham County Trails Millage ($469,000) have permitted work trails in White Park. Trails have been repaved, and an 800-foot boardwalk will be added in the park.

The project also includes work to excavate the pond and weed out invasive plant life. (Read more in this ELi report.)

Renovations to paths in the nearby Towar Garden neighborhood have not yet occurred, but funds from Ingham County may be used to create a trail loop in the area.

Slide from McCaffrey’s presentation to Council.

The Ingham County Trail Millage is also financing the addition of pedestrian trail access points at Riviera Drive in the Tamarisk neighborhood and Colorado Drive in the Bessemaur neighborhood. Part of the trail, near the Sanderson Drain, will be moved roughly eight to ten feet away from the drain.

Other Improvements

Long-awaited improvements to Bailey Park are happening. The playground is being resurfaced and a toddler playground added. Visitors can expect to see a pergola in a small plaza and a loop trail.

Slide from McCaffrey’s presentation to Council.

Funds for that are coming from a Michigan NRTF grant ($219,000), HUD Community Development Block Grant funds ($69,400), the Capital Area Housing Project ($25,000) which manages the Bailey senior housing, neighborhood fundraising ($14,000), and $3,000 from the City’s General Fund, for a total of $330,400.

Work on upgrading the lighting and sound systems for the Hannah Community Center Theater are almost complete. That’s costing $45,000, including $25,000 from the income tax fund and $20,000 from a state arts grant. McCaffrey has argued that this is worth doing because the state grant comes in the form of matching funds, so walking away from this $25,000 local expense would mean walking away from $20,000 in state funds.

Slide from McCaffrey’s presentation to Council.

The parking lot at Hannah Community Center is slated to be resurfaced with new ADA curb-cuts put in at a cost of $246,800, including $150,075 from the City’s general fund and $50,000 from the Prime Time Seniors budget.

Want to learn more?

You can see McCaffrey’s June 16 presentation to Council in slide form here, or you can watch the video version of his presentation (with him speaking) here. You can watch the Parks & Rec Advisory Commission meeting of June 17 here.

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