Parks & Rec Looking at Many Improvements

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Monday, September 24, 2018, 9:28 am
By: 
Casandra Eriksen

What’s upcoming for East Lansing Parks & Rec, now that potential funding streams exist because of East Lansing’s passage of an income tax and the existing Ingham County trails millage? Projects are already happening, and more plans are in the works.

At the last City Council meeting, Tim McCaffrey, East Lansing’s Director of Parks and Recreation, presented a preliminary five-year Parks and Recreation plan, to explain where some of the money from the voter approved income tax might be best spent.

McCaffrey told Council this is just a preliminary plan, and said that there would be opportunities for additional dialogue. The numbers he presented were estimates and, for the most part, they did not come from architects or engineers – just staff estimates based on their experience at this point.

McCaffrey estimated his department might see an increase of about $400,000 on an annual basis from the income tax. For the fiscal year of 2020, he proposed using the additional money in the following way:

  • Replacing the liner in the East Lansing Family Aquatic Center, as well as replacing the decaying “pools and falls” interactive feature (shown below)
  • Improving the Patriarche Park’s softball/baseball fields and the East Lansing Softball Complex
  • Fixing sound and lighting technology at the Hannah Community Center

 

For FY 2021, he suggested renovating the pickleball and tennis courts at Patriarche Park, as well as replacing fitness equipment at the Hannah Community Center. In FY 2022, there would be softball and parking lot renovations, and the restrooms at Patriarch Park would also be renovated.

For FY 2023, the soccer complex parking lot would be fixed, as would the pavilion at Patriarche Park (below). In 2024, the Hannah Center parking lot would be replaced, and in 2025, there would be Northern Tier Trail improvements.

The Ingham County Trails & Parks millage is currently offering opportunities for East Lansing, and some funds from that millage have already been flowing this way. One current project focuses on trails repair and renovating or replacing six pedestrian bridges along East Lansing trails.

All of the funds for this project have come from the Ingham County millage approved back in 2014, with the exception of $107,000 that City Council approved for engineering fees.

McCaffrey told Council last Tuesday, “We are probably at least 80 to 90% complete with the bridge work at this time.” He said he hopes repaving sections of the trail will be completed by the end of this fall.

The project won’t be closed out until June next year because his department wants to make sure there isn’t any follow up work that needs to be done. He listed replacing grass they disturbed and dealing with cracks in the trails as examples of follow-up.

McCaffrey also said staff members are looking at different options to deal with drop-offs that are near the trail, and said they are discussing putting up some fencing.

Another current project, involving improvements to White Park Trail Pond and Park, is scheduled to be completed next year. McCaffrey said they are hoping to start design work on that this fall and over the winter. The funding from the County amounted to $469,000, and an additional $300,000 came from a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant.

For many projects, McCaffrey and other City staff work on leveraging funds they already have to get more external funding to complete projects. For example, DNR Trust Fund grants are based on points which the DNR awards based on whether the project meets certain requirements, such as ADA compliance.

One project that won’t be funded by income taxes or the trails millage is the Bailey Neighborhood Park Improvements project, proposed for FY 2020 and 2021. McCaffrey said his staff applied for a National Resources Trust Fund grant for this on April 1, and they will find out if they received the grant by December.

McCaffrey said it is a competitive process, and asked City Council to commit $3,000 to strengthen their grant request, and earn more points. Council agreed to that request. The Bailey neighborhood is also contributing to the park improvements.

It is important to note that we don’t know the exact amount of funding that the new income tax will provide. The ballot proposal that voters passed said 20% of the net new revenue will be dedicated “to the maintenance and improvement of streets and sidewalks, water and sewer systems, and parks, and recreation, and city-owned facilities.”

The “net new revenue” is calculated by taking the gross income tax revenue and subtracting the associated property tax reduction and cost of administering the income tax. All those figures remain to be calculated, although pre-vote estimated put the net new revenue at about $5 million. That means that the 20% going to “the maintenance and improvement of streets and sidewalks, water and sewer systems, and parks, and recreation, and city-owned facilities” would come to a total of about $1 million per year.

You can view McCaffrey's presentation on proposed capital improvements here, and view his presentation on the millage-related repairs here. ELi thanks Tim McCaffrey and the Parks & Rec staff for making this material available for ELi readers.

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