By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
ALGONAC – Lions Field Park has had better days.
That’s why Algonac City Council has been pushing for upgrades to the park for the past 18 months.
A year after applying for a grant to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and being turned down, Algonac is trying for a $100,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And it has promised $120,00 in city dollars toward the project.
“About one in four applications get approved through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund,” City Manager Doug Alexander said. “The grant we are applying for now is not as competitive as it is through the trust fund.”
If the city wins the grant it plans to:
• Build a new parking lot with a turnaround and more handicap accessible parking.
• Constructing a new basketball court that can be converted to an ice skating rink during winter months.
• Install 20 picnic tables and grills.
“I think the facilities are outdated and are in need of renovation,” Alexander said. “We received public input and adopted a recreation plan about 18 months ago.”
In its Tuesday meeting, the council authorized applying for the grant, as well as allocating nearly $120,000 in its 2015-16 operating budget to match the grant proposal.
Consultant Linda Davis-Kirksey is writing the grant application. Algonac is paying her $1,000 a month.
Davis-Kirksey said she is 90 percent sure the city will be awarded the grant.
“This is a federal program that provides a matching grant administered through the DNR,” she said. “It requires a 50 percent match, but the maximum that can be applied for from the state is $100,000. It’s going to be beautiful once it is implemented.”
Davis-Kirksey said the city will know by December if the application is approved. The money would be available next spring.
Algonac trimmed $40,000 from the project that was submitted for the Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. It scaled back the parking lot and dropped repairs to the fence and the baseball backstop.
Alexander said future work, though, could include the baseball backdrop and a sledding hill.
County Commissioner Bill Gratopp, an Algonac Lions Club member for 38 years, said the club sold the park to the city for $350,000 14 years ago.
“We did not have enough money to maintain it,” he said. “The sale included all the fenced-in property, fields and swimming pool.”
The city built a $357,000 bathhouse at the pool in 2010.
Algonac resident Bill Siegel said he considers the park to be “useless” until the proposed improvements are made.
“The only thing they have is a basketball court, which is in dire need of repair,” Siegel said. “They had a walking trail back there, but they let that go. They put in a bunch of trees over there and half of them are dead.”
Siegel said he has seen the park decline over the past decade.
“There’s nothing in this town for the kids to do,” he said. “They used to have a pool hall and stores they could go to. Now the park is the only thing they have left.”
Josh Rayner, 14, said he visits the park at least once a week in the summer.
Rayner said he would enjoy the addition of an ice rink for winter activities.
“That would be pretty cool because we have ice skates and we haven’t been able to use them,” he said. “There hasn’t been much ice on the canal.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 18, 2015)