COVID-19 pandemic forces delay of Ferndale park projects

The installation of retaining walls at Geary Park originally was going to close the skate park for a month, though city officials reversed their decision and worked to keep the park open through construction.

FERNDALE — Heading into the spring of 2020, the city of Ferndale was expecting to tackle improvement projects for two of the city’s parks.

Those plans have been put on hold for the time being.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first started to hit Michigan in March, the city administration recommended to the City Council to delay projects at both Geary and Wanda parks as a precautionary financial decision.

“We recommended council consider several proactive cuts to important capital items, even though they were budgeted,” said City Manager Joe Gacioch. “In this instance, the total cost from the city’s general fund would’ve exceeded $750,000.”

According to city documents, the total cost for the two projects combined is $868,206.50. Grant funding for the projects offset some of the costs, to the tune of $233,700. That brings Ferndale’s cost for the projects to $634,506.50

The grants came from the following agencies: the Michigan Department of Natural Resources awarded $81,700 for Geary Park and $41,000 for Wanda Park; America In Bloom gave $25,000 for Geary Park and $25,000 for Wanda Park; the American Academy of Dermatology Shade Grant gave $8,000 for Wanda Park; a DTE Tree Grant awarded $3,000 for Geary Park; and a $50,000 Tony Hawk Foundation Built To Play Skatepark Grant went toward the Geary Park skate park.

Gacioch said they have been working with the grantors to see if they can provide flexibility on when to use the funds. It’s his understanding that most of the grants have been given a six-month extension. He also said the council will revisit the projects in the fall.

“The park projects were great and they hit a lot of strategic objectives, but at this time with the pandemic and without knowing the economic fallout of COVID-19, we thought that it was best to delay approval of those projects,” Gacioch said.

The improvements at Wanda Park included new landscaping, which consisted of trees, plants, sod, berms and irrigation; a walking path; amenities such as an accessible drinking fountain, benches, trash and recycle bins, grills and a bike rack; playground equipment; and a picnic pavilion.

Geary Park’s improvements included similar landscaping and site amenity additions to those at Wanda Park, multiple walking paths and outdoor fitness equipment.

One piece of Geary Park’s project still is going forward this summer, which is the installation of retaining walls at the skate park. Because that project required minimal city funding, Parks and Recreation Director LaReina Wheeler said they were able to proceed with construction June 24.

“We’ll be installing retaining walls on the south side of the skate park, as well as our DPW has already started the installation of the bioswale,” she said.

Previously, the city was expecting to have to shut down the skate park for a month during the installation. However, Wheeler said the city is working with the contractor to keep the skate park open.

“I know the skate park has been crowded just about every day since the park opened back up, and we wanted to continue to provide that amenity to our community,” she said. “As of now, we’re working with the contractor and we will be keeping the skate park open during the construction. However, safety is first, so if we do see that we need to close it or part of it in order to complete the construction, we’ll do that.”

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