By Paul Garrod
LAWTON – A proposed update at a Village of Lawton park will see the departure of a longtime wooden playground structure, but in turn, will see the addition of an ice-skating rink, following a public hearing held Dec. 13, during the Lawton Village Council meeting.
Lawton Village Manager Lisa Imus said that the proposed project at Chancy Lewis Park will replace Kid’s Dream Playground with a more accessible, multi-generational structure. Imus said Kid’s Dream Playground has served the community “superbly” over the last 25 years, however it is beginning to show its age, while maintenance costs continue to grow each year.
In addition to the playground, a synthetic ice rink, fire pit, and pavilion addition that will provide storage and a concessions area, are also proposed. Following the nearly 40-minute public hearing, the Lawton Village Council approved a resolution to authorize the Village of Lawton Submission of a Grant Application to the Michigan SPARK Grant Program, with the amendment that the village will match $50,000 to the $950,000 asked for, rather than match $70,000, to the total $930,000 asked for.
Michigan Spark Grants are administered by the DNR. The Spark Grants support projects that provide safe, accessible, public recreation facilities and spaces to improve people’s health, introduce new recreation experiences, build on existing park infrastructure, and make it easier for people to enjoy both indoor and outdoor recreation.
Imus said the grant opportunity is possible due to the Building Michigan Together Plan, which was signed in March 2022, and included a historic infusion of federal funding in Michigan’s state and local parks. Imus reported that the grant allows communities to revitalize and help with COVID response. She stated that there will be three rounds of applications, with the first round due at the end of December. Imus said this grant requires no match, and communities can ask up to $1 million total. Imus reported that this is a grant through the DNR allowing for revitalization, and renovations.
Imus said the Chancy Lewis Park renovations were selected because of the village’s 2021 Parks and Recreation five-year Master Plan’s indication that the community desired an updated playground that is barrier free, and additional winter amenities such as an ice ring.
Imus noted that additionally, since COVID, use at Chancy Lewis Park has tripled from years before 2020.
The Village Master Plan is being finalized, according to Imus and a Village Planning Commission meeting is expected to be held Jan. 3, “from which point the next steps can be taken. There will then be time for public hearings during the planning and council approval portions of the Master Plan,” said Imus. Imus also said union negotiations with the Village of Lawton Department of Public Works are complete, while new negotiations with the Village of Police Union have begun. Imus anticipates a March 1 approval and new contract with this.
Imus reported that the Village Hall will be closed Dec. 23 – 26, and Dec. 30 through Jan. 2 for the holidays.