As I’ve previously written, work has been under way at Harding Park to install new rain gardens and a paved pedestrian path, the latter of which is now complete. It’s part of plans to beautify and transform Harding into Ferndale’s premier outdoor fitness and activities venue, and more work is coming next spring, when crews will install fitness equipment, signage and outdoor art — plus a splash pad, pond and amphitheater at nearby Martin Road Park.
I recently spoke with Michael Eby, the former recreation coordinator for Ferndale who’s been helping to coordinate projects for the Parks Department, about what’s coming next in the city’s ambitious parks-improvement plan.
Eby says the city has been applying for grants to help it fund parks improvements, which is in line with Ferndale’s parks master plan, released earlier this year. The city has also set aside $2 million from a $45 million roads and parks bond issue approved by voters in 2015 and shifted some money from other parts of the city budget, he said.
“Nothing that we do is supposed to raise taxes or reach out to residents for money,” Eby said.
The city also recently hired its first parks and recreation director, LaReina Wheeler, fusing together departments that previously had been run separately.
With its new (and well-used, from what I’ve seen) paved walking path, Harding is envisioned as Ferndale’s public nexus for fitness and events, Eby said. That includes plans for the following:
- An outdoor fitness pad, featuring permanent equipment, that will be the site of programs and events, possibly linked through a mobile app
- Lighting and signage marking distances for the aforementioned walking trail, which could also become the site of events such as a 5K race
- Resurfaced baseball infields and new backstops
- Programs and classes including Zumba, yoga and Shakespeare in the park
- A new pavilion for gatherings and events, though not until 2018 at the earliest
Martin Road Park
Ferndale’s largest park has been the site this summer of work to repair faulty water mains. A new paved trail has also been constructed.
“Our biggest concern right now is making sure that area can handle construction things being built on it, which is why we see that being the priority for water mains being repaired and that kind of stuff,” Eby says. “The walkway is being built and I know that our playgrounds are being built. The amphitheater and pond I believe is our next big target, that’d be early next year.”
Parks officials have also opted to adopt a phased approach for bringing the ambitious plans to reality. Near-term plans include:
- A multi-use facility and concession stand
- Splash pad, hopefully next spring
Parks officials are looking at adding sunken gathering areas at the corner of Pinecrest and Earle to host group meetings and performances by school bands and others, Eby said. A paved walking track, signage and new trees are also possible.
The city is trying to obtain $50,000 in grant funding to construct a natural playscape, including willow-branch huts, hills, water features and places for children to dig paths for toy cars or streams for water. The idea is to leave the park relatively undeveloped.
“It’s an area in Ferndale that’s unique,” Eby said. “It’s a small area that’s got this woody, forest vibe to it. So we wanted to preserve that and build on it and make it natural.”
The city wants to establish a beta program with a new low-maintenance, interconnected flooring system for the basketball courts next spring. If successful, it would likely be put in place at all other parks with basketball courts, Eby said.
Meanwhile, work on Ferndale’s first skatepark, at Wilson Park, will have to wait. Eby says that project has been placed on hold amid concerns about the high costs of insurance.