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Wakefield planning commission envisions Sunday Lake park plans


March 14, 2018

Submitted photo

AMONG CONSIDERATIONS at Monday's meeting of the Wakefield planning commission is this splash pad, which has been a big hit in L'anse.


Wakefield - A potential splash pad and obstacle course at Eddy Lake Park were the subject of a lively discussion at Monday's meeting of the Wakefield planning commission.

Using a photo slideshow to spread enthusiasm, city manager Richard Brackney told the commission that there are "simple" plans available online that could make it possible to set up the proposed features with minimal labor, expense or expertise.

In reference to the splash pad, he said, "L'anse put this together in a very short period of time, and they did it themselves."

He added, "The reception to this has been absolutely phenomenal. They've got people from all over coming to use it."

Another advantage of the idea, he said, is that it's disability-friendly.

"We have very few items that people with disabilities can participate in," said Brackney. "This would be one where they could."

He said the water toy also would be great for little kids and would allow parents to sit nearby and watch their children.

Brackney said L'anse is using city water for its splash pad, "and it's expensive," but he said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality already has assured him that it would be fine to tap Sunday Lake and then just let the water drain back to the lake.

He said Wakefield residents could help to decide the best placement for such a feature, which could be built at a slight slant to facilitate drainage.

Brackney said an obstacle course poses a number of options, including run-throughs and balance beams that bring to mind boot camp practice.

If desired, he said participants could use their own stop watches, and parents could join their children in the challenge.

Beyond standard recreation, said Brackney, "This is the next level."

He said fairly simple supplies would be needed for the challenge course: items such as sawdust, wood, tires, etc.

Brackney envisions community members setting up the course. "I think if we said we're going to have a work day to set this up, we'd get a lot of enthusiasm," he said.

Furthermore he said that, if the ideas were set up, there would be no charge to use either the splash pad or the water feature.

Former city manager John Siira, who happened to be in the audience, pointed out that any plans would need official approval if grants were to be sought.

Brackney said the advantage of the city and its residents creating the features on their own would be faster follow-through. Grants can take years, he said.

Commission chair Dale White added that setting up the splash pad and challenge course could incentivize future grants by showing the city's commitment to improvement and inclusivity.

Beyond that, White said, the new features could be "a big draw" for town picnics. He also imagined interest from physical education students and from children staying in the lake's trailer park.

Brackney emphasized that public input will be crucial, as he will not bother to approach the city council for support unless he sees genuine community interest.

Commission member Bethany Anderson volunteered to share the material on Facebook and gather local opinions.

If the interest is there, she said church youth groups might be helpful in setting up a challenge course.

Regarding the proposed splash pad, commission member Kay Manson said, "That idea will make us more inclusive to the handicapped community. The challenge course, not so much."

But Manson, who was just appointed to the commission on Jan. 24, said the challenge course still would be positive for the community at large.

She envisioned school shop classes helping with construction and local lumber companies donating wood.

In a Tuesday phone call with the Globe, Brackney said community interest will be crucial in enacting any such plans.

"This could be a long process," he speculated. "A year or two." But he hopes city residents will go for it.

"The biggest thing I hear on the street is that Wakefield hasn't changed in years," he said. "I'm going to try to prove them wrong."

In other news at Monday's meeting, Joel Laessing requested that the city consider how to address problems with inappropriate recreational vehicles using the Sunday Lake beach as a boat launch.

Laessing, who owns and operates Sunday Lake Kayak Rentals, said the presence of kayaks leads people to believe that it's okay to land on the beach.

"We have jet skis coming up on the beach," he said. "We have boats, big boats, coming up on the beach. I have called the sheriff on a number of occasions."

Brackney said he will approach the city council at a future meeting regarding Laessig's request to post signs in designated areas, so as to separate swimming and boating areas.


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