By Andrea Grieg
THIS TIME LAST YEAR, SCOUT PARK (in Central Hazel Park) was the site of a community tree-planting day. No one realized then that the trees were just the first of new things to grow out of the park.
Since then, Hazel Park has been selected for an incredibly generous grant from the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation, which donated $350,000 to the City of Hazel Park to help grow our Recreation Department. One of the ambitious projects planned is a brand-new, state-of-the-art playground. Scout Park was chosen to build the playground because of its central location, nestled within residential areas and adjacent to the junior high school.
The Director of the Parks & Recreation Department is Sareen Papakhain. She started working for the City as an unpaid intern while getting her master’s degree in urban planning at Wayne State University. Her senior thesis was planned around Hazel Park’s Recreation Department specifically, and her thesis is currently a key element in the City’s Master Plan.
“This is an incredible and exciting opportunity, and no one deserves it more than the residents of Hazel Park,” Papakhain says. “Hazel Park is growing, and the families of this city will reap the benefit of the community growth.” Before the grant from the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation, the Parks Department was almost dissolved due to lack of funding. Now Scout Park’s revamp is just the first of many long-term goals the City is starting to catch up on.
The Foundation picked Leather & Associates to help with the playground’s design. Leather & Associates is a custom playground design firm known for drawing from community input for their designs. On March 5 of this year, also known as Design Day, designer Jim Houghton visited with Hazel Park’s elementary school students and parents to ask what was included in their dream playground. The responses included a zipline, a maze, musical instruments, rock climbing, swings of all sizes, slides, and snake tubes. However, one of the most highly requested elements from the students was accessibility and making sure the playground had options for children of all capabilities to play on. Because of this, a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round was included in the design, along with swings and other ideas.
Houghton took all the ideas from that morning and spent five hours designing the perfect playground. His design sketches were revealed that evening at the Junior High. The design was very well-received and can be seen on the Parks & Recreation Department’s web site.
Now that the design has been revealed, the Parks & Recreation Department is rallying for volunteers to make the playground a reality. Papakhain strongly encourages all residents to get involved: from filling out the Master Plan’s surveys online to attending community meetings, to volunteering for the new Scout Park playground assembly. The building will take place the week of June 10 through the 15 (see ad on the next page). Residents are encouraged to sign up for a shift, help raise funds, or provide necessities and tools. Food sponsors and financial sponsorship in exchange for advertising are also welcomed. Contact the Department at (248) 547-5535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.