By Sara E. Teller
OAK PARK’S PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1956, and the current Commission serves in an advisory capacity, assisting with the planning, promoting, executing, and evaluating of public recreation, parks, programs, and other Departmental special events. The City’s Recreation Department offers classes, services, and activities for people of all abilities, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and ethnicities, and an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Hazel Park and the City of Ferndale allows residents in both cities to utilize Oak Park’s facilities, programs, and services at resident rates.
According to Oak Park’s Director of Recreation Laurie Stasiak, “We believe our parks and recreation programs help improve the health and well-being of Oak Park residents through many tailored programs and services while increasing a sense of pride and community through social interconnectedness.” She added, “Most of our events and activities take place within our Parks and Recreation complex: the Community Center, Shepherd Park, and our community pool at Oak Park Boulevard and Coolidge. Occasionally we sponsor off-site events and activities.”
Stasiak has spent her entire career in the recreation field and said she is a “lifelong advocate of the importance of recreation and parks to the well-being and quality of life of our community members.” She especially enjoys working in Oak Park, because of the area’s diversity, saying, “The wonderful ethnic and racial diversity makes it an interesting and inclusive community; and one with very different cultural needs. I love that we are small enough that we are able to listen to the needs of our community and provide recreation options for all residents.”
THE RECREATION DEPARTMENT’S TEAM consists of both Parks and Recreation and marketing professionals who have a combined 97 years of experience in therapeutics, athletics, aquatics, seniors, and community and school recreation and education programs. Stasiak explained, “While it is my responsibility to oversee the Department and programs, we have a talented and dedicated staff that coordinate the daily operations and activities and make sure we are providing excellent customer service for all of our participants.”
The Department also coordinates with residents and other city stakeholders, collaborating to ensure it offers a wide range of options. Stasiak said, “We celebrate and connect our community through ongoing dialogue with residents, city council members, city departments, boards and commissions, leaders in government at all levels, businesses, and community organizations who have the interest of making Oak Park a healthy and prosperous city.”
Stasiak is continually inspired by how active and engaged Oak Park’s residents are. “Our residents, especially our seniors, are very active. I see them walking, jogging, biking at the park and at the [high school] track,” Stasiak said. “I love that early in the morning, people are in the park, walking the track, playing basketball on our courts at Shepherd Park, enjoying the park facilities. We have our community pool that gets used a lot by our residents and the surrounding communities.”
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF PROGRAMS SPECIFICALLY GEARED towards area seniors who are energetic and eager to stay connected. Stasiak explained, “Our senior population is awesome! They are involved, they volunteer. We have record numbers of participants. We have classes ranging from diabetes prevention, cooking classes, nutrition classes, senior day trips, and lunch and theater trips that are filled to capacity.”
Some notable upcoming 2019 events include the Summer Blast on August 10, Dog Day at the Pool on August 25, Everything Animals and Pet Expo on September 22, and the Annual Boo Bash on October 26, as well as Oak Park’s Winterfest, Daddy Daughter Valentine Day Dance, and Mother and Son Dance with dates to be announced.
ONGOING SPECIAL EVENTS HOSTED BY THE DEPARTMENT include Oak Park’s Farmers Market held every Wednesday morning starting June 26 through September 25, 2019, 9:00 A.M.1:00 P.M. The Market provides fresh foods, health and wellness education, and activities and entertainment for all ages. “It has doubled in size for the year 2019 and now has more than 26 vendors,” Stasiak said.
A recently established partnership with Beaumont Community Health has allowed Oak Park to offer several new, free health programs, including Beaumont Gets Walking in Oak Park, Beaumont’s National Diabetes Prevention Program titled Diabetes PATH program (Personal Action Towards Health), Cooking Matters classes designed for adults and sessions specifically for families, and a Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring and Education program.
“Michigan State University Extension has also been an instrumental partner in offering such classes as Eat Smart Live Strong,” Stasiak said. “These classes are designed to help incomeeligible older adults adopt key behaviors to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption and the amount of physical activity they engage in.”
THE DEPARTMENT COLLABORATES with the area’s three school districts – Oak Park, Ferndale and Berkley – to offer youth development and after-school programming as well, and to expand programming options to all residents. Various youth and adult leagues and activities are offered, including softball, kickball, summer camp, exercise classes, karate classes, ballroom, hustle and belly dance classes, yoga, Tai Chi, and senior bingo, scrabble, pickle ball, and bid whist. Community pool programs water exercise, community swims, female only and men only swim lessons, and competitive swim classes.
Stasiak added, ‘We rent out our Community Center and the picnic shelters for community gatherings.”
All of the Department’s programming is offered based on resident input, feedback, and interest. The team creates a fiveyear master plan that’s developed via communications with individuals in the area, including word of mouth, surveys, event evaluations, community meetings, open houses, and focus groups.
For more information, visit the Recreation Department at 14300 Oak Park Blvd. Questions can also be directed to 248-691-7555 or RecOffice@OakParkMI.gov.