While some teens might shy away from a multi-year, six-figure project, Taylor Idema isn’t stopping until she completes her vision of a new arts pavilion in Island Park .
Idema, currently a senior at Mt. Pleasant High School, has gathered more than $200,000 and widespread government and community support for an outdoor concert and performance venue. She initially proposed her pavilion as part of an effort to gain a Girl Scout Gold Star, the organization's highest honor, but she would never have been happy with just a plan.
In 2016, Idema entered the United Way’s “Pitch-Er-This” contest, where area youth present community-focused projects to a panel of judges who vote for the winner. The United Way then helps provide funds to help bring the project to life.
“The idea behind the contest is to encourage kids to pitch an idea that would make the community better,” Idema says. “I’m a musical person - I play the piano, violin, and was in band - and I thought Mt. Pleasant could benefit from something like this because we don’t have an outdoor seating area for concerts and performances."
Idema won the contest, and the process of moving her idea from concept to concrete began.
Taylor Idema and Chris Bundy“Taylor contacted me with her idea about building a pavilion,” says Mt. Pleasant Parks and Recreation Director Chris Bundy, “and I said, ‘Well, that's a great idea, and it just happens to be in our master plan.’”
Bundy says that having Idema’s project in their master plan made it eligible for grant funding through the DNR, and the next step was to select a location. They decided on Island Park in Mt. Pleasant because infrastructure necessary to support the project was already in place.
The arts pavilion will be located on the west side of the park, directly south of the sand volleyball courts and directly west of the Timber Town playground.
“With any project like this, you need things like restrooms and parking to encourage people to use the area,” he says. “Island Park has those things, so from there we looked at some different designs with Taylor, and we settled on something that we thought we could afford and fundraise for in that location.”
Raise funds they did; over $75,000 in three days.
Those funds created a match for a DNR Passport grant, a program the provides funds for community outdoor recreation projects where the applicants need to provide at least 25% of the total cost.
“Along with the Passport grant, a lot of community donors have stepped up to make the project possible,” says Bundy.
The combination of donations from community partners, grant monies from the DNR, and contributions from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe covered the cost of the project for a final total of $203,750. Along the way, Idema also secured letters of support from community organizations, departments, and offices.
A composite sketch of the arts pavilionBy spring 2017, Idema and team were ready to move forward with blueprints and site development plans for what will be officially called the Island Park Arts Pavilion. They hired Rowe Engineering to complete that work and as plans progressed Idema focused on securing permission for additional enhancements such as lighting, benches, scroll work, stone work, and landscaping to match the pavilion with the character of the rest of Island Park.
While Idema was ready to see the pavilion built back in 2016, she says the unexpected amount of “behind the scenes” work required to get to that point has been a great learning experience.
“I’ve had to meet with community groups to get letters of support, to Parks and Recreation about the project, and with bank presidents to help raise funds,” she says. “When I first started, I had no idea what would have to go into this. I’ve learned so much and it’s been so rewarding.”
Idema plans to attend Central Michigan University and sees her experience with the project helping her in a future career.
Bundy says they’ve both had to learn patience, as the park being along the banks of the Chippewa River required that they receive a permit and approval from the Department of Environmental quality - a process that took nine months alone.
Idema hopes that the pavilion will be used for concerts, musical events, art shows, and other community events.
Bundy says that it will also be able to rented for events like weddings and family reunions.
Taylor Idema flips through a manualBeyond the project itself and what it will bring to the community, Bundy and Idema hope that its success will inspire more area youth to believe in their ability to contribute to the future of their community.
“The other day I had a young lady from Sacred Heart call me with an idea about a community garden,” Bundy says. “She had seen stories about Taylor and the amphitheater and thought that if that project was successful, hers could be, too. You never know how many people will be inspired by the things you do.”
He gives credit to the United Way for using the "Pitch-Er-This" contest to provide a platform for young peoples' ideas.
“We see the light at the end of the tunnel for the end of the project,” says Bundy. “Barring any crazy weather, we’re hoping to be done in June.”
“I am excited about the project and what it will mean to the community,” Idema says. “I am especially grateful to the generous community contributors who are making this idea a reality.”