Fran Dwight <span class='image-credits'>A view from Reed Park</span>

Edison Neighborhood

Reed Park: Connecting community through neighborhood parks

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Edison series. This is the second in the series written by one of our Community Correspondents.

Rising high above, like a stairway to the heavens, hot on a sunny day, and whisking you quickly back down to the earth. 

Carrying you through the wind, higher then lower, lower then higher, as you listen to the connection from above telling you, “pump harder and I will lift you to the sky.” 

Around and around, faster and faster, challenging you to ride it out while it drops your cheeks, your stomach, to the point of no return and no looking back. 

Slides. Swings. Merry-go-rounds. Park pleasures of the past connecting kids, both young and old, have evolved and a new vision is emerging.

Times change, and bringing the city's parks up to date can offer a sense of belonging and ownership, as well as fulfilling part of Kalamazoo’s Master Plan Imagine Kalamazoo 2025. Parks can create a sense of community, offering recreation and a space for events, enhancing the natural scenery, while cutting down on negative behavior.

When the residents of Kalamazoo were asked via surveys at Art Hops, open houses, community picnics, and more what their vision of their neighborhood is during the planning portion of Kalamazoo’s Master Plan, the residents' common visions were Inviting Public Places, Complete Neighborhoods, Safe Community, and Youth Development. In walks PARKS.

Within the Edison Neighborhood, there are four parks--Hayes Park, Southside Playground, Upjohn Playground, and Reed Park . All but one of these parks has seen renovations within the past several years, and now it’s Reed Park’s turn.

Located at the corner of Portage Street and Reed Avenue, across from the popular Town and Country Supermarket, Reed Park holds only a few pleasures even though it is in one of the areas with the highest percentage of children, by block, for the Edison neighborhood, and is located on the neighborhood's busiest thoroughfare.

Edison residents’ voices lend creation and vision to Reed Park at three meetings. Two have already taken place. The first discussion was during an Edison Neighborhood Association monthly meeting and the second was at the park. During the first meeting, the City staff gave residents an update on the park plan. At the second meeting, at the park itself, the residents in attendance offered ideas and gave their input to what their vision and hopes for the park are. The third meeting will take place at the end of July and will be advertised through the Edison Neighborhood Association, Kalamazoo City Parks Department, and on social media.

Patrick McVerry, Deputy Director of City of Kalamazoo Department of Parks and Recreation, says the input from the second meeting went to the landscape architect firm O’Boyle, Crowell, Blaylock, and Associates (OCBA), and they have put together drawings for the residents to look over and choose which concept they like. From there, the Department of Parks and Recreation will develop a final plan to take back to the Edison Neighborhood Association for its approval. Construction is planned to begin the Spring of 2019.

A few of the elements of the Reed Park concept will include, but are not be limited to, accessible play elements and features for all, a small shelter and permanent tables, and bike racks. Natural plantings are being considered. 

The need for parking was a concern for many at the meetings and it was taken into consideration while planning. “To put a small parking area in would take up a lot of the budget,  to install. We see the parking as possibly being a second phase a few years down the road,” says McVerry. The budget for the Reed Park renovation is set at $306,000.00. The park is accessible by means of sidewalks, nearby public transportation, and bicycles.

Neighbors of Reed Park have voiced their concern regarding crime and gang-related behavior at the park. McVerry says, “By creating a space that everyone enjoys, more people use the park.  It will cut down on bad behavior and we have more eyes watching the park to help create a safe enjoyable space.” Perla Castaneda agrees with McVerry.  

Castaneda, a lifelong resident of the Edison neighborhood says, “I remember walking to the park with my grandfather. I love that park and the shade trees. I take my kids there all the time and think, ‘I really wish the park had tables and a little more.’” She says the thing she likes most about it is the convenience for her family.  “It’s walking distance and close to a store, a gas station, a bus stop, and school.”  

Castaneda says she was not aware of the renovation or the past two meetings regarding the renovation. When asked if she will be attending the third meeting at the end of this month, she excitedly answered, “OH, YEAH!” She had a hard time containing her excitement about the up and coming Reed Park project and what it will offer her family. As she threw her tightly clenched hand in the air, she exclaimed, “I’m excited! Let’s do this!”

Edison Community Police Officer John Resseguie attended the first meeting and listened to residents' concerns and the plans. He says he hopes the new improved space will bring more residents outside to enjoy the park. And he says he believes “when residents interact, it increases relationships and improves the sense of community. This increase in a sense of pride and community should positively affect crime in the Edison Neighborhood.” 

With these visions, the Reed Park renovation plan seeks to bring a park environment with many opportunities for the young and the not so young, the active and the not so active, the individuals with a desire to bring their talents to the community to enjoy, cut down on the crime level, and for the Edison neighborhood to connect, share, and continue to grow as a community.

Read more articles by Heather Gorning.

Heather Gorning is a newer resident of the Edison Neighborhood, a proud grandmother of two, and in her spare time, a Fitness Instructor at the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, and now a Community Correspondent for On The Ground Edison. Heather comes from a military family and has lived in California, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Virginia.  Her favorite memories are those of Virginia. She says the scenery, the history, the people, and the summers spent completely barefoot still ring clear in her memory.  Each weekend was spent either at the ocean, camping, or at the battlefields and museums. She is looking forward to sharing her love of the outdoors and nature with her grandchildren and making a positive difference in the Edison Neighborhood.  
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