A new park swings into Bay City’s Veterans Memorial Park later this summer

Before summer ends, kids can take a spin on a new merry-go-round, fly high on two-person swings, and scale climbing features to reach for the sky a new accessible playscape called Play City at Vets Park.

The new structure, which replaces an older, traditional playground inside Veterans Memorial Park on Bay City’s West Side, is expected to open in August. The playscape will sit in a grassy expanse of land near Liberty Harbor Marina. A pavilion nearby provides shade and picnic tables.

This week, the Bay Area Community Foundation released a video showing the completed park in use. Click here to view the video online.

“The City of Bay City has been involved in the project since Day One,” says Tim Botzau, parks and environmental affairs manager for the city. “We are incredibly proud of the volunteers and donors who made this new playground possible as it will be a welcome addition to our most popular park.”

The committee designing the park tried to incorporate several different types of equipment accessible to children of all abilities.Matt VanNortwick, chair of the committee developing the park, said the equipment in the new park is as universally accessible as possible. For example, designers built a merry-go-round that sits level with the ground, meaning there’s no lip to step over. Slides end near the ground too, lessening the risk of injury if a child tumbles off.

Those features came as a direct result of the public input the committee sought early in the planning process.

“The original concept was to replace the Imagination Station,” but it’s grown to include playground equipment that children of all abilities can use, VanNortwick says. Other parks in the area do have some accessible equipment, but the goal was to make Play City available to as many children as possible. “We kept a lot of those philosophies.”

VanNortwick says seeing the video was rewarding.

“It was cool to finally be able to see a video of the concept,” he says. “It’s been this whole journey with drawings, where it’s been tough to really show the community. Now we have something a little bit better to share, so we’re pretty excited.”

A variety of slides, swings, and climbing features make Play City at Vets Park appealing to kids of all ages.The journey to the park began in 2015 when the city tore down Imagination Station ­– also located in Veterans Memorial Park ­– due to safety and environmental concerns. The wooden playscape was built in 1996 near the city’s softball diamonds.

VanNortwick, a mortgage loan officer at Huntington Bank in Bay City, says the planning committee hit a few obstacles on the journey from the Imagination Station to Play City at Vets Park.

For a brief time, the committee considered building at Bigelow Park. Read more about the park in a Route Bay City article from December 2018. But studies conducted later showed the builders would need to invest significant money underground to build up the land before adding any equipment, VanNortwick says.

 “With the pandemic and everything else happening in the community, we didn’t think raising more money was an option,” he says.

Instead, they found a new piece of property where they could invest more of the donated dollars above ground on playground equipment for the kids.

“Hopefully we can have children attend,” a grand opening later this summer, he says. “Hopefully things will be open to where kids can actually enjoy it.”

The playground offers equipment for kids in a wide range of ages. Places to climb and play independently sit alongside swings made for toddlers.

“We look forward to once it is up everyone getting out and checking it out and using it and enjoying it,” VanNortwick says. “With the coronavirus lockdown, it’s been just crazy trying to get things wrapped up, but the city has done a great job of communicating and working with the design companies.”

One set of swings at the park lets parents and children swing together.Botzau says the city has opened playgrounds, but he reminds families that the equipment is not routinely disinfected.

“I am very excited to see this project finally move forward,” Botzau says. “The group members behind this project are diehards and I am very grateful they stuck it out to the end. I can’t wait to see all the smiling faces when kids get to use Play City.”

In all, the project will cost about $450,000. A little more than $380,000 of the funding came from donors, grants, sponsors, and community fund-raisers. The City of Bay City funded the remainder.

The Bay Area Community Foundation said the funding organizations include:

  • Bay Area Community Foundation funds including the Community Initiative Fund; Youth Advisory Committee; Men’s Philanthropy Group; Women’s Philanthropy Circle; Dow Chemical Donor Advised Fund; Dow Corning Donor Advised Fund; BACF/Dow Corning Foundation Healthy Living Fund; Herzog Family Donor Advised Fund; and the Oscar P. and Louise H. Osthelder Fund.
  • The Nickless Family Charitable Foundation
  • Kantzler Foundation
  • Russell H. and Maxine E. Smith Foundation
  • Bay City Noon Rotary Club
  • Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation
  • SC Johnson
  • Bay City Noon Optimist Club
  • Frances Goll Mills Foundation
  • Bay City Morning Rotary Club
  • Huntington Bank
  • Chemical Bank Foundation

Sponsors include:

  • McLaren Bay Region
  • LiUNA – Local 1098
  • R&R Ready Mix
  • Wildfire Credit Union
  • Bierlein Companies
  • Kiwanis Club
  • Continental Rental
  • Chelsea Mason Dentistry
  • Graff Chevrolet
  • Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum
  • Sandlot Sports
  • McLaren Bay Special Care
  • Debbie & Jeff McAlpine