State money helps Wenonah Park take steps to improve access, safety, and appearance

Wenonah Park is entering a new phase of restorations and enhancements for the entire community to enjoy, drawing praise from the leader of a local agency serving people with disabilities.

Bay Future Inc., State Theatre, Bay City Downtown Development Authority, and the city of Bay City collaborated and secured funds through the Revitalization and Placemaking Program (RAP) grant, made available by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to further the progress of revitalizing Wenonah Park.

Planners kept Universal Design in mind, renovating the park to be fully accessible to everyone regardless of age, ability, or other factors.

Wenonah Park was established in 1908 and encompasses the heart of Downtown Bay City. Sprawling six acres, Wenonah Park is the most used park in the city. Hosting concerts, expositions, festivals, and more throughout the year, the park ensures people of all ages and abilities can participate and enjoy its grounds as well as the activities hosted by the community. 
Wenonah Park is handicap accessible and is equipped with two sets of restrooms, a concession stand, pavilion, and playground. Walking ramps are on either side of the front entrance when entering from Water Street and the doorways to the restrooms are wide enough for people using wheelchairs, powers chairs, walkers, and canes to pass through.

Changes to the World Friendship Shell were just the first phase of changes coming to Wenonah Park. In the end, the park should be more accessible to all people. (Photo Credit: Doug Coombe)Gail Frahm, the Executive Director for Disability Services Resource Center, knows all too well those little things matter.

“If you have a little bump from the parking lot to the sidewalk and you’re in a wheelchair or power chair, you probably aren’t able to have access, but with the improvements they’ve made, they have made sure that those items have been fixed and are accessible,” Frahm says.

Everyone is a part of the Bay City community, whether one has lived here their entire lives or visited for one day, Bay City welcomes residents and guests with open arms and accessibility for all.

“Everyone with disabilities, drinks, shops, and eats; they do whatever, anyone else does, so it's nice that they can utilize the community that they live in as well,” Frahm says.

The RAP program grant awarded $900,000 for ongoing improvements of the park. The bandshell will enter its third and final phase of the enhancement project, while Wenonah Park enters its second phase of a two-phase enhancement.

The bandshell has already undergone renovations during Phase I and Phase II. Updates consisted of refurbishments to the bandshell, expansion of the stage, and a “Hollywood Bowl” redesign of the look. Phase I of the project included the installation of 18 new benches, four picnic tables, eight concrete chess tables, and 16 new trashcans.

According to a press release from June 23, remaining improvements for the project consist of four components:
  • Component A is adding a sprinkler irrigation system to help keep the grass greener and healthier throughout the summer festival season. This system will be sustainable and ecologically friendly, recycling water from the nearby Saginaw River.
  • Component B is hanging icicle lights from the trees in the north and south plaza areas at the east end of the park. These will be a welcoming and an aesthetic addition to the park that has seen updates in sitting areas and chess tables, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These additions are a part of an ongoing effort to encourage residents to use the park to enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Icicle lights will add to the beauty of the park offering dazzling changing colors to the area of the park as enhancing the safety of the park.
  • Component C is the addition of sound and lights to the newly-renovated World Friendship Shell Stage. Renting sound and lighting equipment can be costly and the addition of sound and lights alleviates this financial expenditure when putting on festivals and concerts. These shows boast world-class entertainment including a recent performance by Nelly as well as educational entertainment and a free children’s concert series.
  • Component D is replacing the square box lights from the 1970s with updated LED Arlington lights. The LED lights are brighter, more effective for safety, and energy efficient.

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