Park Township announces public engagement process for new community center

Park Township is inviting all residents to share their ideas and help shape their future community center. 

The township’s previous community center, located at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds, was lost to a fire from a lightning strike in July 2022. To drive the process of replacing that facility, the Township Board formed a nine-member committee, titled Gather Park Township, led by Trustee Bryan Jones and Planning Commission member Len Pilon. 

“Our former community center hosted a variety of activities, including athletics, recreation groups, and rental spaces for community events,” Jones says. “In considering a replacement, the board has identified an opportunity for the community to come together in shaping the vision for what comes next.”

Public engagement will unfold over the spring through early fall and feature multiple opportunities for residents to get involved, both in-person and online. At the close of the process, the township plans to use the community’s input when it seeks architectural design and building services.

Process starts this week

Gather Park Township will kick off this week as residents receive postcards to participate in a township-wide survey.

Next, the township will host an open house in May at the Park Township offices, where community members will be able to share their thoughts about what qualities and uses are most important. The township also has created a website to document the process and share information at A link to the survey is also posted there.

Before 2022 fire, the Park Township Community Center was a venue for many sports activities.

“We are looking forward to proactively listening and seeking the input of our community to create a multi-generational resource that all Park Township residents and visitors can enjoy,” Pilon says. “This is our opportunity to envision a place that can be built in multiple phases and will serve for decades as a unique expression of our community.”

The former Park Township Community Center has a rich history dating back to its construction in 1937. Over its first few decades, it had a variety of uses including roller skating, a voting hall, community meetings, and training for Navy air students during World War II. 

The township expanded and upgraded the building on several occasions, most recently in 1992 with the renovations of the gymnasium and bathrooms, the addition of the elevator, and other accessibility improvements.

The center was home to birthday and graduation party rentals, operation of a former day care business, Boy Scouts meeting space, and storage for the Ottawa County Fairgrounds. Recreation users enjoyed basketball, pickleball, lacrosse clinics, karate and dance classes, and roller skating.

‘No boundaries’

Organizers of the input sessions say that in the early stages, every idea is welcome, no matter how ambitious,

“The first phase is ideation with no boundaries,” Pilon says. “We are filling the top of the funnel with ideas from surveys, focus groups, and town halls. During the process, we will arrive at a common vision, interests, priorities, phasing, and budget. We will have more parameters for location after settling with the insurance company in the coming months.”

Students at Macatawa Bay take part in a visioning session for the community center.

Pilon hopes residents offer their vision, ideas, and priorities.  

“We have already started the process of engaging with students, and the ideas have been incredible,” he says. 
Pilon says the committee wants to identify and satisfy the distinctive needs of the community.

“A significant part of our process includes understanding amenities in close proximity, not just duplicating them,” he says. “We will focus on uniqueness, connected to development of the entire Park Central site.”
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.