Spring Lake’s Central Park ready for a refresh

Spring Lake’s Central Park is a destination for many things. Located along the Lakeside Trail, connecting the peninsula community to Grand Haven, the park has a rink for ice skating during the winter and inline skating for the summer. 

There are tennis courts, baseball fields, biking trails, a playground, and a picnic shelter. Dogs are welcome on leash as well as in the off-leash dog park.

But it’s time for a refresh, says Megan Doss, chairwoman of the village’s parks committee. 

She’s inviting the community to an event Thursday, Feb. 29, from 6-7:30 p.m. at Barber School, 102 W. Exchange St., to discuss the Central Park Refresh Project and offer input. Those who can’t make it can take this survey. Also, signs with QR codes linked to the survey will be going up around the park.

“I'm excited to see what comes up,” Doss says. 

Ideas already on the table

Among the ideas the committee already has heard is converting the tennis courts to pickleball courts to keep pace with the rising popularity of the sport; improving infrastructure such as irrigation; and adding a refrigeration system to the rink so it can be used more during the winter.

“We’ve had four winters that we didn’t have enough ice to keep the rink open,” Doss says. 

A daycare center take children on a daily stroll through Central Park.

So far, investments in the parks have been piecemeal because of lack of funding, resulting in renovations being completed in stages.  The last major renovations to the park were nearly a decade ago.

"There needs to be a more cohesive plan, because Central Park gets used all year round,” Doss says. “This park is very, very important for a lot of people. You see people here every day.”

Funding is challenging for this small Ottawa County community of 2,500 people.
Doss hopes the project can emulate the successful renovation of the village’s Tanglefoot Park into an award-winning park, thanks to funding from many sources that covered the $3.5 million cost. 

The village is working with Tower Pinkster, a multi-state, full-service design firm that recently opened an office in Grand Haven. 

The biggest challenge for the refresh of the 8-acre park near the heart of Spring Lake is its size, says Brandon List, the firm’s manager of landscape architecture and planning, 

“The master plan will need to grapple with how to arrange different program elements within that small area,” List says. “But that is also Central Park's charm. It is an intimate neighborhood park that feels woven into the community. We don't want to lose that character.” 

Resident feedback will guide plan

He adds that he thinks there’s potential to give Central Park a clear identity, which is part of the appeal of the project for him.

“How folks find and get to the park isn't necessarily well defined,” says List. “The northern edge of the park, along Lakeside Trail, has a lot of potential to enhance the character of the park. But  Thursday's workshop is a great opportunity for us to hear about other opportunities from the residents who use the park everyday.”

The Rotary Club has been a partner in many improvements at Central Park over the years.

Feedback from residents is the most important piece of this process. The workshop will allow the design team to understand residents’ vision for how Central Park should look and function, as well as guide the parks committee and List’s teams as they consider design options. 

“TowerPinkster is very excited to partner with the Village of Spring Lake on creating a master plan for Central Park,” says LIst. “Our team has a lot of memories and connections to the space and this project is an exciting opportunity to develop a clear vision for Central Park.”

Photos by Shandra Martinez
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