Village of Sanford Park to reopen in 2023

The last major piece in rebuilding Sanford is approaching completion: The Village of Sanford Park. Everything in the project’s current scope is slated to be finished in July 2023.

“The park is really the gemstone of Sanford,” says Dolores Porte, president of the Village of Sanford. “Having it inaccessible has been an open wound on the community psyche, so it’s really exciting for this final repair to be completed and to have a place to gather again outdoors.”
The Sanford Strong heart sculpture stands near the park’s new entrance. It honors the community devastated by the flood.
The park is in the heart of town at the corner of West Saginaw Road and West Center Street. It’s also nestled beside the Tittabawassee River, across from where Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF) has been restoring the Sanford Dam. FLTF will be reinforcing the shoreline bordering the park and the boat launch to protect them from erosion.

Because the park was destroyed by a flood, its reconstruction qualified for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding. After deductions, FEMA committed $2.4 million to replace what was destroyed. Community donors including the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation, Midland 100 Club, and many others covered additions and upgrades. In total, the park project was bid at $3.7 million. 
Phase one of park construction will be complete in July 2023
The park will have two tee-ball fields, five little league softball fields (two will have grass in-fields and three will have dirt), one senior field, one basketball court, six horseshoe pits, two pavilions, two playground areas, a sled hill, and a boat launch with fishing access. New single and double-lane batting cages will also be added, replacing the wooden ones that parents had built.

“It’s been an honor to rebuild my village,” says Jamie Mose, superintendent of the park construction project for the Three Rivers Corporation. Mose has lived in Sanford his whole life. He’s also helped rebuild other community fixtures such as Red Oak and Sanford Hardware. “You can tell everyone working on rebuilding Sanford really wants to be here.”

A lifelong Sanford resident, Jamie Mose has worked at Three Rivers Corporation for 18 years.
Andy Clark, a director of Sanford Youth Sports who played a role in the design, funding, and overall vision of the new park after the flood, expressed a similar sentiment.

“The community does a really good job of supporting all our youth sports,” says Clark. He adds that shortly after the flood, “The business owners were more concerned at the time about the duck race they run every Labor Day that supports the scholarship program for the kids.”

Sports enthusiasts hopeful to start their seasons late next spring

Sanford Youth Sports is eager to return to the village park. The organization creates opportunities for children ages 5 through 16 to play sports such as baseball and softball, basketball, cheer, football, and wrestling.

“We have about 350 kids in our league that play baseball and softball with us,” says Clark. He’s looking forward to the additional fields the park will have. “Tee-ball is our largest set of kids and we’ve only ever had one field, so it was tough to get all our games in. ... Having that extra space will allow us to have games and practices going on.”
A pole barn for equipment is being added to the Village of Sanford Park.
While the fields may not be ready for use in April, Clark is envisioning a “partial pace” for the start of the season—possibly delaying the start until May or doing away games for the first half of the season.

The horseshoe league is also eager to start its season in Sanford again. The league was established in 2001, growing to 14 teams over the years. “It’s a nice, relaxing sport that anyone at any level can play,” says Dave Sutton of Sanford’s horseshoe league. Sutton has been playing horseshoes for about 66 years.

After the park was destroyed, some league members have been playing at Emerson Park in Midland. Many members, however, are waiting for Sanford’s pits to be ready to return to the sport. “We’ve all been anxious to get back to Sanford,” says Sutton. They hope to resume their league next May.

FLTF will be reinforcing the boat launch and the park shoreline along the Tittabawassee River against erosion.
Phase two of the park project is still being discussed, but it may include fishing piers, bathrooms, and an area for concessions. Construction for phase two is estimated to last about six months.

A parcel of land surrounded by the park—just off West Center Street, and several feet off of West Saginaw Road—was recently purchased by Nicole and Brett Cotton. While the plans for the space are undecided at this time, the duo has asked the community what they would like to see there.

Sanford Shines returns for its third year

Coming up this month in Sanford is the third annual Sanford Shines, an event where locals bring in Christmas trees or exhibits to light up along the perimeter of Porte Park. All trees are to be up by Nov. 27. And on Dec. 2 starting at 6:30 p.m., Sanford will hold its Christmas Parade.

Cultivate Coffee, a coffee shop in the Midland Mall operated by volunteers and funded by donations, is expected to open in Sanford on the same day as the parade. 

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Read more articles by Crystal Gwizdala.

Crystal Gwizdala is a freelance writer with a focus on health and science. As a lifelong resident of the Tri-Cities, she loves sharing how our communities are overcoming challenges. Crystal is also a serial hobbyist — her interests range from hiking or drawing to figuring out how to do a handstand. Her work can be seen in Wide Open Eats, The Xylom, Woman & Home, and The Detroit Free Press. To see what Crystal’s up to, you can follow her on Twitter @CrystalGwizdala.