| The Holland Sentinel
DOUGLAS — A group of parents in Douglas are ramping up fundraising efforts to buy playground equipment for Schultz Park and Beery Field, in the hopes of installing the first pieces this summer.
The group aims to raise about $320,000 in total for new, accessibly designed play structures for different age groups at the two parks, from a tot lot for toddlers at Beery Field to outdoor workout equipment, including a 10-foot climbing wall, for adults at Schultz Park.
Anna Gregg, who has young children, said she realized after moving to the city five years ago that Douglas needed better play spaces.
Beery Field in downtown Douglas has a few aging pieces of playground equipment that Douglas City Manager Rich LaBombard guessed dated back to the 1970s and described as “long overdue” for replacement.
“We really don’t have a good play area,” Gregg explained. “And the playground in Saugatuck is so busy during the summer. So I went to Douglas City Council in the spring of 2019 and asked if we could build a playground if we raised the money for it.”
For the city of Douglas, this was a win-win, LaBombard said.
“It was in our parks master plan, and fortunately this group stepped forward and showed a lot of interest in fundraising,” LaBombard said. “[…] It’s a nice symbiotic relationship with the community and the city to get a goal achieved that the city wanted to achieve.”
Gregg has since rallied a team of other parents to her cause and formed a volunteer committee to spearhead the effort, called The Douglas Park Project.
“The Douglas playground group is very motivated,” LaBombard said. “They’ve got ambitious plans, so hopefully all these projects they’re working on and all the fundraising comes together. It’s only going to benefit the community in the end.”
The group has sought donations from the community, businesses and nonprofits. Early on in the campaign, the Douglas Park Project secured its largest donation to date, $15,000 from the Julie and Kirk Cousins Foundation, for the construction of the tot lot.
Plans for what to include in the play areas were created with community input. LaBombard said municipal staff helped organize gathering public input before the plans were officially approved by the Douglas City Council.
The city of Douglas also paid for the engineering work and is applying for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passport Grant which, if won, would bring in up to $150,000 for the ages 5-12 play structure planned for Beery Field.
Accessibility was a big focus in choosing the playground equipment, Gregg said. If they’re successful with fundraising efforts, one of the play items will be a universally-accessible play dome that kids who use a wheelchair will be able to play in.
Gregg said her dream is to bring all ages together with the new spaces. Since Douglas has a significant community of older, retired people, she said sometimes it can be difficult to find connections between the older generations and the young families with kids in Douglas.
That’s one reason for the addition of workout equipment for adults.
“We think it would be really cool to have a place to bring the generations together,” Gregg said. “It’s not just for the kids. It’s kind of a unique approach to it.”
To reach their goal of installing the first pieces of equipment this summer, the group needs to raise $170,000, or a little more than half of their total goal. They have raised more than $45,000 so far.
To that end, Douglas Park Project recently sent out postcards to all residents of Saugatuck in Douglas about the project.
The group will make a big push for donations starting May 1, when the Douglas Park Project starts the clock for a 60-day challenge through the Michigan Department of Economic Development’s Public Spaces, Community Spaces grant program.
The group will have to raise $50,000 in those 60 days to earn a matching grant from the MEDC.
This summer, Gregg said they plan to install the first pieces of playground equipment in a “community build,” organized by Sinclair Recreation, which is supplying the equipment.
In a community build, residents help construct the play equipment themselves while Sinclair representatives supervise. This saves labor costs and can also be a community-building event that creates a sense of ownership over the end result, Gregg said.
More information about the project and how to donate is available at p2p.onecause.com/douglasparkproject. Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to The City of Village of Douglas, P.O. Box 757, Douglas, MI, 49406.
— Contact reporter Carolyn Muyskens at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cjmuyskens.