Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (Nov. 15, 2011): With no action items on the agenda, PAC’s November meeting was filled with updates and honors, farewells and a few pointed comments regarding Fuller Road Station.
Commissioners were briefed by city staff about annual finances related to the land acquisition for parks and greenbelt programs, which are funded by a 30-year millage. They also got an update on the city’s marketing efforts for parks and recreation, and heard a report on the status of a sustainability project – several PAC commissioners had attended a September joint work session to help prioritize city goals related to environmental quality, economic vitality, and social equity.
Updates were also given about a sediment removal project in the Ruthven Nature Area, and about two parking-related projects at Riverside Park and Veterans Memorial Park.
In his manager’s report, Colin Smith noted that he’d taken a canoe run through the under-construction Argo Dam bypass pools – the new channel was a ”bit sportier” than he had expected, and is still being tweaked. He also told commissioners he’d received word that two state grant applications made by the city of Ann Arbor – $300,000 for the proposed Ann Arbor skatepark at Veterans Memorial Park, and $300,000 for improvements at the Gallup Park canoe livery – had ranked in the top 12 out of 100 applications statewide for funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. That bodes well for the possibility that the grants will be awarded – a decision from the state is expected in December.
During the meeting commissioners also honored two volunteers with the city’s natural area preservation program – Sarah Newman and Drew Lathin – and said farewell to Lynn Bowen, the administrative assistant who works with PAC. The meeting was her last before retiring from the city.
An item not on the agenda – the proposed Fuller Road Station – drew focus from public commentary as well as some questions from commissioners later in the meeting.
Fuller Road Station
The issue of Fuller Road Station has raised concerns for several members of PAC dating back nearly two years. The large parking structure, bus depot and possible rail station is proposed near the intersection of Fuller Road and Maiden Lane, near the University of Michigan medical campus on city-owned land. The land has been used as a surface parking lot since 1993, leased to the university, but is on property designated as parkland. It’s a joint project of the city of Ann Arbor and UM, but a formal agreement regarding its construction and operation hasn’t yet been finalized.
In June 2010, the commission passed a resolution that asked the city council to make available a complete plan of Fuller Road Station – including any significant proposed agreements, such as what the university will pay the city for use of the structure – allowing sufficient time for a presentation at a televised PAC meeting before the council votes on the project. The resolution also asked that staff and the council ensure the project results in a net revenue gain for the parks system. PAC most recently got a detailed update on the project at its May 2011 meeting. The commission has not formally received word about whether the city council will agree to the requests made in the 2010 resolution.
There was no agenda item for the proposed Fuller Road Station, but the issue came up during public commentary as well as at the end of the meeting, with questions from commissioners.
Fuller Road Station: Public Commentary
Nancy Kaplan told commissioners that she was there to speak about transforming Fuller Park into a Fuller Road parking garage, saying it set many negative, troubling precedents. One precedent is that it’s OK to change a part-time surface parking lot into a parking garage. The fact that it’s a surface lot to accommodate parking for the University of Michigan is being used to justify building a parking garage with up to 1,600 spaces, with an expected structural life of 75 years, she said. This decreases the chances of reclaiming the Huron Valley as a beautiful amenity. Another negative precedent, Kaplan said, is circumventing the expectations of a 2008 ballot initiative passed by Ann Arbor voters, which requires a referendum in order to sell city parkland. This circumvention breaks with the trust of voters, who had a common understanding of what it meant to sell parkland, she said, and although this situation isn’t technically a sale, the result is the same.
A third negative precedent is accepting that the project will move forward without a due process hearing. Aside from the memorandum of understanding, no city council vote on the overall project has been taken. Yet at the Nov. 14 council work session, Kaplan noted, it was stated that a groundbreaking is expected this spring, and that public art is already being planned. Finally, she said the university has embarked on a sustainability initiative, but bringing up to 1,600 cars into the parking garage is counter to sustainability. She pointed out that Stanford University in California doesn’t subsidize employee parking, as UM does. Instead, as part of its reward system, Stanford pays employees not to park, and offers bus passes and free shuttles. The side benefit is that Stanford doesn’t have to build a lot of parking garages. Kaplan said that hopefully these negative precedents, plus the model of Stanford, are issues to be considered seriously.
Rita Mitchell continued the topic of Fuller Road Station. She began by noting that she’s a steward for the city’s natural area preservation (NAP) program, and takes great interest in parks. She said she appreciated PAC’s work. She asked that commissioners discuss and forward a series of questions to city council, to be reviewed in public, regarding plans to build a parking structure in Fuller Park. She gave a brief history of the property, noting that it was acquired by the city in the 1920s for use as parkland, and was the city’s first golf course. Starting in 1993, it was temporarily leased to UM for parking, and many problems have stemmed from that use. It’s already an area of great traffic congestion, and adding up to 1,600 more cars will create a range of problems, including air pollution, more polluted runoff, and conflicts with pedestrians, buses and bicyclists. Air pollution and health risks will increase in the summer for people, including children, who use Fuller Pool, located across the street, Mitchell said.
The city has spent significant money already, without discussing with the public whether parkland should be repurposed in this way, Mitchell said. She asked that PAC advise the city council to hold a public hearing on the issue, at a time that’s not influenced heavily by upcoming holiday schedules, so that the community can express their concerns. She noted that the council’s Nov. 14 work session had included discussion of art for the structure, and called it “outrageous” that this discussion would happen for a project that hasn’t yet been approved. The university is the primary beneficiary for this project, but the public doesn’t know who is negotiating with the university on this project. “Do you, as commissioners?” she asked. PAC should ask council to be provided with the names of those negotiating, and the specifications of the negotiations. Repurposing parkland subverts the letter and intent of the 2008 ballot initiative that requires a voter referendum on the sale of parkland, she said. The structure would have a 75-year lifespan, and 75 years for use of land is in effect a sale. But there’s been no discussion of a fair market value, or compensation to the citizens or parks system for the use of the land.
Mitchell also said she’s heard about the possible transfer of the Amtrak station to that site. While rail travel is a great idea, she said, there are also a range of concerns. Is it in the best interests of the city to build and run a train station? Should it be placed on parkland? If Ann Arbor is just one commuter stop, why do we need a 1,600-space parking structure? There hasn’t been adequate public discussion on this issue, Mitchell said. In addition, this summer a major water and sewer line were moved in Fuller Park – had that been discussed with PAC? Is the sign that’s now missing from the south end of Fuller Park a silent indication that the land is no longer part of the park system? Park commissioners are stewards of all city parks, Mitchell said. She urged them to start asking pointed questions and advocate for greater public participation in decisions that relate to parkland.
Fuller Road Station: Commissioner Questions
Later in the meeting, Gwen Nystuen asked city staff a series of questions about the Fuller Road Station project. She wondered about the legal status of the city’s parks, and how that relates to the project. She asked about the site plan for Fuller Road Station – if council approves the project, would it constitute a change of land use, and no longer be part of the parks system? These are issues that have never been discussed by city council, she noted. The land is part of the central Huron River valley, an area that has some of the least parkland per capita in the city, she said. This project would reduce it even more, she said, so it’s of concern to PAC. She also wondered about the status of the soccer field that had been in that area.
Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, said these are legitimate questions. He asked Nystuen and other commissioners to send him whatever questions they had, and he would forward the questions to the city attorney or other relevant staff. He said the soccer field will be put in place again after utility work is finished on the south side of Fuller Road.
Tim Berla suggested asking representatives from the city attorney’s office, systems planning unit and Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, to attend a future PAC meeting to discuss the Fuller Road Station project. He noted that sometimes their answers are a bit opaque, and that it’s better to have the chance to ask follow-up questions in person, rather than to just get their answers in writing.
Open Space Millage Update
Ginny Trocchio of The Conservation Fund briefed commissioners on the annual financial report related to the land acquisition for parks and greenbelt programs. [A similar update was given to the greenbelt advisory commission by Kelli Martin, financial manager for the city’s community services unit, at GAC's Sept. 14 meeting.] [.pdf of land preservation annual report]
Under contract with the city, Trocchio is a Conservation Fund staff member who helps administer the city’s greenbelt program and land acquisition program for parks, which are both funded by the 30-year open space and parkland preservation millage. The 0.5 mill tax was approved by voters in 2003. Two-thirds of the millage proceeds are used for the greenbelt program, and one-third is allotted to parkland acquisition. PAC oversees the portion related to parkland acquisition.
Revenues from the millage were $2.164 million in fiscal 2011, down slightly from $2.262 million the previous year. In addition, the greenbelt program brought in nearly $2.8 million in federal grants during the year – the highest amount it has ever received. Those grants are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, or FRPP. Investment income was $233,614 for the year, down from $492,576 in FY 2010. In total, $5.185 million in revenues came in for the combined greenbelt and parks acquisitions programs in FY 2011.
On the expense side, items included $1.2 million in debt service on the $20 million bond that the city issued in FY 2006. The greenbelt program spent $8.3 million during the year, related to land preservation projects. Parks spent $985,900 during the year, including two major purchases: (1) $592,503 for property off of South Pond owned by Wes Vivian and Elizabeth Kauffman, and (2) $369,160 for property next to the Bluffs Nature Area, owned by the Elks.
In FY 2011, $120,338 was paid to The Conservation Fund, which manages the greenbelt and park acquisition programs. Total administrative costs – including items like information technology (IT) and bond insurance – were $161,195. Administrative expenses accounted for 1.5% of the $10.672 million in total expenditures.
The fund balance stands at $10.3 million, down from $15.79 million a year ago. Of that, the portion for land acquisition for parks is $4.24 million.
Commissioners had no questions for Trocchio about the report.
Promoting Parks and Recreation
Kimberly Mortson, communications liaison for the city of Ann Arbor, gave a presentation on communications, marketing and social media for the parks and recreation system. She said that although she also does some work for other parts of the city’s community services area, 95% of her efforts are for parks and recreation.
Mortson noted that she started using Facebook and Twitter to promote city programs and events about two years ago. One of the advantages is that she can post a message one time, but there are an infinite number of people who’ll see it – and it doesn’t impact her budget, because Facebook and Twitter are free services. There’s a general Facebook page for parks and recreation, and other pages for specific units of parks and recreation, like the Ann Arbor farmers market, Cobblestone Farm and canoe liveries, among others
On Twitter, the @a2parks account has over 1,800 followers, Mortson reported. Over the past year, staff has tweeted from events, like the re-opening of West Park after its renovations, or the Heisman Trophy appearance at Hanover Park. They also use the account to promote other activities and programs.
Parks and recreation has also started using FourSquare, a social networking website that allows users to “check in” from their smart phones or other mobile devices, when they arrive at their destination. Mortson said she’s uploaded all the city’s parks and recreation locations to FourSquare – it’s another free marketing tool, she said.
Turning to the city’s website, Mortson told commissioners that the parks and recreation page is one of the most visited pages on the a2gov.org site. There will be changes to the page in the coming weeks and months, she said, to help people use the site more easily. Staff is also working with the state of Michigan on a new mobile application – the MI Camping and Recreation Locator. Now, people can use the application to search for information about state parks, she said. Ann Arbor will be the first city in the state to have its information loaded on that application, so that people can search for Ann Arbor parks information, too.
Some marketing materials for parks and recreation include QR codes, Mortson said – a marking similar to a bar code, which can be read by smart phones. The code is used to direct people to different websites for parks and recreation.
In addition to cost savings, social media and other online marketing is green, Mortson said – it saves paper.
Mortson said the city also advertises parks and recreation events and programs in traditional media, and showed several examples of ads that have run in the Ann Arbor Observer, Ann Arbor Chronicle, AnnArbor.com and other publications. Other venues for promoting parks and recreation include ads on buses and posters within city facilities.
Following Mortson’s presentation, Gwen Nystuen praised her efforts, saying the information showed that her marketing work is succeeding. Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, noted that the programs are being well-run, and are being promoted exceedingly well. He gave the example of this summer’s day camps. In an extremely competitive area, two of the city’s four day camps were filled. Smith credited Mortson’s marketing efforts for helping achieve that level of participation.
Jamie Kidwell is working for the city on a sustainability project funded by a $95,000 grant the city received from the Home Depot Foundation. At the Nov. 15 meeting, she briefed commissioners on a Sept. 27, 2011 joint working session that involved four city commissions: park, planning, energy and environmental. The session focused on prioritizing existing goals for the city that touch on sustainability issues.
By way of background, the concept of sustainability focuses on what’s called the triple bottom line: environmental quality, economic vitality, and social equity. The goal of the sustainability project for Ann Arbor is to review the city’s existing plans and organize them into a framework of goals, objectives and indicators that can guide future planning and policy. Other project goals include improving access to the city’s plans and to the sustainability components of each plan, and to incorporate the concept of sustainability into city planning and future city plans.
There’s an 18-month timeline for the project, which started earlier this year. For the first phase, Kidwell reviewed existing city plans – such as the downtown plan, the non-motorized transportation plan, the natural features master plan and others – and interviewed key city staff to determine which plans they use to guide their decision-making. Included in this project are 26 plans, and the second phase has involved organizing the goals for each plan. [.pdf of the list of 26 plans]
Kidwell and other city staff started to develop a framework for these plans, and to identify gaps that exist – goals that the city might want to pursue, but that aren’t laid out in existing plans.
At November’s regular PAC meeting, Kidwell characterized PAC as well-represented among the 26 commissioners at the three-hour sustainability session on Sept. 27. [Among the PAC members attending were Julie Grand, Tim Berla, Tim Doyle, Gwen Nystuen, Sam Offen, and John Lawter.]
Kidwell explained that the staff had identified four planning areas – climate & energy, community, land use & access, and natural systems. During the work session, commissioners met in breakout groups and started to prioritize the 226 goals that staff had pulled out from the city’s 26 planning documents and sorted into the four planning areas.
Kidwell provided a handout that listed the top goals identified at the work session in each planning area:
Climate & Energy
(1) Reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 8% from 2000 levels by 2015.
(2) Commit to energy conservation measures and methods.
(3) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions in municipal operations 50% from 200 levels by 2015.
(4) Use 5% renewable energy community-wide by 2015.
(1) To encourage cooperation between the City educational institutions and between the City and Townships that surround Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Pittsfield and Scio) on development issues that affect each other.
(2) Provide job opportunities, raise the standard of living of county residents, promote a sense of place and realize a tax base sufficient to provide public services through a comprehensive set of public and private strategies to foster and attract emerging industries.
Land Use & Access
(1) Encourage dense land use and development patterns which draw people downtown and foster an active street life, contribute to its function as an urban residential neighborhood and support a sustainable transportation system
(2) Establish a network of greenways throughout the City that provide non-motorized connections between various land uses, such as neighborhoods, commercial and employment centers, downtown and the University of Michigan, and that help retain the shape and continuity of natural features, especially along stream corridors, between parks and through new neighborhoods. The network also should extend to greenways located on adjacent township and County properties.
(1) To protect and restore woodlands, landmark trees, steep slopes, endangered species habitats, prairies and savannahs, the Huron River, creeks and native flora and fauna from the impacts of development.
(2) To improve air quality to protect the health and welfare of the public
(3) Develop, complete and regularly update watershed plans for the City’s tributary waterways to improve water quality and to restore and preserve, waterways, banks, wetlands, floodplains, wildlife habits, native species and natural areas. Plans should include techniques to dramatically reduce the volume and speed of storm water runoff, increase water directed to infiltrate soil, and reduce the volume of toxics and pollutants reaching waterways.
(4) To protect, preserve and restore the natural resources of Washtenaw County through a comprehensive approach to water management and preservation of our natural features.
The 226 goals had been an exhaustive list, Kidwell said, with overlapping goals on a range of topics. The priority goals identified at the working session are a starting point, she said, providing feedback as the staff continues to refine what goals will fit into a sustainability framework.
Among the next steps, Kidwell said, will be to form a joint committee with representatives from each of the four commissions, to continue work on this project. There will also be a lecture series starting in January featuring issues in the four planning areas. Those lectures will be free and open to the public. At the same time, work will continue on developing a sustainability action plan, tying goals to measurable targets, Kidwell said.
Julie Grand, PAC’s chair, reported that she and Karen Levin will serve on the joint committee, representing PAC.
Parking Lot Improvements
Park planner Amy Kuras and Liz Rolla, a city engineer who primarily works on road resurfacing and reconstruction projects, talked about two parking lot improvement projects – at Riverside Park and Veterans Memorial Park.
Kuras said the projects represent a collaboration between the parks and public services units. At Riverside, the current parking lot is frequently under water, so Kuras was planning to address that issue as well as make other changes at the park. [For details, see Chronicle coverage: "Work Planned at Ann Arbor's Riverside Park"]
Canal Street, a city street runs next to the park, also needs repair, so Kuras approached the public services staff to coordinate their work. The parking lot will be moved to a different part of the park – out of the floodplain – and Canal Street will be repaved.
Tim Berla noted that the path at Riverside, running next to the Huron River, is also frequently under water. Will the project address that too? Short of creating an elevated boardwalk, Kuras said, there’s nothing they could do to prevent flooding, given the path’s proximity to the river.
The second project involves the repaving of Dexter Avenue, which runs past Veterans Memorial Park. The road repaving needs to address stormwater issues, while the parks staff is concerned about the park’s path and parking lot, which are falling apart, Kuras said.
Rolla said the road will be reconstructed from Maple to Jackson. Typically, the requirement to capture stormwater runoff is handled through underground oversized pipes and swirl concentrators. But since the road runs past the park, the staff is looking at handling runoff with a bioswale in the park, which would include native plantings. There are federal dollars to pay for stormwater improvements, which will cover about 80% of the project’s cost, Rolla said.
Kuras said benefits include rebuilding the path that runs along Dexter Avenue, and reducing the parking lot’s footprint, though the number of parking spaces will remain unchanged. It’s a better environmental solution, she said, because of the bioswale.
Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, said it’s good timing, since the city plans to renovate the softball fields there in 2012. The field renovation will likely start in mid-August, after the softball leagues finish their season.
Gwen Nystuen asked whether the parking lot would be paved with a pervious surface. No, Rolla replied. It’s too wet in that area for pervious pavement. Instead, the lot will be graded so that runoff will drain into the bioswale.
Karen Levin asked whether the park would be closed during this project. The section off of Dexter Avenue will probably be closed for some period, Kuras said, but the ice rink and pool – with an entrance off of Jackson Road – won’t be affected. Rolla added that the Dexter Avenue project will likely run from April through November, but they’ll leave it up to the contractor to decide when to do the parking lot and bioswale part of the project.
John Lawter asked whether the bioswale will have standing water. There might be some minimal amount of standing water as the plants take hold, Rolla said, but the bioswale will be designed so that water will infiltrate. It’s similar to the bioswale at Buhr Park, she said. There will also be outlets leading to the city’s conventional storm sewer system, she added, in the event of a major rain.
Tim Doyle asked how much maintenance will be required in the bioswale. Rolla replied that the city will have an agreement with the contractor, who will provide maintenance in the area for three years. After that, the plantings should be established and it will be treated as a wet meadow by the city’s natural area preservation program. Smith noted that currently, the area proposed for a bioswale is included in the park’s mowing cycles. That maintenance would eventually be eliminated.
Julie Grand wondered what will happen if balls get hit into the bioswale – how are they retrieved? Smith said it’s a rare day when any balls are hit into the area proposed for the bioswale. Nor is it an area that’s typically used for team warm-ups. “It is really pretty much a dead space,” he said.
Grand also noted that the new parking lot will be closer to the playing fields. Is there more potential for balls to hit the cars? Rolla said it’s proposed to be moved only slightly closer to the fields. Kuras added that the location was discussed at length, and indicated that there’s little concern about the change.
Ruthven Nature Area
Lara Treemore Spears of the city’s natural area preservation (NAP) program updated commissioners on a
wetland mitigation sediment removal project at the Ruthven Nature Area. The project involves removing sediment from Millers Creek, which flows through Ruthven, and repairing stream bank erosion that occurred when the creek bypassed its channel because of a sediment dam.
Like many streams in urban areas, Spears said, Millers Creek is surrounded by impervious surfaces. That creates runoff and sediment flowing into the creek, and over the years, has caused the creek to completely change its course.
The city risks losing some of its infrastructure along Huron River Drive and Geddes Road, Spears said – specifically, there’s the risk of damage to an undersized 24‐inch culvert under Geddes, which was not designed to receive the full volume of Millers Creek and could result in road flooding. Removing the sediment would redirect stormwater flow to a former open channel running through the wetlands at Ruthven, and into a larger 60-inch culvert under Geddes. It’s not an area that’s designated as a county drain, she noted, so it doesn’t fall under the purview of the county water resources commissioner’s office.
It’s best to remove the sediment when the ground is frozen, Spears said, so the work will likely begin in January. It will require some clearing, she said, but not nearly as much as has been done along Washtenaw Avenue for the county’s Mallets Creek drain project. The stream bank will be shored up with rock and restored with topsoil, mulch blanket, and native plant seed.
The city has submitted an application for a permit from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality to do the work, and is awaiting review.
The ultimate goal, Spears said, is to reduce erosion. The city’s capital improvements plan (CIP) includes a sediment study of Millers Creek, to see if better long-term solutions can be found for preventing erosion.
Gwen Nystuen noted that there are a lot of invasive species in Ruthven. She also wondered if the city had any plans to put in more trails through the nature area. There’s a trail with an entrance off of Geddes Road. But Spears noted that for a path off of Huron Parkway, after the first 325 feet it gets quite wet. There is one high quality area – a glacial kame, a hill created by glacial deposits. But most of the runoff flows straight south through a buckthorn thicket, she said – buckthorn is considered an invasive.
Tim Berla asked for Spears to give her best guess as to how long it would be before they’d have to repeat this work. Spears acknowledged that the problem comes from upstream, in an area that the city doesn’t control, and that erosion is aggravated by the surrounding impervious surfaces of roads and other development. Berla asked if there are any additional measures that can be taken, like adding underground swirl concentrators – devices designed to remove suspended solids from stormwater prior to reintroducing it into the city’s stormwater system. Spears said a long-term sediment study of the creek would look at those kinds of potential solutions.
Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, updated commissioners on a range of items, starting with plans to renovate the city’s softball fields at Veterans Memorial Park, West Park, Southeast Area Park and Allmendinger Park. It’s analogous to the work already done at the soccer fields, he said. The idea is to bring the fields up to an acceptable level of play. Staff will be presenting a budget for the project to PAC at its December meeting. Smith and other staff had held a public meeting on the project earlier this month, which was attended primarily by managers of various leagues that use the fields. Smith reported that they seemed happy to see the project get underway.
Manager’s Report: Argo Bypass
Smith also noted that earlier in the month he had gone canoeing to test the new Argo Dam bypass, even though it had been snowing at the time. The design team is still tweaking the series of pools that make up the channel, and Smith described the stretch as a “bit sportier” than he had expected. It’s exciting to see that project come together, he said. Smith reported that the city council would be voting on a proposed change of scope to the project, which PAC had recommended at its August meeting.
The change will add a new entrance to the waterway from Argo Pond to the Huron River. The modification to the project is linked to an offer from DTE to pay for a whitewater section that’s part of the overall project, which freed up city funds for a new entrance from Argo Pond into the bypass. DTE is being required by the state to complete environmental remediation on its nearby property, which prompted its request that the city hold off on the part of the project that runs along the river.
Smith said the city’s agreement with DTE stipulates that the energy firm will hire the same consultant who designed the bypass – Gary Lacy – to design the whitewater features. TSP Environmental, which is building the bypass, will build the new entrance. [The city council subsequently voted to approve the change of scope at its Nov. 21 meeting.]
Tim Doyle wondered whether the change of scope will delay other aspects of the project. Only the whitewater features, which will be located in the river, will be delayed, Smith said. The bypass and new entry will move forward. It will likely be at least another year before the whitewater features are added, he said.
Manager’s Report: Update on Skatepark, Gallup Livery Grants
Smith reported that two state grant applications made by the city of Ann Arbor – $300,000 for the proposed Ann Arbor skatepark at Veterans Memorial Park, and $300,000 for improvements at the Gallup Park canoe livery – ranked in the top 12 out of 100 applications statewide for funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Smith told PAC members that he received the application scores in the mail earlier in the day.
The skatepark application ranked 12th out of the 100 applications, based on a scoring system used to evaluate the grants. The Gallup Park application ranked 2nd. Smith also reported that a $300,000 grant application for Rutherford Pool in Ypsilanti had ranked 11th in the scoring system. The scoring is an indication of the likelihood that these grants will be awarded, but that announcement won’t be made until Dec. 7, Smith said. It’s also unknown how much money will be awarded this year from the trust fund. He told commissioners that the top 12 grant applications total $2.7 million. There’s a cap of $300,000 per project.
At its March 15, 2011 meeting, PAC had voted to recommend supporting the grant applications. The city council made a similar vote of support on March 21. The council’s resolution of support prioritized the skatepark project over the Gallup renovations – based on the opportunity to leverage $400,000 of matching funds from the Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission.
NAP Volunteers Honored
Toward the beginning of the Nov. 15 meeting, Dave Borneman, manager of the city’s natural area preservation program, introduced two volunteers – Sarah Newman and Drew Lathin – who had been honored in October by the city council as NAP Volunteers of the Year. Newman was recognized for work in the Miller Nature Area and Furstenberg Nature Area. Lathin was honored for work in the Miller Nature Area, as well as for volunteering for NAP’s burn crew and its frog and toad surveys. Borneman read the proclamations that had been given to the two volunteers at the Oct. 26 council meeting, and PAC gave them a round of applause.
Newman thanked commissioners, as well as the staff of NAP, for all their work. She described Furstenberg and Miller as areas that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Furstenberg is a gem in the parks system, located along the Huron River and constantly maintained by NAP. Miller, on the other hand, is a large but relatively unknown neighborhood park on the west side that’s full of invasive species.
Her time most recently has been spent at Miller, and her role has been to encourage neighbors to get involved, she said, including work with kids in Peace Neighborhood Center‘s summer day camp, helping them to learn about what a nature area is and to help preserve the trails. “It’s a privilege and pleasure to work with the dedicated, intelligent and super hard-working group that Dave heads,” Newman said.
Lathin said it was an honor to be honored, but that he and Newman wouldn’t have gotten much done in Miller Nature Area without the hundreds of hours that other volunteers worked. They’ve had close to 1,000 volunteer hours there since they started working on about a one-acre section of the park.
He said his work at Miller started one winter day when he was walking through and saw all the invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn there. In a moment of insanity, he said, he decided to do something about it. Borneman directed him to Jason Frenzel, who was NAP’s volunteer coordinator at the time. Lathin said he’s happy he has mental health benefits as part of his insurance, because he thinks they’re called for. He praised NAP staff under Borneman’s leadership, saying they aren’t typical government employees – they’re very committed to what they’re doing, and they do great work. Lathin said he’s just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the volunteers who work for NAP.
Present: Tim Berla, Doug Chapman, Tim Doyle, Julie Grand, Karen Levin, Gwen Nystuen, John Lawter, councilmember Mike Anglin (ex-officio). Also Colin Smith, city parks manager.
Absent: David Barrett, Sam Offen, councilmember Christopher Taylor (ex-officio).
Next meeting: PAC’s meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 begins at 4 p.m. in the city hall second-floor council chambers, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]
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