Stories indexed with the term ‘Ann Arbor Rec & Ed’

Skatepark, Liberty Plaza Waiver Go to Council

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (June 18, 2013): Commissioners took action on two major projects in the city’s park system: A new skatepark at Veterans Memorial Park, and efforts to improve downtown’s Liberty Plaza.

Jen Geer, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jen Geer is the newest member of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. (Photos by the writer.)

PAC unanimously recommended approval of a $1,224,311 budget for the Ann Arbor skatepark, including a construction contract of $1,031,592 with Krull Construction of Ann Arbor. Also approved was an operating agreement between the city and the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark. [.pdf of operating agreement] The project, which has been years in the works, will move to the city council for final approval, possibly at its July 15 meeting.

Parks staff and commissioners praised the project, specifically citing the work of the Friends for their tenacity and ability to overcome challenges as the skatepark was developed. Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, noted that people talk a lot about collaboration, but “you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of it than this.”

If the council approves the contract, construction could start in early August, with completion of the concrete portion of the skatepark by this November – weather permitting.

Also getting a recommendation of approval from PAC was a proposal to waive park rental fees for Liberty Plaza, a downtown park at the corner of Liberty and Division. The waiver, which requires city council approval, would be enacted on a one-year trial basis through July 1, 2014. It’s intended to help encourage more activity in what’s been described as a problem park. Several supporters of Camp Take Notice and Pizza in the Park – a weekly outreach effort to the homeless – attended the meeting, and advocated for broader fee waivers in other city parks, tied to humanitarian aid.

Commissioners also heard two presentations during the June 18 meeting. Jenna Bacolor, the director of Ann Arbor Rec & Ed, gave an update on that program, including collaborations with the city parks system. One of those collaborations is tied to the decision by the Ann Arbor Public Schools board to close middle school swimming pools, as part of broad budget cuts. Tim Berla, who serves on PAC as a liaison from the Rec & Ed recreational advisory commission, reported on discussions to explore the possibility of a new recreation millage or an enhancement millage – something that AAPS might consider putting on the ballot.

A second presentation was from two members of the city’s public art commission, seeking input on proposals for artwork at the East Stadium bridges. John Kotarski and Bob Miller highlighted proposals from four finalists: Rebar Group of San Francisco; Sheila Klein of Bow, Washington; Volkan Alkanoglu, based in Atlanta, Georgia; and Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. The project has a $400,000 budget and includes the possibility of artwork at Rose White Park, located east of the bridges.

In items of communication, PAC chair Julie Grand noted that parks and recreation manager Colin Smith had been named Do-Gooder of the Year in Current magazine’s 2013 Readers Choice Awards. He received a round of applause from commissioners.

It was the first meeting for PAC’s newest commissioner Jen Geer, whose appointment was confirmed by the city council on May 20, 2013 to replace Tim Doyle. Geer, a Burns Park resident, is the daughter of Kirk Profit, a lobbyist for the city with the Lansing firm Governmental Consultant Services Inc. (GCSI). She is married to Christopher Geer, who serves on the Ann Arbor housing commission board. [Full Story]

Kickball Makes a Comeback

A moment of rest for the familiar red kickball. (Photo by the writer.)

A moment of rest for the familiar red kickball. (Photo by the writer.)

The red playground ball scuffs across the dirt the same way it did when you were 10, and the kicker takes a mighty running swipe at it, hoping for one of those big, arcing kicks that no one can get to – or maybe a line drive that will tattoo the ball’s cross-hatch pattern onto some unlucky infielder’s forearms.

It’s Friday night at Veterans Memorial Park, and all four of the park’s softball fields have a kickball game underway. Welcome to the big kids’ playground.

Ann Arbor Rec & Ed started its first kickball league in 2005 with six teams. This summer there were 38. Team sports director Larry Dishman compares the vibe to the early 1970s, when folks of dubious athletic cred were coming out in even bigger numbers to play a laid-back, social sport called slow-pitch softball.

“You had people saying, ‘Well, I can play this game,’” Dishman said. “Right now you’ve got largely that same type of phenomenon happening with kickball.”

Twenty-eight teams signed up for the fall season, which runs through October. (Kickball, incidentally, features some of the best names in Ann Arbor recreational sports: Miracle on Dirt, We Got the Runs, Kicking Balls and Taking Names, Kick It to The Man…) [Full Story]

Column: “Thanks, Coach!”

Julia Friedman, a member of the Sharks team coached by her sister Rebecca, scores a run.

Julia Friedman, a member of the Sharks team coached by her sister Rebecca, scores a run. (Photo by Louise Chang.)

We were in the field and there was a runner on second. I yelled a reminder from the dugout that we could only get an out at first base. The batter hit a soft grounder right to my shortstop, who fielded it cleanly and made a perfect toss to the third baseman.

The two girls looked quite pleased with themselves. It would have been a textbook play – that is, if anyone had been running to third base. Despite our extensive discussions in practice of what makes a force play, some of the girls still seemed completely confused. I felt that no matter how much I tried, I was doing something wrong as the coach. I felt like I was in over my head and worried that I wouldn’t be able to help the girls. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake taking on a team as head coach.

My dad had been my sister’s Ann Arbor Rec & Ed softball coach since first grade and all I had asked was if I could help out occasionally. He instead offered me the head coach position and a group of 16 nine-year-old girls. Having absolutely no coaching experience, I thought the job sounded like fun and relatively little work. I accepted eagerly.

When it came time to start preparing for my first practice, I began to realize that it might not be as easy as I had anticipated. [Full Story]