Park improvements complete in Howard

Published 5:29 am Thursday, October 21, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Although it's a little late for summer, renovations to Pepper Martin Memorial Park in Howard Township have been completed.
The township added a regulation-sized softball field and a one-half mile, paved walking trail during renovations which began in August and ended about a week ago.
The $100,000 renovation project was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and $50,000 in funds the township allocated to match the grant, Gerald "Butch" Harrison, chairman of the Howard Township Parks Board, said.
The project, which was part of the Howard Township Board of Trustees 1999 master plan to improve the township parks, originally called for only the softball field to be constructed, the trail was added later after some discussion.
The parks board had been trying for some time to allocate the funds for the project, but was met with a few bumps along the way.
Howard Township applied for grants from the DNR in 2001 and 2002, but were rejected. The township received the grant for the park in 2003.
The renovations were made to an eight acre plot of land which the township bought four years ago with the goal of expanding Pepper Martin Park.
Before the renovations, the park sported a baseball field, concession stand, a playground, and covered batting cages.
Harrison said he hopes the park will provide more opportunities for girls' softball, which is a fast-growing sport in the township.
The walking trail is the only one of its kind in Howard Township, and will provide residents with a chance to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the woods and around the new softball field.
The park was opened in the 1950s and named in memory of Pepper Martin, an old Howard Township fire fighter and originator of the township parks department.
The park hosts a baseball tournament for teams 13 years and younger every year, and Harrison hopes the new softball field will provide the township an opportunity to host a similar softball tournament.
When clearing the land for the softball field, the township allowed enough room for another baseball field to be installed at a later date.
Harrison said a new baseball field is possible in the near future, but not until enough funds can be allocated.
The renovations at Pepper Martin are just the latest in a long series of improvements to the Howard Township parks.
Last year, the parks board replaced the old playground equipment at Don Marlin Kiddie Coral Park, located at Barron Lake and Huntly roads, with a new play structure thanks to $20,000 given to the board from the township board of trustees.
Jones Park, 1345 Barron Lake Road, was renovated thanks to a state grant about four years ago, when the township added a soccer field to the park.
Davis and Harrison said the renovations to the park couldn't have been made without the help of parks board members Ty Munger and Erma Richmond, secretary Mickie Hunt, and Howard Township Parks Supervisor Ray Connor.
The parks board is currently looking into replacing older playground equipment at other parks with newer equipment similar to that which Kiddie Coral park received last year, Harrison and Davis said.
The other township parks in addition to Pepper Martin, Jones, and Kiddie Coral are Sholtey Park on Huntly Road and Hatcherville Park on Hatcherville Avenue.