Dowagiac plans to improve Rudy Park

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Following the flurry of acquisitions made throughout 2015 to lay the groundwork for improvements to Dowagiac’s downtown, councilmembers are now turning their attention to the city’s natural resources.

The Dowagiac City Council approved a grant application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund during its meeting Monday at city hall, which would help pay for the construction of a six to seven car parking lot and paved walkways at Rudy Park. The grant, if approved by the DNR, would provide around 75 percent of the $162,500 estimated price tag for the construction, with the city providing the other 25 percent, or
around $41,500.

The city is pursuing improvements to the park, located across from James Heddon Park off M-62 near the city limits, in order to provide greater access to the stretch of the Dowagiac Creek as well the statue “Active Hybrid” located on park property, said City Manager Kevin Anderson.

With no current parking spaces on the grounds, at the moment people either have to park on the highway or at parking lot on other property to visit the park.

“Right now you can really only drive by it,” Anderson said. “These improvements will allow people to enjoy the park more fully rather than just driving by it.”

In addition, the walkways will increase accessibility to the park for people with disabilities, Anderson said.

The planned improvements to Rudy Park fall in line with the city’s revised Park and Open Space Plan, which called for work to be done at the small park to accommodate persons with disabilities as well as for general community use. These are just a handful of the overhauls that city officials are hoping to implement to city parks over the coming years, Anderson said.

“Over the last nine months, council has taken a hard and long look to improve accessibility to the waterways that run through the city…as grant money becomes available we would like to implement programs that increase access to these waters,” Anderson said.

The city has applied for and received grant funding through the DNR Trust Fund in the past, including for improvements made over the last several years to Russom Park.

Given the competitive nature of the grant, Anderson said it’s hard to predict whether or not the city’s application will be accepted. City hall expects to know by October or November whether or not it will receive the funding; if so, construction could be contracted out by the beginning of 2017, the city manager said.

“It’s a good project,” he said. “We’re hoping the state looks favorably upon it.”