Niles Charter Township approves grant applications for Community Park improvements

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — ​​A local park is one step closer to upgrading its facilities.

During its meeting Monday at Township Hall, the Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees approved a resolution authorizing a DNR Spark Grant application to fund improvements to Community Park, including the construction of 10 pickleball courts and a new shelter to replace the old building that has been demolished.

The park shelter, which was built circa 1940, was shuttered in 2020 due to COVID and was in poor condition. Last year, the Niles Township Park Board commissioned Wightman to study the park shelter, and help develop a master plan to bring the park back to life. In December 2022, Niles Township demolished the building and disposed of all hazards and debris.

The park is approximately 33 acres in size with Brandywine Creek running through it. The township will look at adding the new shelter and connecting it to the current Indian-Michigan River Valley Trail that runs along 3rd Street. Pickleball is a recreational paddle ball sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The pickleball courts were added to the grant application due to the increase in demand for pickleball facilities in the area.

Michigan Spark Grants help local communities create, renovate and redevelop public recreation opportunities for residents and visitors—especially those communities whose economies and health were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These grants support projects that provide safe, accessible, public recreation facilities and spaces to improve people’s health, introduce new recreation experiences, build on existing park infrastructure and make it easier for people to enjoy both indoor and outdoor recreation.

  • Projects must support and enhance neighborhood features that promote improved health and safety outcomes or address the increased repair or maintenance needs in response to significantly greater use of public facilities in local communities that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Projects may include the development, renovation or redevelopment of public recreation facilities, and the provision of recreation-focused equipment and programs at public recreation spaces.
  • Funds may be used for activities such as, but not limited to, project review, planning, architecture and engineering services, construction, oversight and compliance activities associated with state and federal requirements, as applicable.

According to Township Park Board Chairperson Jill DeLucia, Spark funding has no impact on local taxes because no match from the township is required. The Spark money available is enough to complete both shelter replacement and court relocation.

“It’s a no-brainer since it’s at no cost,” said Township Clerk Terry Eull.

The decision to include pickleball courts in the grant comes as the township continues to weigh its options regarding its township hall.

The resurfaced pickleball courts at South Fireman’s Park – located behind the township hall on Bell Road – could be removed if a new, expanded town hall is built on the property. After recent consultations with Wightman, the township is weighing its options as to whether or not to construct a new township hall at its current location, renovate/expand its current building or to build a new hall elsewhere on Township property. Township Treasurer Jim Ringler said that in the event that the township does decide to build a new township hall at its current location that the pickleball courts there would be relocated elsewhere.

“We’re committed to the plan that if we were to destroy these courts that we would replace them, whether we get the Spark grant or not,” said Township Supervisor Marge Durm-Hiatt.