New ‘ideal’ plan to rebuild tornado ravaged park moves forward

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WYOMING, Mich. -- Ideal Park was deemed the hardest hit area in Kent County following this past summer's tornado touchdown, but plans to begin rebuilding the park are moving forward.

Wednesday night, city leaders formally voted to a recommend a draft of a master plan for Ideal Park to be considered by the city council during their next meeting on Feb. 9. The plan is a result of formal discussions with residents that began back in December.

Rebecca Rynbrandt, director of community services for Wyoming, said one thing they heard loud and clear from residents was the desire to keep the historical elements and character of the park intact.

"It definitely is a huge deal for the City of Wyoming, for that immediate neighborhood," Rynbrandt said. "We highly value public input in the city. We want to be transparent."

"I really appreciate the plan that's been presented, because it's been so clearly founded on public input. It celebrates the historic features of the park, and it's a real gem in the whole park system," Rynbrandt said.

The historic lodge on the west end of the park will remain, along with the woodlots located at the north and south ends of the park.

The park, which was built in the 1930s, was best known for it's shady oak trees, which were hundreds of years old. While many of the trees were lost in the tornado, the plan is to begin replanting as soon as this spring. The majority of the replanting will be focused in the east end of the park where most of the new development will also be concentrated.

The plan calls for two new covered picnic areas and a new area for restrooms, along with rebuilt playground equipment. A new maintenance bridge will also be constructed on the north end of Buck Creek.

Nearly $500,000 has already been spent on tree removal and cleanup efforts, according to Rynbrandt. The final cost of the project will be determined closer to time of construction, but it could easily exceed $1 million. Grant money could cover a significant portion of the cost.

Pam Blough, of P.M. Blough Inc., was brought in as lead architect on the project. She said one of the greatest challenges is recreating the ambiance of the park out of essentially nothing.

The project for her is one which hits close to home.

"I grew up in the area," Plough said. "I rode my bike to this park, went to picnics as a kid. I was very excited to be awarded this project."

The project will be completed in phases over the course of several years, Rynbrandt said. While it's a process that won't happen overnight, the master plan is one she feels represents what the entire community wanted.

"The citizens in that area remember in 2013 they had a significant flood, in 2014 they had this tornado, during this planning process, we had a blizzard but yet they (citizens) were out in force to share their opinions," she said. "They are hardy, they are resilient, and our community is resilient."

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