Imagine for a moment a family with three kids looking for a home in Royal Oak where they’ve heard about its safe, middle-America, family values. The parents find a mid-century brick, 1900-square foot, three-bedroom ranch near a neighborhood park where there’s a small field and the community shares toys left in the sandbox. The playscape is old, but has a certain retro charm. Perhaps when the economy shifts, it will get a modest upgrade.
The family invests. Their kids start meeting neighborhood kids... all from different school districts (Berkley, RO, Troy, Shrine, Queen of Martyrs, Guardian Angels). Kids start knocking at the door for baseball games or barbies in the park. The children two blocks over each way bring popsicles to share. Ten-year-old boys are digging in a neighbor’s yard for a missing ball and a grandmother comes out with cookies. Nearby, new parents push their toddler in the swing while their dog sniffs the baby in the stroller. The next day, a dad another street over works with his son on his swing. The elderly couple behind the park bring their grandchildren over for a picnic. Before Halloween, the high school band leads a costume parade that starts with a sort of pep rally in that park. They recognize some of the kids from their visits to the high school where they volunteer to video-tape the musicals and plays because their niece is in the drama club.
Sure, sometimes the weeds spread to the family’s yard and they cut the lawn when the city falls behind, but it’s okay... it’s part of being in a community. They see the gem that has made their quaint middle-class community special for more than 75 years... when firefighters would flood the park in the winter to make an ice skating rink.
Then, someone puts together a survey with their jewel on a hit list. Without any supportive data, the city calls it “under-utilized.” The goal, to sell the green space to pay for bigger parks on major roads where you can’t find solace as the cars roar by. The dreams of their kids sitting at that park with their first boy or girlfriend are dashed. The dreams of their grandchildren playing nearby become compromised. They wonder how kids from all these different schools will meet each other in a safe place nestled inside their neighborhood.
Instead, they see the property as an out-of-place mini-mansion in their tiny, quaint park. This family already chose to sacrifice for Royal Oak’s lacking school bus system. They wonder, what else it might do to deter families from taking root. No one at the planning commission asked their vibrant community association if they could pitch in to maintain. No one gave actual data to explain why the city felt it was under-utilized. It just potentially went up on the chopping block for a city-wide vote. The parents told their children what was happening... and that day... just a little bit more of their innocence was lost.Royal Oak City Leaders: Your actions in again attempting to close Fulton Park will garner all sorts of negative attention on Royal Oak. This is not a bankrupt Detroit that needs to sell its jewels for a quick buck. Get creative. Look at partnerships and sponsorships. Look at ways to perhaps sell portions of big parks on major roads to new home builders to encapsulate parks to make them even safer... and give them new residents who want to live near a park. Put that money in a fund that allows you to use the interest to pay for maintenance... and use the dollars generated from those property taxes to help our schools. Don’t build one mini mansion on an oversized lot in a quaint neighborhood for a quick buck. Take this park off the chopping block. It doesn’t belong there in the first place.