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Save Fulton Park: 'Take Our Jewel Off the Hit List'

Fulton Park is a gem that makes the quaint middle-class neighborhood special, according to Royal Oak resident.

Credit: Patch File Photo
Credit: Patch File Photo
The following letter was sent to Patch by Royal Oak resident Pam Saunders.

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.

Pam Saunders
Royal Oak

Beth Reeber Valone January 22, 2014 at 08:43 AM
Well said Pam! All the parks in our city - small or large - are important to not just nearby residents but the community as a whole. Green space, public space, play space is important. Hands off, Royal Oak officials!
Pamela Ozdych Saunders January 22, 2014 at 09:16 AM
My kids immediately went into “action mode.” “Mom, I can sell jewelry that I make to fund the park,” said my 4th grader. My 6th grader chimed in that we should use proceeds from our Community Garage Sale to buy the park. My husband said we should get Pasquales, Duggans, Athens Coney & Mt. Chalet to host community share-the wealth fundraisers benefiting park maintenance.
Pamela Ozdych Saunders January 22, 2014 at 09:23 AM
I did hear back from one Commissioner who is clearly on our side. I asked him for specifics on when/how their “study” was conducted. I was curious if someone sat in their car watching the park a few months back. I wouldn’t let my kids out that day. Was it during the heat of the day? Was it in the summer evening when folks came home from work and went for walks and the kids were home from their summer camps? I also shared that three elderly couples who live near our park may not GO INTO the park any longer, but they benefit. Many have told me “how wonderful it is to hear the children playing there like when their kids were growing up.” They sit in their back porches and decks... and watch... and enjoy. How do you put a price on that?
Debbie Campbell January 22, 2014 at 09:28 AM
With the playgrounds of our demolished elementary schools now over-stuffed with new “family” housing we need our neighborhood parks more than ever—It’s mind-boggling that City Hall is so out of touch as to not understand that our community green space is what makes Royal Oak’s neighborhoods so desirable—We tax paying residents pay our City Manager (who by the way doesn’t even live in Royal Oak) a hefty salary and the best he can come up with is a parks hit list??? Truly—Who does our City Manager work for???
Alex Fike January 22, 2014 at 10:04 AM
I have two specific questions on the parameters of the survey: 1) Were the homes in the area of an "under-utilized park" surveyed, or was it a general community-wide survey? Theoretically, I could see a number of people supportive of the idea of selling assets (parks) to bolster others - unless it's the park across the street. 2) What was the timeline for the survey? If a park is "under-utilized" in the summer of 2013 was it "under-utilized" 2, 5, 10 years ago? What are the effects of new construction? Will the park likely continue to be "under-utilized" in 2, 5, 10 years? I currently sit on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Last year, we developed a plan for adoptions and sponsorships to help fill the funding short-fall and bolster neighborhood support for their parks. Feel free to contact me at alex.fike@gmail.com if you're interested in learning more!
The Duke of Royal Oak January 22, 2014 at 02:02 PM
Alex Fike, I believed that I recently heard that no parks may be sold without a vote of the people. Is that true? A few years back I heard that only parks that are DEDICATED could not be sold without o vote of the people, which is true? and which parks are not dedicated?
The Duke of Royal Oak January 22, 2014 at 02:05 PM
To the city leaders, stop this quick fix attitude of selling parks, parking lots etc...it is a cheap temporary fix to any financial problems and shows no leadership. Our founding fathers and early Royal Oakers thought it to be important to have these parks, golf courses etc......STOP THE FIRE SALE MENTALITY AT CITY HALL!
Alex Fike January 22, 2014 at 02:41 PM
I want to take a moment and remind everyone that no final decision has been made - a full vetting with public comment would take place - and while we may not agree with specific solutions proposed or discussed we can all appreciate that the issues are being looked at carefully and with all-around good intentions. I would point out that we do have a funding problem when it comes to maintaining and upgrading our parks and it is the commission's duty to look for a solution. I don't agree with this particular proposal but they wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't explore all options.
Lord of Woodsboro February 04, 2014 at 01:38 PM
Underutilized parks reports. Safe link to PDF files. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kvodrtg8g3qrmbl/Cd91jjO6qV
Pbrzez February 05, 2014 at 11:25 AM
It looks like the survey was done in October when schools were in session. I believe the survey should have done in the summer when children are home. I'm sure the evening hours have more of an impact on usage because parents are home from work.

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