SOUTH HAVEN — It might take two or three tries to land grant funding, if successful, in order to tear down and replace the aging Kids Korner playground structure, but city officials are willing to give it a try.
The first crack at obtaining money started on Monday when City Council members gave the go-ahead for staff to apply for two grants, each for $275,000, from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation Fund and from the DNR's Natural Resources Trust Fund.
The council did so after hosting a public hearing in which no local residents expressed comments.
“We anticipate you're not going to get both (grants),” City Manager Brian Dissette told council members. “But it's the most aggressive way we can ask for help from the state to replace what we have. Typically, with the DNR, it takes two or three times to apply for a grant. This could take multiple applications.”
City officials have known for several years that improvements need to be made to the wooden Kids Corner playground structure that the community worked together to build 31 years ago.
In 2014, city staff began analyzing what could be done to spruce up the structure to make it more safe for youngsters to use and meet requirements of the American Disabilities Act.
“We applied for a grant to replace some pieces of the Kids Corner structure,” Dissette said, but the DNR informed city officials that grant funding could not be used to upgrade the aging structure.
Since then the city has met several time with the firm that originally designed Kids Corner to gather input.
“The original designer (Leathers & Associates) has stated the park is at the end of its usable life,” Dissette said. “To ensure a safe structure, the best way to move forward is to apply for grants for a new structure.”
In the meantime, city staff plan to meet with the parks commission to finalize a design and seek community input, as well.
“This (construction of Kids Corner) is something that was built with a lot of community pride,” Dissette said. “It's the city's goal to do that again.”
However, the city manager cautioned, the process of building a new structure most likely won't come about quickly.
“The absolute fastest we'll know (whether a grant will be approved) is in six months.”