By Anthony Kincade

Kalamazoo’s Leadership Team for parks and recreation has new plans for this upcoming year, including more outside movies at South Westnedge Park, more lunchtime live events at Bronson Park, and maybe even a skating rink on the lake at the Spring Valley Park on Mt. Olivet Road this winter.

Kalamazoo’s Leadership Team gathered key information after surveying 577 households to create eight to ten focus areas that households in Kalamazoo feel most needed to be addressed and strengthened through a phone and mail survey conducted by Leisure Vision.

The parks and recreation services that households feel should receive the most attention from city officials over the next three years are: safety in parks (38 percent), cleanliness of city parks and facilities (38 percent), city youth programs (18 percent), miles of walking trails (17) percent), and other city programs (17 percent).

The biggest goal of the leadership team is to make the citizens of Kalamazoo more aware of events or programs because people don’t necessarily know if it is actually the park and rec holding the event or program, said Sean Fletcher, the Director of Kalamazoo’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The lunchtime live events seem to attract the most citizens due to the free food being handed out, while not as many people attend the outside movies, said Fletcher.

“That number is low in part because of the branding of our department isn’t where it should be,” said Fletcher. “People are not sure if the events are actually us or not.”

One idea the leadership team plans to pursue is partnering with fitness centers around the community to hold programs at neighborhood parks. Programs such as yoga and spin classes are going to be considered first, according to Fletcher. 

“A lot of things we will do this year will have to be free of cost because we simplify cannot afford much right now,” said Fletcher. “Our expenses this year total around $2 million.”

There are two major benefits of holding programs in local city parks. One benefit of holding a program such as a yoga course is that it would draw more citizens into the city parks, and be free of cost for the park and recreation department. The other benefit is that fitness centers holding the programs would gain revenue and exposure.

Kalamazoo’s park and recreation department provides about 12 to 13 unique events a year, according to Fletcher. The leadership team plans to provide four to five more outside movies, and five to 10 more lunch time events in 2014. Overall, the park and rec department provides 30 events every year.

“The outside movies that were held this year at the South Westnedge Park were great for me and my son,” said Joseph Jawish, a citizen of Kalamazoo. “I’m always trying to find different things for me and him to participate in. He really loves ‘Despicable Me,’ and when I told him that we were going to watch it at the park on a big screen, his eyes lit up with joy only a father can appreciate.”

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