By Keagan Gay

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In a society in which technology use is continuously increasing, Kalamazoo’s public parks have managed to continuously increase attendance and revenue over the past three years.

According to the city parks annual reports from 2013 and 2016, attendance for special events has gone up by 8,000 people, revenue has increased by almost $100,000 and the number of participants in recreation programs continues to increase.

How is the parks department making that happen?

Director of the Kalamazoo County Parks David Rachowicz explained that it’s simply about providing the residents with services that they want. “Whether it’s a dog park, splash pads, disk golf…we are just providing things that are unique in the community that residents want.”

Kalamazoo resident Melanie Preskin said, “The parks are simply the best way to get the kids off of their computer and video games, and give them the opportunity to get involved in the community and spend more time outdoors.”

The parks department holds various events throughout the summer, however there are two that continuously attract many residents. Special Events Coordinator Katie Broekema of the Kalamazoo Parks and Recreations Department stated that Lunchtime Live, hosted in Bronson Park, and Movies in the Park, which are located in four different parks around the city, always have a high attendance. Each of these events attract around 500 to 800 people.

“We try not to repeat the same events every year,” Broekema said. “We use the previous years as a foundation to build upon and to take out things that aren’t working, as well as implement more of what the people want.”

A recent event that attracted a lot of people was a soccer tournament held at River Oaks County Park. The park hosted 240 teams for the event. Kalamazoo parks and recreation provides ways to get youth active and help adults stay active. “It’s really about quality of life,” explained Rachowicz.

A new addition that is exciting residents is the Maple Hill mountain bike trail in Markin Glen County Park. This particular park hits some of the highest and lowest points of Kalamazoo, giving the trail hills and challenges. The trail is machine made and about 5.5 mile long. It was created in partner with the Southwest Michigan Biking Association and has already attracted many resident in the area. “It’s amazing how many people are already utilizing the trail,” said Rachowicz.

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