July 17, 2024 Donate

Milan, Saline

Milan’s Wilson Park to Get a Facelift

By Natalie Davies

The City of Milan received a $954,500 grant to update Wilson Park and fairground location.

The Spark Grant is administered through Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources with money from the American Rescue Plan Act. Milan was one of 31 projects selected out of 400 statewide applicants, according to the city’s website.

“Michigan Spark Grants help local communities create, renovate and redevelop public recreation opportunities for residents and visitors—especially those communities whose economies and health were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Michigan’s website says.

According to Milan’s city website, the project scope will include permanent restrooms, an all-inclusive playground with safety surfacing, security cameras, new basketball and pickleball courts, shade structures around the splash pad, and a fitness court/circuit. The park also needs connecting ADA compliant pathways to the amenities to comply with the grant.

Wilson Park Concept Plan. Image: City of Milan

On May 21, City Council discussed different concept plans at its Joint Work Session with Parks and Recreation Commission on May 14. It further discussed ideas and addressed community concerns in the general Council meeting on May 21.

Architecture and engineering firm OHM Advisors is working with the city on park concepts.

No final decisions have been made yet, as the project isn’t required to be completed until 2026. The city said construction will happen in 2025. The City Council, the Fair Board, and the Parks and Recreation Commission mostly agreed on a plan.

Residents gave comments and feedback during council meetings and Parks and Recreation Commission meetings by calling and emailing the city and posting on Facebook.

Council Member Mary Kerkes addressed the backlash and rumors about the park and the loss of the Milan Fair circulating on Facebook. Kerkes read a list of nearly 20 public meetings where the city publicly discussed Wilson Park and the Spark grant.

“The city council and administration have been absolutely vilified for receiving $954,500 to put into our park,” Kerkes said. “It is the most ridiculous thing in my eight years up here (on council) I’ve ever seen…We’ve been slandered and lied about… (But) we were 100% transparent. We have been throughout this entire process.”

Kerkes reminded the community the Milan Fair Board has been involved throughout the planning process.

“There has never been anything hidden,” Kerkes said. “We have always–everybody up here– agreed to work with the Fair Board because the fair is an important element of our community.”

Resident Kim Rhoney said on Facebook and in an email read aloud as public comment during the May 14 meeting she loves the restrooms, shaded area near the splash pad and play structures, more inclusive play structures, moving the basketball courts away from the play set for young park-goers, security cameras, and the fitness circuit.

“I am so impressed with our elected officials and city staff that worked to receive this grant,” Rhoney said. “It is an amazing investment in our town. We are so fortunate to have such a great green space in a central location with a body of water. What a great opportunity to preserve and improve it for the current and future residents. Way to bring those tax dollars back home.”

Mom of three park-goers, Michelle Heikka, lived in Milan for 12 years and now lives just outside the city. During public comment at the May 14 meeting, she appreciated the council’s work on the project and advocated for accessibility.

“Right now, the park is laid out that if you are a parent with a disability, you can’t get your child down there to play,” Heikka said. “If you’re a child with a disability, there’s nothing for you to do down there except sit and watch everyone else play. One of the most important things we can do as a community is build an inclusive area for everyone to be welcome… This is a huge step forward to creating an inclusive community where everyone feels welcome. Everyone can participate. That’s what young families are looking for.”

Follow Milan’s City Council and its Parks and Recreation Commission for updates on the area.