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Evolving Lansing’s Parks to Meet the Needs of Residents

Leisure time activities, the preservation and maintenance of parklands, special facilities that would otherwise not be made available: At the Lansing Parks and Recreation Depart…

Leisure time activities, the preservation and maintenance of parklands, special facilities that would otherwise not be made available: At the Lansing Parks and Recreation Department, quality of life for residents is the name of the game; however, those goals are not built upon and improved – nor are they accomplished – in isolation.

When the 2015-2020 Parks and Recreation master plan was developed, it was in tandem with not only the previous mayoral administration and parks board members but families and neighbors within the city itself. 

“This past plan had a community survey, six public meetings and two public hearings,” said Brett Kaschinske, director of the Lansing Parks and Recreation Department. “We also gathered input at our monthly parks board meetings and recommendations to the mayor for the budget regarding the use of the Lansing Park Millage dollars.

The Lansing Park Millage Fund, commonly leveraged as a successful match with state grant funding, has been in place for a quarter-century to fund the park system – and the citizens of Lansing are the driving force in making that a consistently renewed reality. The general order of priority can change depending on budget and variable needs, but officials never lose sight of who makes the plans desirable to begin with.

In addition to the Lansing Park Millage Fund, other funding such as the Ingham County Parks and Trails Millage and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grants contribute to keeping the entire system strong and well-maintained.

“We allocate funds based on what is best for the city, and we try to spread them around to the best of our ability,” said Lansing Mayor Andy Schor. “Of course, passage of a millage is necessary to have these funds available and allocated, which needs renewal when they are up in order to continue making Lansing a better home for our residents.”

Upcoming is a vast expansion of the River Trail to connect to the new McLaren Greater Lansing site and Michigan State University campus, which will also loop into the Fenner Nature Center trail. There’s also a new kayak/canoe launch coming that will be in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, making a more accessible form of sport for families and neighbors. 

“We are also purchasing with Michigan DNR Trust Fund grants several parkland areas of the city,” said Kaschinske. “All of these developments and more will help Lansing continue to provide outstanding recreational resources for our residents.” 

While citizens voice what they want and expect from their parks system, it’s easy to underestimate that impact as well as the scope of what is provided in return for the good faith from residents regarding fiscal responsibility and transparent planning. 

“Most people do not realize that the city has 114 parks and over 2,000 acres of parkland,” said Kaschinske. “Combine that with 16 miles of River Trail, and it’s a vast system with many variable infrastructure needs. Our Lansing park millage has been a great resource for our system by providing approximately $2 million per year for capital improvements.”

Under the Schor administration, capital improvements are moving full-speed ahead to create empowering and focused projects that meet the needs of residents within the capital area.

“Residents want and expect these types of amenities for their families and neighbors because of the value they add to their living experience. That’s why they support our projects to make Lansing a prime and leading example for creating these kinds of residential amenities,” said Schor.

Planning only goes so far – enhancing the quality of life in Lansing and listening to the wants and needs of residents is an ongoing process where the work is never done. It only evolves. As 2020 comes and the core millage is up for renewal, city officials are confident in the value provided to the city and its people.

“Capital improvements through our parks create a well-needed quality of life,” Schor said. “Playground equipment as well as destination park activities – tennis, horseshoes, disc golf, trails, etc. – are all important to local living.”


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