Battle Creek – Irving Park has long served as an urban oasis in the historic Northside neighborhood of Battle Creek.
Located near North Avenue and Emmett Street, across from the campuses of Bronson Battle Creek Hospital and Kellogg Community College, the park is largely known for its variety of waterfowl that dominate its ponds, walking trails, and 18-hole golf course.
A new outdoor fitness field upset the natural balance last week, when it was installed thanks to a neighborhood improvement program grant from the nonprofit Southwestern Michigan Urban League.
Some members of the disc golf community – the largest group that uses the park – have made some noise about not being consulted or invited to provide input on putting equipment near the tee pads for holes 8, 9, 10 and 17.
“We were shocked that this would happen,” said Chad Curtis, who helped design and install the golf course more than a decade ago. “It’s not directly between any of the holes. Working with our original information – people say it would affect four or five holes – would be massive production, but a much smaller footprint.”
City officials paid attention to what Curtis and other golfers had to say.
Installing the golf course was a grassroots effort that Curtis said cost about $50,000 and countless volunteer hours. The tournament is free to play and can be used 365 days of the year, with the Sunday 10 AM League playing every week since it opened.
When the course opened in 2009, the Battle Creek Disc Golf Association forged an agreement with the Battle Creek Parks and Recreation Department to help preserve and promote the park, giving them permission to host special events such as fundraising. However, the document was not signed by anyone from the city or the association.
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According to Battle Creek Mayor Mark Behnke, the city commission received complaints about the golf community’s lack of involvement in planning new facilities.
“We had an agreement drafted, and we may have been remiss in not getting anyone to sign it,” Behnke said. “Just general oversight… I thought Chad did a good job trying to get to the bottom of the matter. We didn’t have an agreement signed, but we are 110 percent in favor of what they’re doing.”
Upon learning of the complaints, Commissioner Ginasia Morris facilitated a meeting between the Urban League, the Public Works Department, and Curtis. The golfer said it was productive because all parties came out feeling on the same page trying to promote healthy outdoor recreation at Battle Creek.
“It’s wrong and mistakes happen,” Curtis said. “Now we have another group that wants to improve Irving Park and the city is more aware of the popular efforts to improve Irving Park, and we see that as a win-win for everyone.”
“Anything positive can come from this, and one thing I love is that we were able to get to city leaders and elected officials and they respond on the same day. In a lot of areas, you’re not going to get that attention or interest, so I’m really happy with how you handle it. things.”
Urban League President Keira Wallace said the fitness center is one of two rounds of a $50,000 neighborhood improvement grant through the Michigan Housing Development Authority. Part one is for an outdoor neighborhood program for homes in the Park Hill neighborhood adjacent to the park; The second is for the outdoor fitness field as well as cleaning and restoration of the garden’s rock garden stairs.
The equipment does not appear to be in the likely path of flying discs, although foul throws may occur. A new entrance to the fitness and basketball court is being constructed off Congress Avenue. The old basketball hoop has also been removed and will be replaced, with the Urban League and Battle Creek Disc Golf Association planning a party showcasing park improvements in the spring.
“We were able to work things out to the point where we talked about how in the near future we could do some partnership with disc golfers, and help them teach people from our community how to actually play,” Wallace said. “Exercise equipment is part of our wellness initiative to get people to move more and be more active. The rock garden is like a natural stepper staircase. Once everything is cleared, there will be three or four mazes people can walk in and down and get a good workout.”
Contact reporter Nick Buckley at [email protected] or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter: @NickJBuckley