Amasa park project starts

Hematite Township officials, engineers and contractors mark the launch of the $202,000 Joe Mechon Memorial Park improvement project in Amasa. From left: Ron Palmieri, GEI Consultants president/CEO; Joe Hoenig, township supervisor; Mike Peterson and Luke Carey of Carey Contracting; Fred Hiltonen and Jim Cihak, township trustees; Craig Richardson, GEI Consultants project manager; and Ashley Haag, township treasurer.
AMASA—Not a bit of dirt flew through the air on a recent sunny morning as a ceremonial photo of people with shovels and hard hats was taken.
    But soon Joe Mechon Memorial Park, located just south of Amasa along the Hemlock River, will be a very busy place, as a $202,000 park improvement project gets underway.
    Most of the work will be completed by mid-November, with final touch-up work after the snow melts next spring.
    By next Fourth of July, Amasa’s holiday festivities will be held in a beautiful park that will be the pride of Amasa and Hematite Township, whose officials planned the work.
    The goal of the project? “Getting more people down here,” said Hematite Township Supervisor Joe Hoenig. “The idea is to make our park accessible to everyone.
    “And give somebody in a wheelchair a chance to catch a brook trout. We have a Blue-Ribbon Trout Stream running right by, so there are brook trout in there. Let’s make the most of it.”
    Other goals Hoenig talked about were safer playground equipment and having a pavilion that can be used for the
 Fourth of July and on other occasions.
    “Just being upgraded and having a much more accessible park—I think that was the bottom line for everyone.”
    It’s about time. The park has been showing its age. The basketball court and some playground equipment are over 30 years old and badly need to be replaced.
    The park also didn’t comply with barrier-free requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, limiting access for many people. No ADA-compliant walkways or parking lot, either.
    Local officials put their heads together and decided it was time to do something about it.
    A park committee, which included John Jacobson, Paul Danielson, Vinnie Liscomb and Rick Hiltonen, started the process of preparing an application for a DNR Trust Fund grant.
    As plans came together, several public meetings were held to discuss the park’s needs. The Senior Site Council and Department of Veterans Affairs were involved in drawing up the final plan.
    “It took three years to get the application completed,” Hoenig said. The first application was turned down by the state, but the project was resubmitted one year later and won approval.
    Here’s what the project involves:
    --Removal of the old basketball court and replacing it with a half-court basketball court, “facing north-south, so you don’t have the sun issues anymore.”
    --A new handicap-accessible parking lot.
    --A new sheltered pavilion with electrical service and lights, including security lighting.
    --A new playground, which will be the home of the park’s newer playground equipment.
    --A rolling fishing dock, partly funded by a $3,000 donation from the local chapter of Wildlife Unlimited, that will extend into the Hemlock River.
    --Some walkways and furniture, including benches, grills and picnic tables.
    --A new flagpole, to be located near the Joe Mechon Memoral Park sign. The nearby monument will be moved a short distance.
    The total project cost is $202,265. Of that amount, the Michigan DNR Trust Fund’s grant will cover $116,600. The township will provide a match of $86,665, including the Wildlife Unlimited donation for the fishing pier.
    Carey Contracting was the low bidder on the site development work, $144,565, and Penchura LLC was the selected playground vendor, at $40,000.
    Hematite Township was supported in its application by Bates Township, Crystal Falls Township and the Forest Park school district. The park project will serve a population of 3,102 located over 522 square miles. The Animal House 4-H club has committed itself to help maintain the park with an annual cleanup project.
    More information about the project is on display at the township’s library in Amasa.