By Sue Moore
Clark Park, in the heart of the village of Vicksburg, has been underused for many years because it becomes wet and soggy when more than a trickle of rain begins to fall. The Downtown Development Authority is taking a closer look at the park’s uses and needs.
The park is a historic site in the village; it’s believed this is where the community’s founder, John Vickers, located his grist mill in 1832.
It later was known as the Tourist Park and used for family reunions, picnics and visits from out-of-towners who came to witness the beauty of the lotus lilies that grew in the cove on Sunset Lake. It was cared for by Charles Clark during his retirement years. The Village Council chose to name the park after him for all the time he spent mowing, weeding, and tree trimming in the 1930s and ‘40s.
The proposed extension of the walking and biking trail through the park encouraged the Authority to take a closer look at how the community might best utilize the park in the future. A public charrette was held in early March to ask for input. The greatest concern of the 25 in attendance was the constant wetness of the ground.
McKenna and Associates, the design company working with the DDA on the downtown, was asked to provide two renderings of possible future usage for the park once a walking and biking trail is extended through it from north to south off of W. Prairie Street. In late March, the company presented its vision at a public meeting for consideration and inclusion in a proposed grant for the trail to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Hoyle is working to complete the application by a May 1 deadline.
Although any upgrade to the park would not be funded by the grant, Hoyle believed it would be important to have an idea of what the park could bring aesthetically to the community and the downtown. The village’s Parks and Recreation committee was asked to weigh in on the design since the park comes under their purview.
The key elements in the design the committee liked most were the passive recreation focus and the possibility of adding a stage for performances, however small it might be. One drawing called for a large amphitheater. Another called for a much smaller stage; that won over most at the meeting. The most important part of the plan is to add drainage tile under the mucky soil.
No cost estimates were included with the renditions. Ken Schippers, village manager, felt strongly that the design with more green space would be less costly and more doable. The LoriLand children’s park at the south end of the property was retained in both drawings as a place where children love to play. The committee voted 6-1 for the more passive approach. This recommendation will then be forwarded to the DDA and the Village Council for final approval.