Schor unveils big updates at Lansing’s tiniest park

Parks millage covers $90K update at Turner Park in Old Town

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THURSDAY, Sept. 9 — It was quite a big project to update the smallest park in Lansing.

Mayor Andy Schor cut the ribbon this afternoon at the newly upgraded Turner Mini Park in Old Town on the corner of Turner Street and César E. Chávez Avenue. Over the last few months, city officials said they poured nearly $100,000 into the project.

After several delays tied to heavy rains over the last few weeks, the renovation was finally finished this week.

“This really is an opportunity for people. If you’re having a bite or if you’re shopping or getting something wildly inappropriate at Bad Annie’s — no matter what you’re doing, you can come and sit and relax,” Schor said at today’s ceremony. “This park sees heavy traffic on a daily basis and we know that it’s so important for Old Town, especially when we have festivals and things.”

Among the changes: New picnic tables, sidewalk safety improvements and new pavers that will help make the space more accessible, Schor told a small crowd gathered at the park today.

“I got to walk around here and I didn’t trip over anything,” Schor quipped before the ceremony.

The upgrades were funded through the city’s Parks and Recreation Millage, which collects about $50 per year from owners of local homes with a market value of $100,000. That millage has been in existence for more than 30 years and was renewed again last August for five years.

City officials have typically used the funding stream to leverage grant resources that help pay for various capital improvement projects like the Beacon Field Soccer projects, Hunter Park Pool renovations, expansions of the River Trail and other significant projects across the Capital City.

All told, the latest updates at Turner Mini Park cost taxpayers more than $87,000 — including $78,000 to remove and replace old pavers and concrete and bring the park into compliance with various curb and slope access requirements tied to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. 

A spokeswoman for Schor’s office said three new picnic tables also cost the city about $8,300. Parks Director Brett Kashinske billed those costs as “relatively average” before today’s event.

“It’s a small park, but we know so many people come here,” Schor said. “The bricks and things were unlevel. There were trip hazards. We wanted to make sure people were safe as they walked through this district and this important park — not only as they walk, but as they bike.”

Turner Mini Park measures under 2,000 square feet, but its location in the heart of Old Town makes it a destination for live music, art displays and benchside people watching. Aside from bridge repairs along the Lansing River Trail, the $87,000 project may also represent the largest single investment by square foot in a local park to date, Kashinske speculated. 

“This is a very big day, a beautiful day, but also very important as I think this park really connects our parks and the economy," Kashinske said. "Whether it’s doing take-out meals or small performances on the stage or the connection to the arts, it’s a big day for this little park.” Turner Mini Park was opened in the 1970s. The late producer, nightclub comedian, singer and actor Danny Thomas reportedly spoke during the original dedication ceremony for the park.  It was the beginning of the beautifucation, restoration and gentrification of Old Town when it was still just known as north Lansing and  had fallen on hard times.

The late Robert Busby, nicknamed the "mayor of Old Town," would tell the story that Thomas, in his remarks, pointed up Turner Street, and declared, "This will be a great neighborhood some day — when they tear down all these old buildings!" 

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