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Heilmann Park in Detroit gets infusion of $900,000 for improvements


Detroit has received a $900,000 federal grant that will double the size of the plans for the park to overhaul 11 acres on the city's Regent Park neighborhood on the east side. 

Plans based on community input include a natural area, playground, walking trail, basketball court and picnic areas. More community meetings are planned.

"The idea is that the park can provide natural spaces and a really important community amenity to both help strengthen the community and just provide opportunities for play and recreation for the residents of that neighborhood," said Dara O'Byrne, Detroit chief parks planner.

Detroit was one of 26 cities to receive funding in the latest round of grants from the Department Interior's Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership, a program established in 2014 that helps cities pay for urban outdoor recreation spaces. 

The $900,000 grant doubled the size of the city's plans for Heilmann Park. O'Byrne said the park project also will receive $900,000 from the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, a pot of money established through the city, nonprofit and private partners that pays for community projects.

The park project will follow the city's $1.2 million renovation project at the Heilmann Recreation Center last year. 

The recreation center tends to be a bigger draw than the 11-acre park, said Garrett Dempsey, who works for the Sierra Club's Detroit Outdoors program. Even Dempsey, a professional outdoor educator, spends most of his time at the recreation center rather than in  the surrounding outdoor property.

A revamped park, with nature area, walking trail and other amenities, could provide more opportunities for the Sierra Club and other outdoors groups to launch programs that connect kids with nature and the outdoors, he said.

"A revitalized park right there around the recreation center just creates even more opportunities for education, programming and just experiences in the outdoors and nature," Dempsey said.

Detroit parks planners will host a series of community meetings this summer and fall to gather input about the Heilmann Park project. Meeting information will be posted online at detroitmi.gov/departments/parks-recreation.

Grand Rapids was the only other Michigan city to receive an Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership award from the Interior Department. The city received $479,000 to build a splashpad, restrooms, pathway and picnic area at Camelot Park. 

ckthompson@detroitnews.com