March 18 2013 12:00 AM

City Council committee to discuss parks naturalization plan Monday

Friday, July 29 – The Lansing City Council’s Committee of the Whole is scheduled to discuss park naturalization plans Monday night that two weeks ago drew concern from four City Council members.

At a July 18 meeting, Council members A’Lynne Robinson, Tina Houghton, Carol Wood and Derrick Quinney expressed concerns about the administration’s plans to “naturalize” 14 parks in the city. Council members Eric Hewitt and Brian Jeffries were absent from the meeting, while Council members Kathie Dunbar and Jessica Yorko did not speak on the plan.

In its recommended fiscal year 2012 budget, which took effect July 1, the Bernero administration suggested naturalization as a way to save money. Interim Parks Director Brett Kaschinske said the move will save an estimated $3,000 for every acre that’s naturalized, which means letting grass grow long and introducing native plants and trees, or some combination of the two.

The plan, which is already under way, proposes to naturalize portions of Ranney, Ben Davis, Tecumseh, Riverside, Pleasant View, Ormond, Munn, Graves, Michigan Avenue, Ingham, Grand River, Fulton, Fine and Beck parks. Those parks total 300 acres, for a total savings of $900,000 to the strapped city, but those parks would not be completely naturalized. Kaschinske has said the naturalization plan is subject to change based on feedback from the public and the Council.

Robinson said she has public safety concerns about children playing in or near parks where grass is growing long. She also has concerns about how those 14 parks were chosen because six of them are in the 3rd Ward, which she represents.

Wood and Houghton have said the plan was not communicated well enough to the Council or the public and that the public perception is one of “abandonment,” Wood said — not naturalization.

The plan did not require Council approval to commence. Finance Director Jerry Ambrose has said it’s “in the purview of the mayor” to maintain the parks system.

The Committee of the Whole meets immediately after the regular City Council meeting Monday. No scheduled business is on the Council’s agenda.