Madison Heights Residents Share Ideas in Town Hall
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 12, 2019)
Madison Heights, MI – Residents spent a Sunday afternoon sharing ideas for improving quality of life at an interactive Town Hall held at the Madison Heights Library.
“This is a really good time in history,” said Councilperson Mark Bliss. “We’re working on the first Master Plan in 20 years.”
Bliss, who has been on City Council six years, co-hosted the town hall with newly elected councilperson Emily Rohrbach. The family-friendly even began with Rohrbach reading a story book to kids. The children went on to do crafts while the grown ups divided into groups for discussion.
About 20 people participates, sharing their views on parks, environment, library, arts, programming and more.
Over the next few weeks Bliss and Rohrbach will be compiling the feedback and ideas from the event and an online survey to “come up with a plan that we’ll propose to the rest of council based on that feedback,” Bliss said.
PARKS AND ENVIRONMENT
Trees were a big topic for those in attendance. From those who wanted more street trees, to those who wanted more green space in city parks, the consensus was that more were needed.
One issue city-wide is that trees planted in the 1950s, particularly silver maples, only have a 50 year lifespan. Until two years ago, when trees were removed due to damage or for road repair projects they weren’t replaced. The City now has a replacement policy, and they are looking for ways to fill in areas that need them including working with ReLeaf Michigan, a group that funds tree planting.
Rhorbach works with ReLeaf in her day job. “People don’t realize the environmental value of trees, or the important of biodiversity of trees,” she said, meaning that it’s important to plant a variety in case disease hits and so end of life times can be staggered.
Increasing rain gardens and native landscaping was another suggestion, with the resident who recommend it nothing that native landscaping can not only beautiful the environment in parks and in private property, but it can help prevent flooding as well.
Residents also wanted to see restrooms unlocked at community parks. “The parks need at least a port-a-john because if you take a kid even five houses they have to use the bathroom,” one mom said.
Other suggestions included a splash pad, a toddler park, a sledding hill, fitness equipment, more benches, a recreation center for everybody (not just the seniors), public art, and addressing the issue of homelessness so that park restrooms can remain open without becoming a destination for those in need of shelter.
Residents also brought up two areas they’d like to see improved, but are not public parks. One is the White Hill Area near the senior complex off Dequindre and the other is Sunset Park. White Hill is a ten acre wooded lot that is privately owned. And Sunset Park is owned by the Madison School District, not the city.
The Town Hall was held at the library in part to showcase the Sunday hours that started earlier this year. Residents gave lots of praise of the library, sharing gratitude for computer time, classes, new carpeting, and the puzzle exchange program.
Some future wishes include adding a seed library, a maker space, a 3d printer, and more electrical outlets.
Some parents hoped that the part time Children’s librarian position might be extended to full time.
And ideas for events included bringing in animals – like a dog or a pony – for kids to read to, as well as teen nights and story times on the weekends (not just during the work day).
One participant recommend re-arranging the library to have the seating placed near the windows. Another suggested a more colorful environment along with more art.
ARTS AND PROGRAMMING
Two years ago Madison Heights created an Arts Board that has already had one mural done. But residents at the town hall wanted more.
“Kids coming up need to see more than just two feet in front of their nose,” one participant said. “They need to be out and explore and have things to look at.”
Ferndale’s recently installed Rainbow Crosswalk was discussed, with one resident stating that it “sends a wonderful message to the community, not just arts and color, but inclusivity.”
Residents also discussed accessibility, and adding more pedestrian-friendly features like longer lights, crosswalks, and bike lanes.
Informing residents about programs and services was also high on the discussion list. Some suggested creating a map or an online application that tells the locations and amenities of all city parks. Another wanted more education about what the library offers. While another wanted the City to compile a list of resources and nonprofits, as well as consider creating warming/cooling centers.
HAVE YOUR IDEAS HEARD
Rohrbach and Bliss hosted the town hall independently of the city, nothing that no municipal funds were used.
Residents who weren’t able to attend are welcome to contact them with ideas. Their emails are:
There’s also an online survey available by the library.