Oxford’s Helen Smith Park to Add Fitness Opportunities and Honor Late Resident
(Arden Vanover, March 15, 2023)
Oxford, MI – Beginning in front of the Oxford Township building, there is a five-mile safety path to provide the residents with a way to walk around the community. After finishing all the segments of the path, the idea for the final piece to bring the community together came to light: a pocket park honoring Helen Smith, a late resident known for her contributions to Oxford and those who live there.
The Helen Smith Park will be built on the grounds of the Oxford Township Hall at 300 Dunlap Rd. The park will be completed and open to public this year with activities for all ages.
This pocket park will be filled with accessible play equipment as well as exercise equipment to appeal to any who come by the park whether it be their destination or just a stop on their walk along the safety path.
Oxford’s Communications and Grants Manager, C.J. Carnacchio, said, “Say someone’s running along, and they want to take a break. They’re already getting a lower body workout from running. Now, they can use some of the exercise equipment here to get an upper body workout.
“Or local parents and families who live around the hall – they now have a destination, a small park, they can walk up to with their kids. The kids can play for a while, and they can sit and socialize.”
The total cost of building this park is $96,695.25. Much of the project had been funded by donations and in-kind contributions, but the rest was still being sought after until the township applied for a grant from the Four County Community Foundation. The grant for the remainder of the cost was rewarded to allow this project to be executed to plan.
Carnacchio said he was overwhelmingly grateful to be given the opportunity to honor an Oxford resident while creating a new common space for the town to use as a place to come together. He said the people of Oxford are excited for this pocket park, but many are even more excited that it is an opportunity to showcase all the good Helen Smith did as an active and inspiring part of their community.
Smith grew up in Oxford, and was Senior Class Vice President in 1952. She was a regular at sporting events for the school all through her life, and in 2014 she was honored with a custom-made throne to watch the Homecoming Game. Since 1980 there has been an award in her honor for the top female athlete in Oxford’s senior class.
In addition to being a fan, Smith coached several sports including cheer-leading. Smith also served on the Board of Education and on the Oxford American Legion Post 108’s Scholarship Committee. In 2002 she was the Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade. Professionally she worked as an accountant, helping many other small businesses in the area succeed.
Carnacchio was one of many who had been touched by Smith’s love of life and dedication to community. He said he wanted to do this for her. “I’m going to love the fact that one once this is built, every day, I’m going to get to come to work and I’m going to look over across the parking lot. And I’m going to see that park, and it’s just going to make me smile every day. And it’s probably going to make me tear up like a little bit […] But it’s going to be fantastic. I think my only regret is I wish Helen was still here to see this,” he said.
The park and a two-thousand-pound boulder with a plaque sharing Helen Smith’s story are estimated to be completed this Summer.