This month is my twelfth month of walking the streets of Lansing, MI. I have put great energy into promoting the positive aspect of Lansing and keeping an overall optimistic feel for this project. Many times I am honestly awestruck by the passion of home owners and the generosity of community members. I make note of the smiles and handshakes, polite head nods and friendly conversations. But I’ve also noticed the mattresses under highway over passes, homes boarded up and orange tagged. I’ve passed many homes and businesses with obvious signs of neglect. Today I found myself at a park. It’s a very large park, surrounded by well recognized businesses and establishments. The prosperity of Neogen, The North Police Precinct, nor Prudden Place down the road has not trickled down into this park. The north side of the park, despite its position on a very visible street, is hidden behind a guardian of over grown plant life. There is a bench in there, facing Saginaw, Motor Wheel Lofts, and the freshly landscaped North Precinct. Yet you couldn’t see it without standing right above it. And sitting on it would be impossible without garden shears. The park takes up a whole block on all four sides, making it one of Lansing’s larger parks. Within its boundaries lies a grass covered baseball field, a soccer field, picnic tables with rusted out grills and a basketball court. The playground equipment has a broken slide wrapped in orange fencing preventing children from using it, yet a local day care center group was more than happy to continue using the rest of the playground. As I walked through the park I wondered at the potential. I’ve seen what happens when the communities, many times encouraged by a single individual, commit to making something better. I’ve seen couples concerned about a neighboring home going into foreclosure, buy that home and convert it into a community resource center. I’ve seen businesses encourage the use of empty lots by converting them into urban gardens. As I walked through Oak Park today, I felt that something could be done here. This park should show equal growth on the south side of Saginaw as the north side. It could represent our expertise in gardening and agriculture. It can become the destination of families who want a safe place to play with their children. It really will be all that and more if we can commit as a community to shine up a true diamond in the rough.
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