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Culligan Plaza to receive an upgrade

ALPENA — Culligan Plaza is going to have a different look this summer, as a plan was approved by Alpena Municipal Council to update the park’s layout.

Councilwoman Cindy Johnson and Doug Pratt of PRATTScape, LLC have teamed up to make improvements at the downtown park, which is used for many social events. They will be in charge of much of its care through the city’s Adopt-a-Park program and will lead the changes that are coming soon, as well as long term. The city and Alpena Downtown Development Authority also will provide support.

The council signed off on allowing for the benches against the plaza’s back wall and the large square benches near the fountain to be removed and adding new amenities. City Engineer Rich Sullenger said there is $5,000 in the Adopt-a-Park budget that some of the money can be drawn from for the improvements and the DDA has pledged $1,500 for this year, an additional $1,000 for next year and four table and chair sets with umbrellas. He said the plan will increase the amount of space at the park, as well as add seating.

“It will create a larger clear space for activities and events,” Sullenger said. “There will also be picnic tables and the umbrella tables, which can be moved around to accommodate various needs for the plaza.”

Johnson said it is the goal of everyone involved to make the park a place people want to utilize as much as possible. She believes the new improvements will help to do that.

“Our goal for this summer is to make it more of a destination point and make it a more usable space,” Johnson said. “It is an entry way into the downtown and I feel it is often overlooked.”

Other improvements include new flower planters that will feature plants that match what DDA plants downtown in the spring. She said the official Alpena logo is likely to be included in the design as well.

“In each set of planters we are going to try to put the logo and back-light it with LED lights, which would be a cool feature,” Johnson said.

The new improvements to the park are expected to begin in the coming weeks, Sullenger said.

The plaza was built in the early 1980s and weather and age have taken their toll, Sullenger said. He said Johnson, Pratt, the city and DDA are looking at the bigger picture and considering larger alteration down the road. Those potential changes are only a concept currently, but something to be looked at closely.

Sullenger said the long-term plan could include removing the fountain and filling in the area around it to make the park level. He said doing away with the stairs would improve access for people who are handicapped or have difficulty climbing up and down stairs. He said there likely would be a new water feature to be built at the park as well. Sullenger said if the city tried to build Culligan Plaza today, as it is currently designed, it is unlikely it would be able to do so.

“You would be hard pressed to build it the same way with today’s standards and American Disabilities Act,” Sullenger said.

No matter what changes are made, Sullenger said the design will include the Christmas tree that is lighted there every holiday. He said any decisions for long-term plans for the park will be made with interested parties, as well as residents.

“We are going to have to spend some time and figure out what we want to do,” Sullenger said. “Some of the long-range ideas are nothing more than concepts right now. People can’t immediately assume they are all going to happen, but it is our job to explore ways to make the city better and that is what we are doing.”

For the last several years members of the Alpena Community Response Team has maintained the park in the Adopt-a-Park program. Sullenger said after meeting with Pratt and Johnson and learning more about what they would like to do, he contacted CERT and informed it the city was going to go in a different direction. Sullenger said CERT did a great job and the decision was not based on any performance issues.

“They did a great job, no complaints, but we have an opportunity to step it up and take it to the next level with Cindy and Doug,” he said. “This decision in no way reflects that CERT didn’t do a good job and we appreciate what they have done for us.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.

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