TRAVERSE CITY — Two of Blair Township’s elected officials took some time to set aside their pencils and adding machines in favor of hammers and nails.
Supervisor Pat Pahl and Treasurer Brenda DeKuiper joined township maintenance coordinator Carl Bearinger to construct a picnic pavilion at the township park. The part-time construction crew did the work over the winter so when spring rolls around they can dive into another do-it-yourself park project: a splash pad.
“I’ve never built a splash pad, so it’s going to be interesting,” Pahl said. “Basically all they are is an underground sprinkler system — in concrete.”
Both the pavilion, with its curved, wood-paneled ceiling and the water system for the splash pad are pre-designed kit units. Pahl estimated the township will save up to $8,000 on labor for the $16,000 pavilion by pouring concrete and assembling the units with voluntary labor. Hiring a contractor for the splash pad would have cost the township about $150,000. The DYI route should drop the price tag to about $100,000, which includes hiring an electrician for wiring chores, Pahl said.
The pavilion was DeKuiper’s first experience with winter construction, though not the first time she’s worked on park improvements. She oversaw fundraising to purchase park playground equipment and helped in construction, too.
“I grew up in a small town with very nice parks and I wanted my kids to have that, as well,” she said. “Strong families and places for families to go in a community build a strong community.”
Groups and individuals donated $50,000 for the splash pad so far, and the township has $30,000 in pending grant applications. Pahl said he hopes to get obtain in-kind services to help further reduce the gap. The township general fund will cover any shortfall with a loan, paid back through the annual Family Fun Day fundraiser at the park.
Pahl and DeKuiper said they find time for the project the same way most do-it-yourselfers pull off home improvements: in small chunks and on days off and weekends. The trio, including Bearinger, started the Pavilion project in the fall and toiled outside of work hours.
They hope to have the splash pad done in either July or August.
“That will be a big project, but it’s something I know area residents are looking forward to,” DeKuiper said. “The park is a pet project that’s big for me so I’m willing to do what it takes to get things done out there.”