PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Frog Island and Riverside Park

Posted by ppna on January 14, 2008

Today I came across the Riverside Park and Frog Island Development Plan and I thought I would introduce some points of interest. There is also the 2008-2012 Parks and Recreation Master Plan to review but I haven’t gotten to that yet.

The project’s budget over a 3 year period is $2,658,264 which includes programming/improvements/maintenance/operation ($261,088 x 3 years) and capital improvements ($1,875,000).

**** I really want to know what they plan on spending $261,088 per year on operations costs.

The Year round programming model:

(**** Is my reaction)


Fourth Friday Music Series (May-September) **** I’d really like to see this event take off. For the past few years the bands at the event are bands that you can catch on a regular basis at local bars around town. I do realize there are people and children that don’t attend bars and have never seen these groups but it would be nice to bring in some bands that are touring or make the event more exciting. Perhaps have a swap meet of musical items (instruments, equipment, records etc.) which would compliment the band or have a guitar-off for local teens to compete. Perhaps even add a “Guitar Hero” competition to attract people from all over.

Montreaux Jazz Festival (August) — The bringing back of the Frog Island Festival featuring Blues, Jazz and Rockabilly *** As a person that travels a lot to music festivals, this is a great idea. Each summer there are hundreds of music festivals and they seem to do well. The Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing is a great small festival with fun for everyone. I know the parks want to make money with admission fees but keep them low and make money with community vendors. The best festivals I’ve attended have the boy-scouts using their buses and collecting tips to shuttle people from hotels for tips (you could run a shuttle from the Harmony House and the Marriott and KOA) and community groups providing all concessions. We don’t need to bring in people who will take the money outside the city. The Festival should be a community event where everyone benefits.  Local businesses who benefit from the festival should have a lot of pressure put on them to sponsor the festival.  Hotels, bars, restaurants etc should commit a portion of increased profits for the weekend to the festival.

Blue Mondays (September – October) — weekly event of local jazz and blues musicians. *** For some reason Ypsilanti is obsessed with Jazz and Blues. I know WEMU makes a go of it but if one of the goals is to get Eastern Students to the parks you need to find a common ground. If Therone draws 50 people at Frenchies why do you think he’d draw more at the park? (I love Therone at Frenchies but it’s not a big enough draw).

Canoe, Kayak and Bicycle Rentals (associated with targeted event dates) *** At the community planning meeting I believe the rental aspect was voted down by everyone. There is nowhere to go in a Canoe or Kayak from Riverside Park. If you head downstream you hit I-94 and if you venture upstream you run into the peninsular Dam add to that the fact that the river isn’t deep enough for Canoe or Kayak in front of Riverside Park. As for bike rental, people who like riding bikes will bike to the park on their own bike. Where would you think people would venture if they did rent a bike?

Fall into Fun (EMU homecoming weekend)– activities for the whole family **** I forsee this as another mess.  Keep in mind that the main event for homecoming is drinking and students won’t show up if that isn’t involved.  Also keep in mind that Homecoming is an EMU event and since EMU students never hang out in Ypsilanti they have no connection and upon return for the weekend would not have any interest in leaving campus.

Festival of Lights (December) — Lights in the park and a holiday tree lighting. **** I loved the festival of lights. It adds a great element to the parks in the winter. I heard that it is now economical because they can use LED lights that will stay in the trees year round and will not break like the old glass bulbs.

Year 2

Winter Fest added — last week in January — sledding hill and outdoor skating rink and concerts in frog Island amphitheater. Proposed EMU vs. UM teams in toboggan building and racing and a hockey tournament. *** If we could have an ice-rink at Frog Island with bands playing in the winter it would be wonderful. I would enjoy every minute of it. I don’t think it is possible to have an outdoor ice-rink in Southeastern Michigan anymore but if you can go for it. Getting UM people to come to Ypsi for anything would be impossible so give that up and getting EMU students to come is almost as impossible.

Heath Expose (Spring/Fall) added. *** I’m not sure what they would do with this. My guess is there would be one big tent with free health screenings and a few events planned probably a ‘bike to the park,’ or a walk-a-thon. It would cost a fortune and 40 people would attend.

Here is what I would do for the health expo.


  • Planting tips and techniques — hosted by growing hope there could be hands on training to get their plots in Frog Island ready for planting.
  • A bike-Ypsi scavenger hunt — link this to a charity collecting canned goods as proof of your stop
  • Self-guided and guided ‘Walk Ypsi” tours
  • A canoe race from Gallop park to Riverside Park (In Spring the water is high enough). — In conjunction with the A2 canoe rental (not our own).
  • A fresh and healthy community picnic in the park — Talk to Zingermans about this since they have ideas of placing a permanent healthy food source here.
  • Work really hard and get as many vendors to come for a large farmers market. — Talk to Eastern Market Vendors
  • A large dog walk with a temporary fenced in dog park in Frog Island or Riverside Park — To benefit the humane society.
  • Have a ‘Green’ music stage with solar or people powered electricity or just have acoustic folk music.
  • Hold competetive children competitions like the shoe kick, 3 legged race, potato sack race etc…
  • Do all the general Health Fair things, blood drive, check-ups etc. Maybe find some eye doctors or dentists to give quick exams.


  • Much the same as the Spring
  • Add Harvest cooking competition
  • Harvest competitions (largest pumpkin etc.) — Tie this into the spring growing education. Perhaps give everyone a few of the same types of seeds for various vegetables and find out who yields the best and what their secrets were.

The States “Pure Michigan” campaign 1)business development 2) environmental sustainability 3)water destinations 4)Pure Michigan destinations 5)one tank trips. The report suggests that the parks can build on strategic areas 3,4, and 5

***** I would think that environmental sustainability would be a large part of what is going to happen in our parks. We should build the parks with environmentally friendly structures. Use LED lights in the park powered by solar panels and a wind turbine (even if it doesn’t do a lot I think a turbine on the pavilions would be educational for park users. We could install waterless urinals in the mens bathrooms to be used during events. This would limit the maintenance and plumbing them. We would use rain gardens at the bottoms of the slopes and use environmentally friendly plants that don’t need maintenance in our environment. From what I can tell environmental sustainability should be the number 1 thing that we concern ourselves with our parks.

I would also suggest that a nice park system might drive business development. For the life of me I can’t figure out why the city doesn’t maintain Rivers-edge park on the Water Street project that is the corridor between Riverside Park and Waterworks park (If you didn’t know there is a pedestrian bridge over the river connecting the two) and open that land up to community use. Instead they fence us out of the most expensive property in the city. If a developer drove by and saw pedestrian traffic through the water-street area my guess is they would be more likely to develop.

The Huron river isn’t much of a water destination it’s a water backdrop, I guess you might encourage fishing but in the summer the river gets so low that there are only a few select spots to fish (and I’m not going to give away my spots).

I would agree that Ypsilanti could become a Pure Michigan Destination and a one day trip but we need to develop our historical context and downtown for this rather than our parks. I would suggest we re-focus the Heritage festival into a Heritage festival instead of a gambling benefit for churches, carnival food, and ‘made-in-china’ arts and crafts.

The plan goes on to talk about Health aspects of the park — a fitness course in the park and walk-a-thons. **** This was voted down in the community meeting as well. Nobody uses fitness courses they look great on paper but they just end up being things to mow around. Perhaps if the elements served a duel purpose of historical markers or art they might fit in.

Arts and Crafts Fair — along side another event. **** Isn’t the Heritage festival an arts and crafts fair? There is zero history involved (besides the museum being open) If you ask me you can leave that junk and perhaps do something else.

The Plan goes on with a lot of spread sheets about proposed budgeting and letters of support to the Depot Town Community Development Corporation from various politicians.

**** It seems like another fancy plan drawn up by people that are too old to know what the city wants or what will draw EMU students to the parks more often.


3 Responses to “Frog Island and Riverside Park”

  1. Robert Anschuetz said

    These are some really good ideas. In the 1970’s they used to have a “raft” race down the river concluding at Riverside park. The boats were constructed out of tires, logs, innertubes, gallon jugs, etc., and it was really fun to see the ideas that people came up with that could actually float.

    And, yes, return the festival of lights. I think there are a few strands high up in some of the trees that remind me what a great event that was.

  2. ppna said

    Robert, Those races were great but the river is barely high enough to support the rubber duck race now. I remember one ‘raft’ made out of ‘BIG MAC’ containers (remember they used to be Styrofoam).

  3. Candace Pinaud said

    Thanks for taking the time to read ‘most’ of what is out there about the DTCDC and for taking an exorbitant amount of time and energy to write about it.

    Let us know if you have any ‘extra’ time to help us raise funds to complete these projects that will improve and maintain these two big, and very valuable, city parks that the city no longer has any money to maintain.

    we could use the help towards something productive – if you have the will ;-).

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