MONROE - The parks department is renovating its five Monroe County parks over the winter.
Three of them shut their gates entirely and won't reopen until March.
"When we're not plowing snow for the county's parking lots and roadways, we are doing off-season work on our parks," said Mike Bosanac, county purchasing and facilities director, who also manages the parks department.
"When the grass starts growing, we spend most of our time mowing, and, with a crew of three, we can't do much else.
"So that's why we try to get the most out of these opportunities in the winter, when parks are closed and the grass isn't growing," he said.
He said the three county parks that close do so for several reasons:
•All three have gates, allowing them to be closed.
•It saves the cost of hiring someone to open and close the gates.
•Closing them eliminates the cost of plowing their parking lots.
Giles Brockman, Bob Bashaw, and Barb Baron are the trio charged with the parks' day-to-day upkeep.
This trio is also responsible for plowing and salting all the county's facilities, from courthouse parking lots to sidewalks.
The most extensive project this winter is in Heck Park, which is on North Dixie Highway in Frenchtown Township.
The $220,000 project will provide new parking lots, roads, picnic areas, playgrounds, park benches, cooking grills, and a full basketball court.
The exercise jogging trail and the basketball area were recently paved, and foundations are in place for the picnic shelter. The shelter should arrive in late November, and the entire project should be completed by March, Mr. Bosanac said.
The Heck Park Trail, Shelter, and Fitness Project is being paid for through a $110,000 Land Water Conservation Fund grant and a $110,000 matching grant from the county.
"The park commission is really trying to create additional recreational activities for tourists and citizens," said Mr. Bosanac.
Heck Park, despite construction, is one of the two parks that will remain open all winter. It isn't gated, and it has a sledding hill.
The other facility open all year is West County Park, on Rightmire Road on the River Raisin in Dundee. A nature preserve park, it is more rustic than the others. The park has no playground equipment or elaborate structures, but there is a grassy trail that winds past the river.
The parks department will be putting up some small picnic shelters, which are expected to arrive in late November. The shelters will have some information signs about native flora.
Waterloo Park at the end of Mulhollen Drive on the River Raisin in Monroe Township is the smallest park, with only 9 acres, but it has many facilities and has had 53 reservations since March 1, more than any other county park.
Waterloo's gates have been closed for the winter, and 10 ash trees are scheduled for removal this month.
The emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle that was discovered near Detroit in the summer of 2002, has since killed more than 10 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Several of the trees are along the property line near residences and the park entrance, so Mr. Bosanac said it was safest to close the park before conducting the work.
Vienna Park on Vienna West Road in Bedford Township, which also shut its gates and closed for the winter, also has a number of trees that will be removed.
New fencing will be put up around the park's five baseball fields, and Mr. Bosanac said he hopes to add soccer fields to the park in the near future.
Nike Park, located on Newport Road in Frenchtown Township, is also closed and has some tree removal, brush work, new fence rows, and some minor drain work needed.
The parks department staff has trucked topsoil to the park to fill low areas, and additional dirt is coming.
The Southeast Michigan Antique Tractor and Engine Club has graded the dirt and seeded the area.
Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch