Council accepts funds for new park

ESCANABA – Construction of a public park on Escanaba’s southwest side will become a reality thanks to the donation of a Gladstone couple.

A $280,000 gift from John and Patt Besse was accepted by the Escanaba City Council during its meeting Thursday. The new recreation area will be named the John D. Besse Public Park.

For nearly two decades, community plans have called for a park on the city’s south side, explained City Manager Jim O’Toole. The site is located on city-owned property on the northeast corner of 8th Avenue South and South 30th Street.

This residential area has the highest density population in the city and consists of 932 dwellings including 400 family units, said O’Toole.

The city is grateful for the private funding to pay for the public park which has been in the plans for several years, he noted. A playground has been proposed in this area in Escanaba’s recreation plan since 1994 and in the city’s master plan since 1999.

In a note to the city manager, the Besses stated, “We are extremely pleased to fund the proposed John D. Besse Park in south Escanaba… There is a heavy concentration of children in that area and our intention is to promote family togetherness in a well-designed recreational facility.”

The blueprint calls for state-of-the-art playground equipment surrounded by an oval walking track, said O’Toole. Plans also include a 1,728-square-foot pavilion with four grills, a disc golf course, two volleyball courts, and a paved parking lot. Picnic tables, benches, and a water fountain will be installed along with a portable restroom.

“This is a great gift to the city from the Besses,” said Mayor Pro Tem Brady Nelson.

Council member Pat Baribeau said the park is expected to be constructed in time to be dedicated during the city’s sesquicentennial celebration in early July. Activities are being scheduled in conjunction with the dedication including free ice cream courtesy of the Besses, she said.

Plans for the proposed park were recommended to council following public hearings by the city’s recreation advisory board and the planning commission.

Last summer, Patt and John Besse also donated $150,000 to the city to pay for upcoming renovations at the Catherine Bonifas Civic Center including bathroom upgrades and a second locker room. This project will also be dedicated during the Esky 150 Celebration.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,