Plans to be announced to restore tornado-ravaged Ideal Park

Posted at 3:31 PM, Jan 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-06 16:31:23-05

WYOMING, Mich. – The powerful tornado that ravaged homes and businesses in parts of Kent County this July left damage that continues to concern many residents. City of Wyoming officials will present residents their plan to restore one of the hardest hit areas, Ideal Park.

Ideal Park was covered with dense old-growth forests, some trees up to 300 years old. What’s left are slim remnants of a sparse amount of trees, with gaps showing buildings that once could not be seen.

Ron Systma grew up nearby Ideal Park, never leaving because he said the trees made it home.

“A lot of old trees, really old trees, that had our markings in them from when we were kids,” said Systma. "We’d carve our names in there and stuff. It’s pretty sad to see it the way it is.”

Yet, city officials are working with residents to restore Ideal Park. Since December, they have presented the community with three possible restoration plans for Ideal Park, Wyoming Director of Community Services Rebecca Rynbrandt said.

"A couple things we heard very strongly from citizens was to maintain the historic character of the park and really focus on nature, because this was known again for the tree canopy,” said Rynbrandt. “(Citizens are) really concerned about reforestation, natural habitat, and connections to the inner-urban trail.”

On Thursday, the city will present the first draft of its so-called master plan for Ideal Park to the public at 6:30 p.m. at the Ideal Park Christian Reformed Church.

Rynbrandt said between citizen input, and recommendations from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Kent County Drain Commission, they merged ideas into one.

"From there we'll get more comment, we'll refine it for one more time, and then it will go to a joint meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning Commission on January 14,” said Rynbrandt. "I would not be surprised if it's well above $500,000 for a park redevelopment."

Sytsma, like many neighbors, remains hopeful.

“It’ll look better next year, I hope,” said Sytsma.