History of Lansing, MI Parks article

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Sunday, January 1, 1950 – Mid Century Edition – Third Section

Citizens Gave Lansing Parks, Love of Nature
Natural Beauty Taken in Hand as New Century Dawned
By Frank Hand (Journal Staff Writer)

–Nature survived the advent of a rushing, industrial Lansing, but shade trees along quiet boulevards and streets were strangling each other in 1900.
–Citizens had never been unduly concerned with trees – because Lansing was carved out of the forest.
–Later, well meaning groups with more civic ferver than horticultural knowledge, planted shade trees along the streets, but so close together that their natural growth stunted and killed each other.
–The city’s only park was in the third ward and was given to the city by the state in 1878. It was named Reutter Park in honor of Gottlieb Reutter, a former mayor.
–Oak park at the time was used as the municipal cemetery.
–With the advent of the 20th century the city began a more organized approach toward the beautification and planning for research facilities.
–The first move came in 1900 when the graves at Oak park were transferred to the newly acquired Mt. Hope cemetery and Oak park was changed to a city park.
-The park became known as East Side park or Fifth Ward park. Later a mucky lake was dried up, and a wading pool installed.
–A huge fountain with a series of cup-like juttings was located on one side of the lake. An ingenious underground cement passage allowed a constant flow of water which in turn kept the fish alive and was one of the features of the fountain.
–In 1911 the first tree surgery was done in the park as several of the huge oak trees were filled with cement and asphalt strippings.
–The present rest house was completed in 1914 and in 1915 the first organized facilities of the new recreation department were installed at the park.
–During the previous year Mayor Gottlieb Reutter asked the council for a regular forester to care for the city trees. H. Lee Bancroft was appointed.
–In 1916 the city charter was revised and the new department of parks and cemeteries was created. Mr. Bancroft headed this department until 1945 when it was dissolved and the department of parks and recreation was created.
–Under the new department things began to take shape of a long-range program.
–In 1908, James Henry Moores wishing to preserve a particularly lovely cove of trees along the Grand River donated to the city 18 acres of land along the river area known as Belvedere park. In 1913 a small park named Reasoner was added to the north end.
–At the time of his death he left in his will provision for the development of Frances park and a trust fund to building a swimming pool in Moores park.
–In his honor at the entrance of the park an archway was built and inscribed “I shall pass this way but once, therefore any good that I may do let me do it now for I shall not pass this way again.”
–Shortly after Mr. Moores’ gift to the city a close friend, J. W. Potter, donated the land which is now Potter Park.
–A special committee headed by Mr. Moores was appointed to plan for the park. Serving on the committee were Mr. Reutter who later donated the fountain for Reutter park.
–Richard Scott also served on the committee and donated Scott park and playground to the city and money for its development.
–Potter park was welcomed by the residents of Lansing so well Mr. Potter later donated a pavilion. Shortly after an elk that had been at Moores park was transferred to Potter and a pair of raccoons were added. Thus began the zoo which is now housed there.
–Once the granting of parks to the city began the project snow-balled.
–In 1917 Dr. George Ranney left 20 acres between E. Grand River and E. Michigan ave. to the city and was later developed into Ranney playfield.
–Smith Young in 1918 gave the river frontage at the south end of Logan st. bridge and west along Moores River drive which, with additional funds from the River Drive association and the Country club, donated the area which later became known as Riverside park.
–In the same year William Trager gave a small park at the entrance of Potter park.
–In 1920 Mark Clifford left the city the site of what is now Foster playground. William C. Durant purchased the Cowles property at Washington and Saginaw and gave it to the city.
–Bancroft was donated to the city by the Bancroft family along with a portion of what is now Quentin park. This park was completed with a purchase in 1930 from the Motor Wheel corp. and developed with WPA funds.
–The west block of Ferris park was developed in 1921 by permission of the state. A year later the city obtained the old tourist camp on E. Michigan ave.
–Evergreen cemetery was purchased and the city accepted a 100-year lease from the state for part of the land which is now Groesbeck golf course.
–The Red Cedar golf course and present site of the Municipal ball park was purchased by the Michigan avenue development funds in 1926.
–In 1922 the park board purchased river frontage on the north side of the Grand river west of the Logan street bridge and, by 1927, more land was purchased. In 1945 R. E. Olds donated 39 acres to complete the long range program.
–The old Reo ball park was purchased in 1924 and named Sycamore park.
–Two ball fields called Marshall and West Marshall were developed in 1931 through a city purchase and a gift from the Motor Wheel corporation.
–Comstock field was made possible by a purchase of part of the Blind school farm in 1935.
–Purchases in 1937, ’40 and ’45 made possible the development of the Lincoln Community center.
–E. H. Cooley left at the time of his death in 1938 the beautiful Cooley gardens at Main and Townsend streets to the city.
–A $40,000 purchase of land between Saginaw st. and Waverly rd. acquired 120 acres for the city, which was the last major development purchase made by the city.
–In the same year the park department purchased the old hog farm west of the city on Willow st. and named it Grand Woods camp.
–In 1940 Mr. and Mrs. Christian Stabler donated a park in honor of their son. In 1941 the land at Kalamazoo and Holmes ave. was purchased by the city and will be developed into a park.
–The Reo proving grounds on S. Washington and the land behind Sexton high school was later purchased, both of which will be developed in future years.
–A 40 acre gift by Mrs. Joseph Coleman near the Townsend st. school will be used as a playground and future site of a junior high school.
–Credit for the marked improvements in the beauty of the city for the most part could be given to the public spirited citizens who contributed the land, and, to the long range view of the members of the board of parks and cemeteries.

Transcribed by Timothy Bowman – May 16, 2014.

Reuuter Park fountain

Reutter Park fountain

the original 1950 article

the original 1950 article


3 responses to “History of Lansing, MI Parks article

  1. Colleen R. Carrier

    Belvedere, Reasoner and Frances parks are all misspelled, within the “Charter Revised” section. Reutter Park is misspelled, under the picture of the fountain.

  2. Thank you for compiling this information. As an advocate of parks I found it very interesting. Julia

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