Project Background

Located in Central Michigan along the Saginaw River, the City of Saginaw is Michigan's northernmost rust belt city. It is also a legacy city and as such, for decades, Saginaw has been suffering from a shrinking population, job loss, high crime rates, and deep cuts to city services.

While all of Saginaw's city agencies have suffered budget cuts, the Parks and Recreation Department has been hit especially hard, seeing its budget shrink from $600,000 in 2000 to only $25,000 in 2013 — just enough to keep the grass mowed in city parks.

Recognizing a critical need, volunteer groups have stepped in to help facilitate programming, maintenance, and clean-up opportunities in their city parks. One community group, Get Outside for a Healthy Inside (GOHI), which brings improved outdoor activities and programming to the community, is currently focused on revitalizing Wickes Park, a once vibrant and popular riverfront park in Saginaw.

GOHI, with support from the city, has requested aid from the CPAT program in bringing together residents, government officials, and other key community stakeholders to explore the possibilities for a revitalized Wickes Park and to strategize how to move forward given the complicated challenges facing a legacy city like Saginaw.

Wickes Park: One Riverfront, One Saginaw

Community Planning Assistance Team Report

This final report is based on the recognition that the revitalization of Wickes Park will not only have a substantial positive impact on Saginaw’s South East neighborhood but will also benefit the health and prosperity of the city and the surrounding region. Six design interventions are identified, each presented in phases, along with recommendations to achieve the vision with implementation and funding strategies.

Project Updates

Team leader Leslie Dornfield, FAICP, and APA consultant Jennifer Graeff, AICP, conducted an initial site visit to Saginaw, Michigan, from June 19–21, 2017. Community contact and co-chairperson of GOHI Sharon Denise kicked off the visit with a tour of Wickes Park as well as other city parks and downtown Saginaw. They also held several meetings with community members, stakeholders, and city officials to learn more about the issues surrounding revitalization efforts of the park.

The week long CPAT visit took place from February 28–March 5, 2018. The team spent time in Wickes Park and met with more than 100 community members, stakeholders, and elected officials. Based on these site visits and discussions, the team produced draft recommendations for Wickes Park that include passive and active recreation, public art, environmental education, and funding opportunities to help jumpstart opportunities in the park. The plan was presented to the public on Sunday, March 4, and to the Saginaw City Council on March 5.

Meet the Team


Team Leader

Leslie Dornfeld, FAICP

Leslie Dornfeld is an adjunct professor and guest lecturer at Arizona State University who is active in the Urban Land Institute, Arizona, APA's Arizona Chapter, and the City of Phoenix Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. Previously, Dornfeld conducted economic and market analysis of income properties in New York City and throughout the U.S. and developed economic revitalization programs. Career highlights include award-winning projects such as the Greening Lower Grand Avenue Plan, Casa Grande General Plan, Goodyear City Center Specific Master Plan, Phoenix Indian School Plan, Desert Spaces Plan, and Pedestrian Area Policies and Design Guidelines for the Maricopa Association of Schools.

team member

James Coffman, ASLA

James Coffman is a registered Arizona landscape architect whose experience mixes 30-plus years of private and public sector planning and landscape architecture work with 11-plus years of teaching at Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas. He has managed and participated in over a dozen community/regional active transportation master plans in Arizona. Coffman is a co-author of the Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds, published in 2007 by the National Forest Service. Other work includes a Complete Streets Guide along with designs, design guidelines, and design and construction oversight for urban trails. He was named by AzASLA as the 2012 Arizona Landscape Architect of the Year and the 2014 Educator of the Year.

team member

Alyia Gaskins

Alyia Gaskins is the assistant director of programs/health for the Center for Community Investment. Previously she worked as senior associate at the National League of Cities (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Gaskins began her career at D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center. She is a graduate of the Leadership Fairfax Class of 2014 and a 2015 Next City Vanguard. She is active in her community and serves on a number of boards and councils. Gaskins has a BA in Medicine, Health and Society from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently pursuing a master's in Urban and Regional Planning from Georgetown University and is a 2017 ULI/Randall Lewis Health Mentorship Fellow.

team member

Michelle Iqbal

Michelle Iqbal is a first year master's candidate at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in the Global Health Epidemiology program with a focus on sustainable community development. She earned her BA in Peace & Conflict Studies and Biology from Wayne State University in 2017. A graduate of Heritage High School, Iqbal hopes to move back to Saginaw after completing her graduate studies.

team member

Richard Lukas

Richard Lukas has worked in community development focusing on the intersection of government affairs and urban planning for over 10 years. Currently, as director of federal grants and program development, he supports The Trust for Public Land's mission to create parks and protect land for people. Since 2012, he has been responsible for the overall vision, development, and implementation of a multi-million dollar federal grants program to support the organization's 30 state offices, funding projects that include park acquisition, design, and development in urban and metropolitan areas. Lukas holds a master's degree in Political Management from The George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Gettysburg College.

team member

Michael Tunte, AICP, PLA, LEED GA

Michael Tunte is an associate, landscape architect, urban designer, and planner with Design Workshop. He has designed award-winning projects, lectured at universities, and served as an adviser to numerous clients and communities. He is committed to producing outstanding work by understanding what it means to design and build the best landscapes and public spaces in each setting and climate. Tunte graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Landscape Architecture as an ASLA Student Honor Award winner. He also holds a Master of Urban Design degree from the University of California-Berkeley, where he was a Gadsby Trudgett Scholarship recipient as well as a University of California Fellowship recipient.

Team Member

Jacqueline Norris

The Rev. Jacqueline V. Norris resides in Prince George's County and is an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She is a 2016 alumna of the EPA Region 4 Environmental Justice Academy. Norris returned to the academy to become a certified Environmental Justice Academy Train-the-Trainer, so she could assist low-income, marginalized, and disenfranchised communities engage their governments and other key political, religious, nongovernmental, and academic partners. Norris has worked at the Health & Human Services section, White House Consumer Affairs, Office of Program Planning & Consumer Outreach. Today, she works with marginalized groups, governments, churches, and non-governmental groups to ensure environmental social equity.