East Park: Charlevoix, Michigan
Located just steps from Charlevoix's bustling business district, East Park combines a well-connected downtown community space used year-round by residents and visitors with all the beauty of Round Lake's sparkling waters. In 2007, the lakefront park was redesigned with a large grassy area, trees, benches, and brick sidewalks. Besides attractive landscaping, the park now has an interactive water fountain for children; a rebuilt performing arts pavilion with natural acoustics; a trout pond with pools, rapids, and waterfalls; and a 65-slip marina.
The 2.5-acre East Park is located in the center of downtown Charlevoix between Bridge Street and Round Lake.
Initially the land for East Park was privately owned. During the 1920s, a building along Charlevoix's waterfront burned. The city acquired the land with the idea that over time — in this case more than 70 years — a park could be created along the waterfront with parcels purchased as they became available.
While East Park did not originate from a written plan, it was achieved for the same reasons underlying all successfully implemented plans — a common vision and commitment by succeeding generations of elected leaders and the public to follow through.
Defining Characteristics, Features
Location and Qualities
- The park adjoining Bridge Street has a wide sidewalk, an array of benches, and three areas for panoramic views of downtown Charlevoix storefronts, Round Lake, and Lake Charlevoix in the distance
- The park's grassy area allows for general recreational use including walking, picnicking, and sunbathing as well as festivals and community events
- The area closest to the water and marina has concerts, picnic, and seating areas along the entire length of the park
- The core of storefronts in the central business district look directly over East Park onto Round Lake; the park's proximity to downtown housing, including upper-story apartments, condominiums, and lofts, attracts constant use by residents and visitors
- All utilities and power lines are underground
Long-term Vision and Organic Planning Effort
- Park land acquired incrementally starting in 1925 after a fire destroyed a building and opened a view of the waterfront from Bridge Street
- Mayor Robert Bridge (1938-1946) followed through on his vision for expanded access to the waterfront, acquiring numerous parcels and turning them into parkland
- Subsequent mayors continued his vision; as the park expanded, it went through various design changes
- Current Mayor Norm Carlson remembers living in Charlevoix when he was younger and going to East Park to dangle his feet off the docks, listen to the live band concerts, or play on the shuffleboard courts that used to be there
- In 1982, a new design plan for the park was drafted in conjunction with the city's first Master Plan, which included a Waterfront Area Management Plan adopted by the Planning Commission
- Charlevoix's Downtown Development Authority passed a Tax Increment Financing and Development Plan in 1982, which was used to finance various projects in East Park including $200,000 for the interactive fountain
- Final building on East Park parcels razed in 2002; community design process follows and in 2007 the $11 million park and marina reconstruction begins; park officially reopened in 2008 for Venetian Festival
Environmental Best Practices
- New marina is certified a "Clean Marina" by Michigan Sea Grant, a University of Michigan program promoting research and education to achieve sustainable coasts
- The three-tiered greenspace design, addition of green roofs, and removal of a parking lot all contributed to reduce direct runoff into Round Lake
- Both the Harbormaster's Building and Odmark performing arts pavilion are heated and cooled with geothermal energy; motion sensors control building lighting
- Recycled, closed loop water used for trout pond and interactive water fountain
- Interactive Water Fountain is the result of a joint effort between citizens and Downtown Development Authority; fountain uses heated clean water that shoots up and sprays to delight of children; fountain timing can be sequenced with music and light shows
- East Park boasts a newly reconstructed stone-built band shell, the Clarence Odmark Pavilion, with natural acoustics and built-in hillside seating
- Harbormaster's office is located unobtrusively below-ground; includes street-level viewing plaza, public restrooms, and an interactive, lighted water fountain