Community steps up to save Montcalm Co. parks

William McCarthy Memorial Park, Montcalm Township
William McCarthy Memorial Park in Montcalm Township. (April 12, 2017)

STANTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Montcalm County was forced to close its parks because of budget problems, but families and businesses are coming together to volunteer time and money to maintain the parks.

Each park has different people stepping up with different ties to the park, unlocking the gates for future generations.

The volunteers will care for all of the county’s seven parks: Artman Park in Howard City, Bass Lake in Richland Township, Carl Paepke Flat River Nature Park in Montcalm Township, Krampe Park in Winfield Township, McCarthy Park in Montcalm Township and Schmeid Park in Lakeview.

“We just kind of looked at each other about the exact same second and said you know we ought to go adopt that park,“ said Pete Larsen.

“It was a simultaneous thing,” said Tom Smith.

“It was freaky,” said Larsen.

Larsen and Smith live and work in Montcalm County. They’ve raised their kids here and spent lots of time at McCarthy Park in Montcalm Township, which is located north of Greenville.

“My family lives across the street and my son got married just down by the river,” said Larsen.

They heard about the budget problems and didn’t want the park to close.

“I said well we have adopted a highway system why can’t we do an adopt a park thing,” said Smith.

Other people had the same idea.

“People just started calling,” said county controller Bob Clingenpeel.

As soon as word got out, the county phones were ringing with families and business willing to mow, take out the trash; whatever was needed to run the parks.

“It’s very humbling,” said Clingenpeel. “It’s nice to have the outpouring of support.”

Humbling, but not surprising.

“This is Montcalm County, you know, if you look at places that don’t have a lot of money. We figure out what to do,” said Clingenpeel.

Now all 7 parks will open on May 1 and won’t cost taxpayers a penny.

Volunteers say they’ll continue to maintain the parks for however long it’s needed.

The county was going to have to close Krampe Park in Winfield Lake because it didn’t have any volunteers, but has recently received so many request it’s working to determine who will take responsibilities for the park.