Ecorse aims to increase its outdoor recreation offerings

Residents are excited about a possible new splash pad, but some have misgivings about the city’s ability to follow through.
Planned site of future splash pad in Ecorse, Michigan. Photo by Cheri Hollie.

Ecorse resident Daniella Page is excited about a new splash pad development potentially coming to the city. She has two sons, who are eight and three. 

“My two boys, they need somewhere to play in the summertime,” Paige told Planet Detroit. “I’m excited to see how much it brings the community together, and I want to see how my kids like it.”

Page is among many parents in Ecorse looking for more outdoor recreation opportunities for their families. About a third of households in the city of 9,328 have children.

According to the Trust for Public Land, 85% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of the city’s six parks. That’s higher than the median for urban areas. 

But financial distress has meant the city has struggled to maintain these parks with infrastructure, amenities, and programs in recent years. The city was placed under state emergency financial management in 2009 and emerged in 2013.

Ashley Roberts has lived in Ecorse for 24 years, and she, too, would like to see more amenities in the city.

“There really isn’t a lot to do around here, unfortunately. Not many parks, not many big stores. In my area, everyone just keeps to themselves,” she said.

Now the city is trying to change that through a more robust recreation system.

Zaid Beeai was hired as Parks, Recreation, and Senior Citizen director in 2022, tasked with implementing the city’s Recreation Master Plan, including rebuilding the city’s parks, recreation, and senior citizen programming. 

His work includes coordinating renovations to old buildings, developing new programming, and building the new splash pad at Pepper Park, which officials hope will open next year.

“The first few months of my job, a lot of it was renovation because it was important to get these things done to have proper facilities for proper programming,” Beeai told Planet Detroit. 

Ecorse has held a range of new events and programs for citizens under Beeai’s leadership, like balance classes for seniors in partnership with the Kidney Foundation, fitness classes, and a popular Meals on Wheels Program. 

“We completely renovated our kitchen for our Meals on Wheels programs,” Beeai said. “We’re now able to serve hot food four days a week, and we pass out roughly 100 meals to the city’s patrons now per day, four days a week.”

The city also plans to build a new pickleball court, soccer field and renovate and build another basketball court. 

Beeai said he has tried to get the residents involved in new programming. 

“I talk to a lot of the citizens and patrons of the city to see what kind of programming they were looking for and the things that they would like to see in the city,” he said. 

But Roberts has some misgivings, especially about the splash pad. She’s worried about the city taking on too much.

“I have mixed feelings,” she said. “In theory, I think it would be an amazing idea. It would bring a sense of excitement to the community, for the kids,” she said. “It would give them something to look forward to during the summer. It would promote socialization. But I have concerns about the reality of it.”

Her main concern, she said, is whether the city will have the resources to maintain the new splash pad.

“The City has such a hard time maintaining anything that we do have, so how will they maintain this? Are they going to do the proper cleaning?” she said. “Are they going to check and maintain the sanitation of the water that our kids will be playing in?” 

Splash pads are potential breeding grounds for E.coli and other waterborne contamination. At Royal Oak’s splash pad, staff monitor the pH three times a day and conduct testing for E Coli once per week. Michigan’s health department offers parents guidance for staying healthy and protecting others using splash pads.

Baeei noted that the splash pad development is on hold as the city seeks a state Spark Grant to ensure the park has the correct facilities and support before continuing the build. The grant directs money to communities with a high proportion of struggling households, a high number of residents with physical and mental disabilities, and a lack of public recreation opportunities.

“We wanted to ensure that we get everything done correctly. That’s why it’s been delayed a little bit,” he said. 

He added that funding for all new parks and recreation developments and events is sourced from grants and donations – not the city’s tax revenue. Beeai said he and the city try to make recreation updates at zero cost to the city’s residents. 

Ecorse city workers and the Department of Public Works will maintain the splash pad when finished. 

Page is excited about the new recreation developments in the city and hopes to get out more. 

“I’ve been here for two years, but we don’t get out much,” she said. “I would like to get to know the community, give back or help out when I can.”

Chri Hollie is one of Planet Detroit’s Neighborhood Reporters, in which residents report from the places where they live.


Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get the latest local enviro news in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top