CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. — Cedar Springs, or the Red Flannel Town U.S.A., works to keep a small town feel with amenities for its residents.
Pamela Conley, the mayor, is enthusiastic about her city and its progress. She laid out many projects and future plans for Cedar Springs. Two main themes are improvements to infrastructure and parks and recreation.
The Heart of Cedar Springs is the main park through town. It has a natural rain garden that cleans and cools water before it reaches the creek. It connects to the White Pine Trail. An Amphitheater was finished last year. This summer, concerts will be held at the venue Wednesdays starting on June 8.
"If you want to maintain health and quality of life," said Conley, "you need to be able to move, and you need to be able to get out in nature."
The city is also in early talks to build a community building on or near the park. Plus, they are working on grants to build a playground or two.
Pathways and new additions will be what Conely calls "Beyond ADA compliant."
"When you make things accessible for people with disabilities," said Conley, "when the trails are wide enough to manage scooters and wheelchairs, they're better for walking your dog, when they have an incline without steps, they're better for those of us who don't need an incline. It's easier to move about. It just provides that level of inclusion that makes it so that everybody in your community can come to the table. And that's an important thing."
In 2021, the city built a new fire station with funds from a millage. This houses the fully volunteer-run department downtown. The previous fire station still stands. Conley said they may tear it down and add the space to the Heart of Cedar Springs park.
Cedar Springs is home to actual water springs. One sits in the park, unknown how long it has been functioning. Conley said it has been at least 100 years. There are other springs in the city, but they are capped. She said they hope to find those in the next couple years.
Another major focus of growth in Cedar Springs is on infrastructure. There are many road and sidewalk projects expected in the next few years.
One major project is the repair work on Main Street over the Cedar Creek. Conley said she understands it is a frustrating road closure for residents, but it will be safe once completed.
"You see these things happening in Pennsylvania," said Conley, "and you're worried that something will land in Cedar Creek. You don't want that to happen."
Water infrastructure is also a major focus. A new wastewater treatment plant was built in the past few years. Conley said they put $3 million into water infrastructure in the past few years. A continued screening process looks for toxic chemicals. She also said they have tested non-detect for PFAS.
The city and DDA may also create a "pocket park" with a spot for water drainage on Main Street.
Cedar Springs is expecting growth in their downtown businesses. There are several marijuana shops that have opened up recently. Conley said allowing those was something the council researched for years. Ultimately, they decided it was a positive asset for the health of residents in the community. This was something she personally realized when visiting a shop in another town during research.
"I said, I need it for my people who need this for pain management," said Conley, "And they need to not have to drive to Grand Rapids, because we don't have mass transit. We don't have busing that comes here. We can't even get a Lyft or an Uber to come out."
While it is too soon to see the tax benefit of the marijuana shops, Conley said the business owners have been active with the community chamber, participated in city-wide trash cleanup and other city initiatives.
"I think they're a good asset to the community in a way a lot of people didn't expect," said Conley.
While the Red Flannel Festival is not organized by the city, it continues to grow every year. Conley said it has an enormous footprint economically for the community. This is expected to continue in the years to come.
Overall, Cedar Springs' goal is to maintain the small town feel while continuing to grow in things that benefit the residents.
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