MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, dozens of young people enjoyed a game of basketball at Eighth Street Park on brand new courts that were paid for by private donations. The park has been a focal point in beautifying Muskegon Heights, and city leaders are hoping to keep that momentum going in other parts of the city.
"We want to make sure that we send out the message that we're raising expectations of the way our community looks, which is part of our overall initiative, which is reaching new heights in Muskegon Heights," said City Manager Troy Bell.
Bell says Muskegon Heights has been working to address blight since he was hired back in 2020. Much of the city's efforts were slowed when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, Bell says a citywide campaign is beginning to take shape and numerous community partners are getting behind the effort.
The city manager says city staff members Karey Morrow and Calvin Davis took the lead on the campaign, which has taken on the slogan "Beautify The Heights, Fight The Blight."
"We're going to actually have a cleanup initiative the third Saturday of each month. It's going to kick off May the 21st at 8 a.m. We're going to gather there at Heights City Hall around 8:30. We're going to do a lawn mower parade around the city hall, which should be pretty cool," Davis said.
There will be a few first come, first served giveaways while supplies last during that opening ceremony. Anyone who brings a lawnmower will be eligible for free gas. Families will also have the opportunity to receive free flowers, mulch, soil, or shrubs. Gifts are limited to one per family, and recipients must be Muskegon Heights residents.
From there, volunteers will fan out to four quadrants across the city where the work will take place.
"We're asking the citizens to come out and to engage in this with us and clean their yards, mow their lawns, plant flowers, all those good things," Davis said.
Bell says for the first time, Mayor Walter Watt and the city council have allowed city money to be budgeted toward the campaign. The city manager hopes that money will help Muskegon Heights execute their vision.
"People have been taking care of their properties. We're trying to take it to the next level. We thank them for taking care of their properties, but now we want to extend the next step to taking care of properties outside of their own property," Bell said.
City leaders are also asking citizens to take the lead in making sure that trash is disposed of properly.
"We don't expect people to come out and just trash our neighborhoods, because that's not what we're about. We want to have safe, clean neighborhoods to live in," said Chief Maurice Sain of the Muskegon Heights Police Department.
If you'd like to volunteer, you can sign up to do so in a specific neighborhood by visiting the event's website.
"Or you can show up at City Hall on May the 21st, ready to roll your sleeves up. We'll get you with a site leader, and we'll all get to work," Davis said.
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