‘It only takes one person’: Historic Mott Park neighborhood residents come together to rejuvenate clubhouse and derelict grounds

By Tom Travis

“It only takes one person to have that vision or to have that love for their community. And that person must be brave to come out and take the bull by the horns. It only takes one person, then they will gravitate and involve other people. Even in a bad neighborhood it only takes one person,” said Mott Park neighborhood resident Gennois Wiggins.

“And I would add that he departures with one person,” added another Mott Park resident, Chad Schlosser and works in campus ministry at UM-Flint.

Residents of the Mott Park Recreation Area (MPRA) are aiming for a grand opening on Saturday, June 25 of the freshly painted and renovated Mott Park Clubhouse, located at 2701 Nolen Dr. Flint.

Schlosser, who led the renovation effort for the past year, said the grand opening will include live music, food trucks and lots of festivities.

Built in 1963, the mid-century clubhouse in the Mott Park Recreation Area is being renovated by local residents. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The MPRA is a registered non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors consisting of President Tom Saxton, Treasurer Bob Knox and members Cal Chase, Denny Gardner, Paul Grasso, Chris Monk, Schlosser and Jack Stock.

Residents of the Mott Park neighborhood have worked on the historic golf course since 2010. Since the course closed in 2009, residents have maintained, mowed and cared for the former 70-acre, 9-hole park. According to members of the MPRA, more than 200 volunteer hours annually ensure the upkeep and maintenance of the property.

Mott Park Recreation Area located at 2701 Nolan Drive, Flint. (Photo by Tom Travis)

“What amazed me last year was how many people and organizations want to play a role once we have had an idea and a plan to do something like this,” Schlosser said. . “The Mayor’s Office, Department of Parks and Recreation, Keep Genesee County Beautiful, Communities First, The Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Habitat for Humanity, Kettering University – so many different organizations contributed.”

EVM sat down with a group of MPRA members to hear their story of renovating the Mott Park clubhouse.

MPRA Chairman Tom Saxton (left), Gennois Wiggins (centre) and Chad Schlosser (right) inside the newly refurbished Mott Park clubhouse. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Neighborhood projects ‘must be driven by locals’ – Schlosser

About a year ago, locals began to seriously think about reviving the clubhouse. It had remained vacant and closed since 2009, according to Schlosser.

He suggested that projects like the Mott Park Recreation Association (MPRA) and the clubhouse renovation “need to be driven by locals”.

Describing himself as a “community organizer”, Schlosser said he saw himself as linking different organizations to the MPRA.

“These organizations want to know what the neighbors want to do. They’re not going to come and do something. So when residents and neighbors want to do something, there is a lot of support.

Chad Schlosser, member of the MPRA district and Mott Park. (Photo by Tom Travis)

This is where people, I think, get lonely and these are insurmountable challenges. I can’t finance this and do it myself. But we understood who can help, who can play a role. It takes a person to start and be inspired,” Schlosser said.

Clubhouse renovation means ‘crime prevention’

Schlosser said he viewed the MPRA and clubhouse activities as “crime prevention”. “We cannot go out and prevent people from committing crimes. But we can help create a healthier environment for everyone in our neighborhood and it helps prevent people from making bad choices. You give them opportunities to do constructive things,” he explained.

The MPRA listed major crime issues for Mott Park as break and enters, shootings, traffic and speeding.

“Once you have programs for kids, in a building, they take ownership. So once a kid thinks it’s theirs, they’ll watch over you, they’ll call the police,” Wiggins added.

“Hey, we can’t let this go.” – Tom Saxton, member of the MPRA

MPRA President Tom Saxton, a retired Michigan State University women’s soccer coach, recalled the golf course’s closure and clubhouse abandonment in 2009. He said the lawn of the golf course had fallen to seed and that it would have been a million dollar project to restore the course.

MPRA chairman and Mott Park neighborhood resident, Tom Saxton. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Saxton recalled a neighborhood meeting shortly after the golf course closed. The city was then under emergency management. “We were all standing here like, hey, we can’t let this place go.

That moment, Saxton said, planted the seed for people to start coming together and forming the nonprofit Mott Park Recreation Association (MPRA).

“At first, little attention was paid to the clubhouse building. Work has been done to prevent it from falling into disrepair. Chad and other residents have really been the catalyst for trying to do something bigger over the past year,” said Saxton,

Burglaries, vandalism and arson motivate residents

A few things coincided that “made it feel like the timing was just right. One of the things was the Pierce Park clubhouse fire, another incident was a group of kids breaking into that building and smashing a bunch of windows. These kinds of events help me realize that the building was either going to deteriorate or improve. He wasn’t just going to stay neutral,” Schlosser said.

Wiggins said she came forward at that time and suggested it be turned into a community center and offered to help. A former program coordinator/director of the former Pierce Centre, Wiggins has years of experience working with older people and young people.

Gennois Wiggins, resident of the Mott Park neighborhood. (Photo by Tom Travis)

She said she had a dream for the clubhouse to become a place where the community could enjoy the atmosphere and relax, especially for inner-city kids to enjoy the facility.

“I don’t want it to become a wasteland,” she says.

Wiggins recalled Forest Park [now called Max Brandon Park], in Flint, which once had “a craft house”. It was a place where children came all year round to learn and do crafts, including pottery with the kiln that was in the craft house. Wiggins said she hopes this clubhouse in Mott Park could be the same for kids in that neighborhood.

Schlosser said one of the first things he worked on was exterior lighting. He worked with fellow Mott Park resident Denny Gardner to set up the lighting surrounding the building and grounds. “We needed to clear things up.”

Saxton noted that the band was in “crisis mode last year because we were afraid that once the heat passed the pipes would freeze”.

The group has made many improvements in the last year alone. A $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint paid for a new roof, two new furnaces and two new air conditioners. Kettering University donated $1,300 for a new garage door.

From inside the clubhouse, the windows overlook the beautiful 70-acre park. (Photo by Tom Travis)

An anonymous donor gave $2,600 to replace 11 broken windows. Saxton added that about seven years ago the CFGF gave the MPRA a grant for all new windows.

Schlosser estimated that about $30,000 was invested in the MPRA clubhouse “and a lot of equity from volunteers”. Not all volunteers are Mott Park residents or even Flint residents. While EVM spoke with the MPRA group a resident of Grand Blanc, Jayne West volunteered her time to paint a small laundry room.

Volunteer Jayne West. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Schlosser, Wiggins and Saxton listed more than 20 residents, by name, of Mott Park and Glendale Hills who volunteered to do work around the facility, including plumbing, painting, cleaning, including including Kettering students and local fraternities helped.

Volunteers also maintain the maintenance building, bridges, fencing, garbage disposal and the property’s security system, according to Saxton.

Saxton has been with the MPRA for a decade. “Our mission is attached to the whole property and we see it [the club house renovation] as a great addition,” he said.

“Our mission is to maintain and enhance this space from a golf course to a multi-purpose recreational space for community use.” Saxton said the annual flotilla ends each year at Mott Park, noting that the group’s members are “also tied to the Flint River watershed.”

Some of the “multiple uses” of the property and clubhouse are the year-round disc golf course, the Monarch Joint Venture Association-designated Monarch Butterfly Waystation, bird identification lessons for children, sledding, residents walking their dogs, walkers and runners, trails in the woods. A neighbor wants to give a judo lesson,

The MPRA annually hosts the Turkey Trot, Michigan’s oldest continuously held foot race. “It’s not exclusively a disc golf course, it’s more,” Saxton added.

“We plan positive building activities where neighbors can meet and we can figure out how to work together to solve problems,” Schlosser said. “Having a physical space to do it will make a big difference. And maybe solving some issues like when people only communicate through social media, it will be a place and an opportunity for people to communicate face to face.

Future neighborhood shed in project

In partnership with the Neighborhood Engagement Hub, a neighborhood tool shed is set to be opened from the basement. Neighbors will be able to borrow lawnmowers, rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, things they need to take care of their yards. “We are trying to reduce the barriers people might have in being able to take care of their property. We want him to flourish,” Schlosser said.

Mott Park Recreation Area. (Photo by Tom Travis)

A big goal this year is to fix a water flow problem, Schlosser said. The MPRA must ensure that the water flows from the clubhouse to the creek, he explained.

Schlosser said while the building is about to be ready to open, the MPRA is waiting for the city council to approve a lease with the city. The resolution to approve this lease has been on the board’s agenda for the past few weeks. The board last week voted to send the resolution back to committee where it is now stalled until it can be brought to a board meeting.

According to Schlosser, the lease agreement will require the MPRA to maintain and care for the former golf course and clubhouse. A facility rental fee schedule is in the works and the MPRA hopes to be able to rent out the clubhouse and property for neighborhood meetings, open houses, weddings and other events.

EVM Editor Tom Travis can be reached at [email protected]

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