Pontiac 2021 Practicum Poster

Pontiac Parks and Recreation Study Executive Summary and Poster


May 24, 2021 - Author: Jared Bonney, Alec Castiglione, Craig Harris, Maria Luea, Lauren Marshall, Quinn Kendra, Michigan State University

This project was conducted by undergraduate and graduate students in the Urban and Regional Planning degree program at Michigan State University (MSU) for their Planning Practicum course. This course is designed to provide students with a realistic project in which the team will provide their assigned clients with a report, poster, and presentation to showcase their efforts in meeting planning goals. 

The MSU team worked with the City of Pontiac’s Planning Manager and Economic Development Director to develop a report that generates themes and recommendations to update and enhance the eight major parks in the City of Pontiac: Aaron Perry, Beaudette, Crystal Lake, Galloway, Hawthorne, Jaycee, Murphy, and Oakland. The purpose of this report is to provide an assessment of the characteristics and attributes of the eight major parks and to provide recommendations for ways to draw neighboring community members to utilize the parks and visit the City of Pontiac. Moreover, the team was tasked with identifying park themes to provide reason for community members to pursue the use of parks and their facilities. To strengthen the park network, the team sought to develop recommendations to create connections between the eight major parks and the two non-motorized trails in Pontiac, the Clinton River Trail and the North Spur Trail. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the team considered the safety challenges of operating and accessing parks when conducting assessments and making recommendations.


The report highlights the characteristics of each park with recommendations for improvement based on the identified themes. The City of Pontiac’s existing conditions are evaluated through a socio-economic analysis, and the eight major parks are studied at six census tract levels, as two groupings of the eight parks are in the same tract. The physical condition of each of the eight parks are assessed and reviewed through site visits, client meetings, and data collected from the City of Pontiac 2021-2025 Parks and Recreation Plan. Secondary data to assess socio-economic conditions at the tract level was collected through the US (United States) Census Bureau and the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). Using the compiled data, the MSU team has developed recommended themes and recommendations for future use that are supplemented by regional case studies. The team recommends that Pontiac’s eight major parks adopt the following themes and corresponding recommendations to ensure the parks are used to the fullest potential.

Aaron Perry Park and Oakland Park could implement themes focused on the past and present of automobiles. Aaron Perry Park could become a modern car themed park by implementing playground equipment that resembles modern automobiles, focused primarily on electric vehicles. Additionally, the park could install a bicycle track that resembles a go-kart track along with welcoming local food trucks to the park. Oakland Park could become a classic car historical park that reflects the theme through installing antique car parts and structures that could be used as public art or to display facts about Pontiac’s history.

Beaudette Park could implement a theme of special events and family activities. Due to the large parking lots and the large open fields, Beaudette Park is equipped with the space and location to host events such educational visits by schools, local car club events with historical references, and possible marketing and funding events. Other events could be those geared toward families such as easter egg hunts and petting zoos.


Crystal Lake Park could implement a theme of small-scale water recreation activities. Due to the shallow depths of Crystal Lake, only small-scale water recreation is attainable for this lake. The park should implement the current concept plan that is described in the City of Pontiac 2021-2025 Parks and Recreation Plan. Other recommendations include adding amenities such as playscapes, outdoor workout equipment, restroom facilities, picnic tables, bike parking, and benches. Also adding activities like water slides, roped off swim areas, and a concession stand would increase the interest for this park.

Galloway Lake Park could implement a theme focused on community development. Due to the park’s neighborhood having a generally younger population, the team recommends utilizing the park’s open space to incorporate theme-based events to increase park use and provide necessary funding to the park. The team also recommends renovating the park’s unused community center by turning it into a multi-use purpose building that will provide residents with a place to enhance lifestyles and social networking in the area. The park could also benefit from the addition of a skate park funded by the Tony Hawk Skating Fund that has been granted to the City of Pontiac.

Hawthorne Park could implement a more general water recreation theme. The park has an abundance of passive recreation that could be accompanied through the introduction of water events by replacing the fishing dock and implementing a kayak launch. Park improvements could include updating the existing amenities along with the installation of picnic tables, park pavilions, and a boat launch to increase the amount of activity in this park.

Jaycee Park could implement an urban recreation theme. This theme could offer a comfortable and accessible recreational environment to an automobile-dominated area of the city. The team recommends the park add amenities such as volleyball courts, fire pits, and activities offered in the sand surrounded by lounging beach chairs. This would incorporate the existing baseball facilities with updates being made to their amenities.    

Murphy Park could implement a theme focused on nature and history for families. This park has multiple capabilities and uses for non-motorized pathways, including the traditions that have been passed down in the Ottawa Tribe Culture. This area is rich in history and should be a center for education and nature exhibits.

To provide connections between the parks and their surrounding amenities, the team has developed walking routes using Pontiac’s non-motorized trails and sidewalks. The report concludes with health and safety recommendations to protect the community from the risks of COVID-19 when visiting parks. Precautions could be taken through enforcing social distancing in parks by dedicating spaces for people to use in the grass, installing sanitizer dispenses for cleanliness, and using plastic igloos to keep park visitors safe and warm while eating or drinking during colder months. Through these recommendations, the MSU team hopes that Pontiac’s eight major parks can become more useful and accessible to Pontiac residents and visitors in the future.


Tags: 2021 practicum projects, report, school of planning design and construction, uc practicum projects, urban collaborators, urban & regional planning

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