BELDING — A gathering place is one step closer to being completed after four years of planning in this city.
During a regular meeting Tuesday evening, the Belding City Council voted unanimously to move forward with a mural on the wall on the Electrolux property near the Alvah N. Belding Library on land that has been dubbed “the gathering place.”
The council also approved improvements to the gathering place to develop the area and take the park one step closer to completion.
The council approved spending $25,000 for the mural and $50,000 for improvements from the consent judgment made in 2012 with Electrolux which totaled $75,000 for improvements to the former Electrolux site.
Larry Lathrop, a Dowagiac native, will paint the mural. Councilman Mike Scheid was concerned about how the paint will go on the cement wall.
“The wall doesn’t seem really porous right now but that happens to concrete,” he said.
Lathrop, who was in attendance at the meeting, said he uses only the highest quality exterior paint and he plans to prime the wall, wait until it’s completely dried and then move forward with the painting. He hopes to be able to start work in April, weather permitting, and that the project would be complete by the Fourth of July.
“I take a lot of pride in my work and I want it to be there a long time,” he said.
Lathrop has done 10 other murals and has had entries in ArtPrize for the past several years, one of which is now housed in the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia. He’s completed murals in Dowagiac, Kellogsville and Comstock Park.
“(I did) a mural on the Moose Lodge in Dowagiac about 30 years ago and it’s still there,” he said.
Lathrop said after the mural is complete, it will be sealed with a top coat that will protect against graffiti by preventing more paint from soaking into the mural. He said the mural should hold up to the elements and remain on the wall indefinitely. His work will carry a 10-year guarantee so if anything were to require maintenance, he would fix it free of charge.
“I had no idea what was here in Belding until I looked into it some more,” he said. “The research process has been fun. I hope to come up with something you can be proud of for many, many years.”
Mayor Ron Gunderson said in the future he would like to look into installing proper lighting along the mural so that “it can be viewed 24 hours a day” when people are out walking, although that’s not something the council is planning to use money from the Electrolux settlement for.
Improvements to the gathering place will include a pathway that will run along next to the mural and will be a part of the boardwalk parallel to the Flat River. There are also plans to add an overlook structure constructed near the mural and the river.
The overlook, walkway and mural are planned not only to make the most of the space in the park but also to earn points on a scale with a partnership match program from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The more criteria the city meets for the partnership match program, the more likely the DNR is to match funds that will go toward making the plans for Central Riverside Park and the former Electrolux property a reality.
While those plans have been made and the council is hopeful about the next steps, Gunderson said there’s no telling when or if the funds will come through. If another city meets more criteria for the DNR, that city could receive funding instead.
Belding resident and local business owner Sam Mason said he’s all for improving city parks, but he wishes there was more effort put forth in improving existing structures in the parks rather than focusing solely on new projects.
“It really hurts my feelings when I can walk to Central Riverside Park and see mold on the ceiling (of the pavilion),” he said. “(It’s not good) when you walk into a pavilion and there’s mold on the ceiling and the sides are dilapidated and we’re just OK with that.”
Brown said there are always going to be things to work on, but those issues shouldn’t stop the city from moving forward with new projects. Scheid suggested Mason approach Brown and see if they can coordinate some volunteers to help with park maintenance and other improvement projects.