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Ann Arbor Free Concerts

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Ann Arbor Free Concerts

Once again, the Ann Arbor Community Parks Program (CPP) is getting together to organize this summer’s Free Sunday Concert series. With June 2 as a target date for the first concert of 1974, the big question mark is where?

Since its inception in 1966, making the CPP the oldest institution in A2, the Free Concerts have been viewed by the City administration and some of A2’s older residents as a passing phenomenon – a mere fad they hoped would soon disappear. The concerts were shifted from one temporary and inadequate site to another, year after year. Each year, you could hear the City Elders say, “Well, what are we going to do about the Park Concerts this year?”

Of course, the Parks Program hasn’t been temporary or gone away. Growing from a few hundred participants in the beginning, it now attracts an average of 5,000 people to each Sunday concert.

This year, members of the CPP are seeking the kind of permanent site the program deserves and has been promised so often in the past. What’s needed is a site that can be developed into a real “People’s Park,” which would have musical events as its focus, and other facilities to meet the needs of all the elements of our community. When completed, the park would have permanent stages, sound facilities and structures to house child care, information, drug help and first aid services, food services, as well as arts and crafts and other community-oriented activities. Once developed, the park would be available for a wide variety of events and activities beyond the weekly Free Concerts.

For the past two years, the Free Park Concerts have been held on Otis Spann Memorial Field, located next to Huron High School. Not only is it unsuitable for a permanent site, due to University plans to turn it into a concrete parking lot, Spann Field has been a problem as a temporary site. Located on the site of the old city dump where grass won’t even grow, Otis Spann proved dirty and dusty. Because it could not be a permanent site, neither the City nor CPP put time or money into developing it. As a consequence, thousands of people suffered from the inadequate, temporary water and sanitation facilities and the dust as well.

At present, CPP is an institution that serves more people over the summer than all the other city recreation programs combined. Certainly golf courses and tennis courts, swimming pools and night baseball can’t hold a candle to the average attendance of 5,000 people on any given Sunday at the Free Concerts.

Last year, only $6,700 was allocated to the CPP. This year, the figure is expected to be cut at least in half, with yet another makeshift, temporary location offered by the city.

We urge the City to re-examine its priorities, and recognize the Parks Program for the permanent and immensely popular institution that it is. With the millions of dollars planned for park development, swimming pools and golf courses, surely a larger chunk of money could be set aside to acquire and develop a permanent park and concert site. With such a site, the city would be able to save money over the next few years, cutting out much of the wasted investment now being channeled into temporary sites.

The Community Parks Program is now submitting its proposal to the city for action. Stay tuned to the next SUN for more word on this effort, along with a complete history of the Parks Program.

People interested in helping organize this year’s concerts should check our calendar for the time and place of the next meeting.

-SUN Editorial Board