Ribbon-cutting ceremony set for West Main Hill Community Garden on Thursday, September 1

The City of Kalamazoo’s Department of Parks and Recreation is inviting all Kalamazoo-area residents to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the West Main Hill Community Garden Project, the first community garden in the City to be created in a City park.

The event will take place at Henderson Park (1500 Grand Avenue) on Thursday, September 1, 2016 at 5:30 p.m.  Kalamazoo Parks & Recreation and Community Planning & Development staff will be in attendance, as well as representatives from Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes and local healthy-eating advocate The Fresh Food Fairy. 

The process to develop the garden started in June of 2015, when several members of the West Main Hill Neighborhood began to explore the idea of transforming an under-utilized park into a community garden. Guidelines for the garden were developed in a collaborative effort between the neighborhood association and City of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation Department, with input from various departments within the city. Development of the guidelines took 6 months and construction started in April of 2016. 

As the first community garden to be located in a city park, the West Main Hill Community Garden is a pilot project to determine the feasibility of incorporating community gardens in other parks throughout the city.

“This was a great opportunity to work directly with residents of the West Main Hill Neighborhood to bring something new to Henderson Park,” said Ryan Johnson, Parks Manager for the City of Kalamazoo. “I hope the success of this project inspires more of these unique, collaborative projects in the future.”

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the neighborhood will be holding a picnic featuring recipes made from produce grown in the community garden. All residents are encouraged to attend. 

Fountain of the Pioneers designated to the National Register of Historic Places

The National Park Service has just designated Alfonso Iannelli’s Fountain of the Pioneers complex in Bronson Park to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation is at the National level of significance, the National Parks Service’s second highest designation only behind National Historic Landmarks. The Fountain complex is Kalamazoo’s only historic structure designated at this level.

Completed in 1940, the Fountain of the Pioneers complex is rare in the world of art. A composite work of civic outdoor design, it combines elements of America’s Prairie School, Modernist, Art Deco, and Cultural Nationalism movements. It is believed to contain the only public sculpture that references nineteenth-century Indian Removal activity, and the period’s then commonly held European-American beliefs supporting Indian assimilation. Because of this, it has significance for its contribution to the history of art criticism though its sustained period of interpretive conversation and debate about its meaning- a practice common to public sculpture but rare for its time.

Artist, architect, and designer Alfonso Iannelli was an Italian immigrant who attended two east coast art schools on scholarship before beginning his career in New York. He continued in California and ultimately settled in Chicago after a highly successful collaboration with Prairie School architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Iannelli’s later career established him as an early American Modernist, master designer, sculptor, and architect, and a national leader and educator in America’s Modern design and design education movements. The Fountain of the Pioneers complex is an outstanding example of Iannelli’s work.

Iannelli was a longtime friend and colleague of Lydia Siedschlag, former Art Department Chair at Western Michigan University. Siedschlag received her Bachelor of Art Education degree from The Art Institute of Chicago, where Iannelli had become the institution’s first-ever Director of Design.

The fountain complex includes the east and west pools and the fountain structure located in the east pool. It was completed with funding provided by the City and the depression-era Works Projects Administration.

Although the fountain complex has been the topic of on and off controversy since its creation, the City Commission adopted a new Bronson Park Master Plan on March 7, 2016 which calls for the renovation of the fountain complex’s concrete sculpture, water systems, and lights. The Master Plan also calls for other significant upgrades to Bronson Park and an educational component in the park to explain the art and history surrounding the fountain complex, as well as the history and current activities of the local Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) and their past and current connections to Kalamazoo.

The National Register nomination is available pdf here (710 KB)

Photograph by William Dyer.


Open letter to Kalamazoo community from KDPS Chief Jeff Hadley

I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to and address the situation regarding PSO Tim Millard and his use of a hand gesture to respond to a wave from a citizen. On its face it may seem very simplistic but today we are not in a very simplistic time.

The emotion and energy behind police community relations is at an unprecedented level and the critical analysis of simple interactions such as the one between PSO Millard and the citizen is an important one.

In speaking to PSO Millard regarding this incident he said that there was no ill intent or maliciousness in the manner in which he waved back to the gentlemen. It is, and has been his way of waving, communicating “hey,” “what’s up,” etc on a regular basis, even in his personal life! PSO Millard is a fine officer who cares about this community, and puts on his uniform every day to make Kalamazoo a better place.

I understand and respect what the gentleman who took the picture said about “feeling threatened” as well as others who share the same sentiment. We do not minimize those feelings. We welcome the opportunity to sit down and discuss this with him so we can all have a better understanding of each other and our place in the world.

In the meantime as we speak KDPS officers are responding to calls for service in our community, trying to solve problems and engaging the community in a variety of ways. Tonight is “National Night Out” where nine of our neighborhoods will participate and provide a wonderful opportunity to build community and interact with your Public Safety Department.

I assure you these men and women would love to see you and have a chance to show you who they are!

To the greater community I offer up our continued commitment to building relationships in our community. This must be an on-going, perpetual and continuous endeavor where both police and community have to share in that responsibility. While I believe we have done tremendous work in changing the direction and culture of the organization this situation demonstrates there is still much work to be done.  I invite and would love to hear all suggestions and recommendations on what KDPS can do to enhance police community relations and provide optimum service to the citizens of Kalamazoo.

We are committed to doing this work with “you”, our community. Let us resist the temptation at taking the polarizing positions that can rob officers of their spirit or leave members of the community voiceless in the process.

By authority of: Chief Hadley

City of Kalamazoo

Home to the Kalamazoo Promise, three institutions of higher education, two nationally recognized healthcare systems, cutting-edge medical research, world-class brewing and dining, outstanding parks, and an extensive variety of music, art, theatre, and cultural attractions.


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