As Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon emerged from his car in the George George Memorial Park parking lot, you could see his beaming smile. He walked around to the other side of the car, leaned in, and then stood up holding what appeared to be a precious cargo, as his smile got even brighter. Standing up straight, he strode over, and held out this precious cargo – The President’s Plaque given to Clinton Township for the innovative development of George George Memorial Park by the Keep Michigan Beautiful organization.
Proud as a peacock, Mr. Cannon took a few moments to share the story of George George Park with Dennis Doran and Ken and Ilene Daroma, visitors to the Park on that day. The story included the tale of a golf course, two very generous family donations, community involvement, and a wonderful vision driving everyone.
Bob Eldridge, Executive Director of Keep Michigan Beautiful, reported that the development of George George Park, “speaks volumes about the mission of Keep Michigan Beautiful and Clinton Township, as they had the vision and saw the need, and said ‘OK, let’s find a way to get this done’.”
Dennis Doran certainly appreciates that they got it done. He explained that he was friends with the Daromas, and on a beautiful day such as it was, people “needed to get out and explore local parks and this one is a 10.” Both Ken and Ilene agreed, sharing that it was their first visit to the park, even though they had known about it for awhile.
After a time of conversation, wherein Dennis discovered that Supervisor Cannon had taught at the school he had attended, Stevenson High School in the Utica Community School District and also knew many of Dennis’ teachers, our paths separated as Mr. Cannon headed further into George George Park.
Sharing more of the George George Park story, the Supervisor explained that the Keep Michigan Beautiful awards were not based on the amount of monies spent on any project. He felt the Clinton Township submission was “submitted with a great deal of love and inspiration” and that “We were all proud to send in our submission.”
And while initially some people did not want to give up the golf course, when it was explained that the golf course was not to be and the understanding was conveyed of what the location would be once the improvements were completed, it was more than what most had envisioned.
Mr. Cannon continued on saying the Park has “active and passive elements.” For instance, to him, the kids’ playscape is active, while walking the sidewalks was what he considered on the passive side. However, if you see some of those walkers in action, you might notice that a few may be leaning toward the active side. In addition, the Park is available to individuals, couples and families and Cannon likened it to a “mini-Belle Isle”.
Heading past the fountain, our next encounter was with Frank Guglielmetti and Tango, his dog. George George Park allows and encourages people to bring their dogs to the Park and Tango was loving every minute of it. Guglielmetti and Cannon were obviously acquainted and chatted for a few minutes about the dogs in the Park, with the Supervisor remarking that, “Almost 100% of the people pick up after their dogs, and bags are provided for that purpose in the Park, too.”
The next subject discussed went back to one of the first subjects, to a degree. Robert Cannon had been a teacher and also a coach, and had coached Frank’s son Louie 23 years earlier. Cannon quipped, “If everyone I ever taught voted for me, then I’ll be in Public Office until the day I die!”
They enjoyed the reminiscing, chatted about the Partridge Creek Mall in Clinton Township and how dogs were welcome there, too. Mr. Cannon remarked that the Partridge Creek Mall “was the most profitable Mall in southeastern Michigan and the surrounding States.” Part of that reason was because, he felt, that at least half of the Mall was dog friendly. Guglielmetti shared that his wife, “Lucy, takes Tango over there a lot,” and being able to do that gave “the dogs and the owners great joy.”
Joy was on the face of Cheryl Huskin, who was at George George Park with her young son, Will. They had come to the Park to feed the ducks and Will was pretty excited to do just that. After a few pleasantries, with some noticeable fidgetting on the part of Will, they continued on with their mission.
Working our way back toward the parking lot, Supervisor Cannon said he was looking to make Clinton Township a destination point, because of it’s historical value, which includes the land all around George George Park and the surrounding areas. Don Green, resident and premier historian, according to Cannon, has been instrumental in many of the Township’s projects, including this Park.
“I think of Don as my Bill Laimbeer. Sometimes he is a pain, but sometimes he gets things done for the good of the community. He is altruistic, and continues to do what he’s always done even though he may not see the results in his lifetime. He is a doer, a pusher, and when he leaves this earth, he will leave it a lot better than he found it.”
Don Green explains that, “George George Park is one of those rare events, where a very involved family and the community worked together. Jim George has extraordinary vision, impeccable taste, and a good imagination, and George George Park is a testament to those things.”
Leaving it a lot better, is how Cannon seems to feel about George George Memorial Park. “With the Clinton River running through the Park, allowing access to fishing areas and connecting to Lake St. Clair, I think it’s one of the best things that has happened to Lake St. Clair.”
He also talked about the Lake St. Clair Tourism Development Committee’s receipt of a grant to provide water trails for kayaking and canoeing, explaining that water trails would also be good for the community. And, again, with the benefit of the Clinton River running through the Park, it was a perfect fit.
A perfect fit is how Gloria Whitfield, Assistant to the Supervisor, feels about squeezing in a walk after work in George George Park, depending on the weather. “Gosh, it’s peaceful over there. After my walk, I usually sit by the fountain for 10 to 15 minutes before I leave and return to my regular life. It is just so nice and peaceful.”
Chatting a few moments with Ms. Whitfield about all of the different conversations that were part of that visit, Whitfield shared that she admired Mr. Cannon because he is “spontaneous and when he speaks, the words just flow.”
Seems it was not always that way. As our paths cross with our last George George Park visitor of our day, and her dog, and the inquiry of “Do you mind if I take your picture?” was on the wind, her laughter filled the air. She said “No” addressing the question personally. As it turns out Cheryl Scherden knew both of us from our days in school, at Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores and in the neighborhood.
Talking for a short while, past moments of fun were exchanged along with laughter, and names from the old school days. Supervisor Cannon bid us “Adieu” as he was on to his next meeting.
One moment later, however, he returned to share with us that he had remembered that Cheryl had been the first girl he had ever danced with at 6th grade camp. He continued saying, “I was so shy and just mortified” and this caused him to be more quiet than others. It appears that his spontaneity and flowing words took some practice and time to achieve.
After pausing another minute, he laughingly reminded Cheryl that she had been wearing a white sweater and that he had been quite enamored with her back in the 6th grade.
As the Supervisor again headed out of the Park, Cheryl paused a few more moments to say, “I’ve been coming here for over two years. I tell everyone about this beautiful Park, where you can sit and tune in to your quiet place. It’s a great place to be in tune with your spirituality.”
About that time, Duke, her dog, was becoming more restless, and you could tell he was anxious to get into George George Park himself. Our observation was that even dogs show appreciation for what has been accomplished in the development of this fabulous Park.
The President’s Plaque given by the Keep Michigan Beautiful organization to Clinton Township, and, encompassing the entire George Family, is, indeed, an honor that is well deserved.
Summed up by Bob Eldridge of Keep Michigan Beautiful, “Michigan is a tourist state. It’s who we are as Michiganders and defines us in a way. George George Park is very typical (of that) and is what Michigan is all about.”
“It gives everyone a sense of pride, as the Park was created with a tremendous amount of pride, and rightfully so. The Park is given lots of care of which everyone is exceptionally proud. And we are proud to have given George George Memorial Park the President’s Plaque Award for 2010.”