KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Kalamazoo is kicking vehicles to the curb and extending a park in the West Main Hill neighborhood onto the roadway.

The four-month Play Street pilot program has closed two roads around Jones Park, Peake Road and Circle Street,. The goal is to make it a safe place for children and adults to walk, play and ride their bikes, scooters and skateboards.

(Courtesy Imagine Kalamazoo)

The idea came about when residents reached out to the city about 18 months ago with concerns about the traffic, speeding and parking after dark that happened near the park.

“We sat down and worked with different families in the neighborhood to see what they would like to be done to the area (and create a neighborhood plan),” Jae Slaby, neighborhood activator, told News 8.

That led to closing Peake Road and Circle Street to create a blacktop area, a destination where people could spend time without having to worry about being hit by a passing car.

The open, blank slate of Jones Park allows visitors to do a variety of activities. Slaby said extending the pedestrian area onto the street and rather than simply installing a sidewalk gives residents the openness to which they have grown accustomed.

A photo of the Play Street in West Main Hill neighborhood. (Courtesy of the city of Kalamazoo)

The road closures for the pilot program may increase traffic on Academy Street, which recently got a new three-way stop at the Valley Street intersection. Slaby added that Academy Street is designed to support the increased traffic.

During the pilot program, the city will monitor traffic patterns, speed, Play Street usage and more to determine if the Play Street should become a permanent feature in the West Main Hill neighborhood.

When the pilot program ends in September, the city will conduct post-observations.

“Based on that, we will take the best course of action whether or not we make this Play Street permanent or we explore other alternatives to make that space safer,” Slaby said.

If the city determines that the Play Street should become a permanent part of the neighborhood, Slaby said that the streets will be permanently closed with more fixed blockades.

“It (is) really to improve children’s health and well-being, encourage active citizenship, to build a stronger community. And through the feedback we will receive over the next four months, we’ll see if that indeed happened with this Play Street,” Slaby said. “If that’s possible to have those outcomes through this Play Street, it would be great to see more of those pop up in the city.”

Anyone who would like to give feedback on their neighborhood or the West Main Hill Play Street can contact 311 or email Slaby at slabyj@kalamazoocity.org.