Vacant Kzoo church to become nature playscape

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’ve spent any time in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park, you have probably noticed all the old churches that surround it. 

One church has sat vacant for years and is showing signs of disrepair. 

“It’s deteriorating,” said Bill Rose, chairperson of the Children’s Nature Playscape Team. “It’s beginning to fall apart.”

Rose knows all about the old First Reformed Church on Academy Street across from Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

“Right now it starts becoming a detriment to the community, an eyesore,” he said.

First Congregational Church, where Rose is a member, owns the abandoned First Reformed Church. He’s also the retired president of the Kalamazoo Nature Center. 

So, when his church was exploring ways to use the old church, he had an idea.

“This will be highly unique,” he told 24 Hour News 8. “It’ll be different. It’s different than Bronson Park, but it’s a perfect complement to Bronson Park.”

The idea is to demolish First Reformed Church and replace it with a children’s nature playscape. 

“Believe it or not, it’s as simple as piles of logs to climb on, rocks to explore on the ground, creating little tunnels to climb through, and water features,” Rose said. “Kids love water.”

Rose says research shows time in nature is beneficial to a child’s development.

“You know, that they’re really using their brain, their creativity, their imagination, and then they start working as a team, they start working with other kids,” he said.  “Open for all kids and their families, you know, to be anti-racist, to be totally open and to really benefit the entire community.”

A community meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 24 for people to listen to the idea and provide their input.

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