By Tom Travis
The Flint City Council approved a resolution Monday night to allow the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to invest $30.2 million in establishing a state park along much of the Flint River.
The park is envisioned to encompass 230 acres stretching approximately 3 miles east to west and more than 1.5 miles north to south.
In a presentation to the council, Ron Olson, Chief of Parks and Recreation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) explained, “I think it creates stability and it opens up the river to the Flint community. We’re trying to provide connectivity with the community, the river and the trails — to bring consistency to all these park regions already established along the river.
The plan is designed “so that visitors can go along the river and have a seamless, positive experience with the river and it will free the city from the challenges of funding and maintaining,” Olson said.
Olson was accompanied by Assistant Chief of Parks and Recreation Jacklin Blodgett; Chief of Southern Michigan Operations, Scott Pratt; and Michael Terrell, Metro Area District Supervisor, all of the DNR.
It will be the first state park in Genesee County, the only county in Michigan without land managed by the DNR. It will be Michigan’s 104th state park, according to the DNR’s website.
The State of Michigan had announced in March it would establish a new state park in the city of Flint. The $30.2 million price tag will come from the State’s ARPA funds; per U.S. Treasury requirements, the funds must be committed to a project by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.
The project will transform already established park and nature areas in Flint including
— Riverbank Park downtown,
— Chevy Commons (near Kettering University and former location of one of GM’s largest manufacturing site),
— Mott Park Recreational Area,
— Vietnam Veterans Park located on the bank of the Flint River just downstream of Hamilton Avenue Bridge at James P. Cole Boulevard and
— The Happy Hollow Nature Area located on the bank of Swartz Creek, east of Hammerberg Road and north of I-69, west of Powers High School.
These park units will be connected by more than three miles of new non-motorized trails. The already existing park properties will receive a variety of improvements, including: non-motorized trails and pathways, pedestrian bridges over waterways, play equipment, lighting, pavilions and benches, amenities to support fishing, boat, kayak and canoe launches, restrooms, parking areas, public art and improved access to the Flint River.
The DNR website claims the new state park will be within a 10-minute drive for all City of Flint residents.
More information can be found on the new state park in Flint and Genesee County at michigan.gov/stateparkprogress.
Community members support new state park
Joel Arnold, Planning and Advocacy Coordinator with Communities First, Inc. urged the council, during public speaking, to adopt the resolution for the new state park. “I think that this state park is an example of the kinds of wonderful restorations of urban waterfronts that we’ve seen across the country. We know these investments bring new business, jobs, and residents who want to be near amenities. It’s not often that over $30 million is made available to invest in our community on such a transformational project, and this is something I wholeheartedly support.”
Mott Park neighborhood resident Chad Schlosser told EVM, “As a resident of Mott Park and a board member of the Mott Park Recreation Association, I am thrilled about the addition of a state park in the city of Flint. The lands that make up the state park are all already park spaces, so this won’t be a radical change in scenery, but it will be a big boost in maintenance and potential uses of the space. The Mott Park Recreation area has been completely maintained by volunteers, including mowing over 40 acres, since 2010.
“This has been a heavy lift, and costs about $5000 per year that is funded by donations from neighbors. If nothing else, we are grateful to get some help with mowing into the future thanks to an endowment of maintenance funds from the Mott Foundation. I don’t see this as a “takeover” of city land by the state, but rather as a recognition from Governor Whitmer and her administration that Flint and Genesee County residents should have what every other county in Michigan has, a beautiful state park for people of all ages to enjoy.”
Public comments open until Oct. 25
A public meeting was held in Flint Oct. 4, but the public has until Oct. 25 to submit thoughts and suggestions on the park design. The public can participate in a public input survey. Public comments can also be shared via email to DNR-ParksAndRecreation@Michigan.gov. Please put “FLINT STATE PARK” in the subject line.
In the presentation to City Council, Director of Parks Ron Olson explained the timeline for the project will continue with public input until Oct. 25 and with the approval by city council, the next phase will be engineering and design and then the project will be put out to bid.
Olson said some work will be done in the river and on the river banks. There is some private land that is being donated to complete the project and Olson said all involved hope details of those properties can be worked out later this year.
DNR officials hope to have the first bid out by the end of 2022, according to Olson,. and start construction in the Spring. “It’ll take a year or two to evolve the construction phase,” he said.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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