By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – From the Upper Peninsula to Ottawa County and from Southeast Michigan to St. Joseph County, local governments and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are lining up for funds to acquire new parkland and recreation sites.
For example, applicants this fall are seeking $18.7 million from the Natural Resources Trust Fund to buy property around the state. That includes $276,500 to buy 40 privately owned acres bordering Hofma Park and Preserve in Ottawa County’s Grand Haven Township.
Township manager Bill Cargo said the Grand Rapids Roman Catholic Diocese is selling the property, half of which is high-quality wetlands that provides habitat for species of concern such as the Eastern box turtle.
If the trust fund money comes through, the township would build a boardwalk trail in the wetlands that connects with the preserve’s trail system. For more active recreational use, it would build pavilions and a rest area in the uplands half, Cargo said.
St. Joseph County wants $504,800 for 137 acres for habitat conservation, fishing and swimming at Stewart Lake, which currently lacks public acres.
The U.P.’s Calumet Township in Houghton County wants $80,000 to buy for a historic railroad depot for recreational use. The old Mineral Range depot, now privately owned, is located along public recreational trails that were once a railroad grade.
In 1976, the Legislature created the trust fund program to pay for property to protect natural resources and outdoor recreation, using money from royalties on the sale and lease of state-owned mineral rights. A 1984 constitutional amendment mandates that the trust fund use oil, gas and mineral lease and royalty payments to acquire and develop land for public recreation.
Local governments must chip in at least 25 percent of the cost of an acquisition project.
The fund’s board of trustees is scheduled to make its funding recommendations on Dec. 3. The awards won’t be officially approved until the Legislature passes an appropriations bill, which is expected next spring, DNR communications officer Ed Golder said.
Golder said DNR estimates there will be $19.5 million available for acquisition and $4.1 million for development projects in this application cycle.
This year, the largest application seeks $5 million for property bordering the River Raisin National Battlefield in Monroe for recreation, conservation and “improvement of urban areas.” Another big-ticket project asks $2 million for property in Southeast Michigan to fill gaps in a proposed 1,000-mile hiking and bicycling trail between Detroit’s Belle Isle and the Western U.P.’s Ironwood.
Among the other requests is $500,000 to add 150 acres to Saugatuck Dunes State Park in Allegan County, in partnership with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. The parcel, known as Singapore Dunes or the McClendon Property, “contains critical dunes landscapes which are threatened by residential development,” according to DNR.
Another U.P. proposal would buy 50 acres bordering state forest land and Lake Superior in Chippewa County ($530,000), including habitat for moose, black bear, bobcat and the federally protected piping plover. Also in the U.P., DNR wants $750,000 for property that would provide recreational access to Lake Fanny Hooe between Copper Harbor and Fort Wilkins State Historic Park.
In addition to land acquisitions, DNR and local governments want $25 million for development projects on existing public lands.
They include projects at Bayside Park in Grand Traverse County’s Acme Township ($300,000), Arcadia Lake Michigan Beach in Manistee’s Arcadia Township ($298,700), Spring Lake Park in Emmet County’s Bear Creek Township ($67,300) and Stearns Beach Recreation Area in Ludington ($300,000).
The maximum development grant is $300,000.
In Crawford County, a $300,000 grant would go to improve recreational access to a skate park, trailhead and picnic pavilion in Grayling, with another $300,000 earmarked to modernize DNR’s Ralph A. MacMullan Center.
Wolverine in Cheboygan County is looking for $289,500 to renovate and improve Lumberman Park and Trailhead.
Holland wants $300,000 to build a bridge for non-motorized use connecting Windmill Island Gardens to the city’s downtown and the planned Macatawa Greenway Trail. East Grand Rapids wants the same amount for Reeds Lake Waterfront Park.
Ionia wants $260,000 to build a downtown trailhead park. Traverse City is asking for a bit less – $257,500 – to develop a boardwalk with fishing platforms on the southwest shore of the Boardman River.
Ishpeming submitted a more modest application for $93,400 to create a non-motorized loop trail accessible to users with disabilities that would link the Iron Ore Heritage Trail with several miles of “unique wilderness trails.”
The Natural Resources Trust Fund has awarded slightly more than $1 billion for acquisition and development projects between 1976 and 2013.
Additional resources for CNS editors:
Natural Resources Trust Fund grants 1976-2013 http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/MNRTF_Grants_1976-2013_455730_7.pdf