Stories indexed with the term ‘Connecting Communities’

County Parks Commission Gives Trail Grants

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (March 11, 2014): Commissioners approved an application for state funds to develop a major new recreation area just northeast of Ann Arbor. They also awarded $600,000 in grants for trail projects throughout the county.

Staebler Farm, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Site plan for Staebler Farm.

Commissioners approved an application to the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources trust fund for a grant to help develop Staebler Farm for recreational use. WCPARC has owned the 98-acre property in Superior Township since 2001, and Donald Staebler – who is 103 years old – still lives there in a lifetime agreement with WCPARC. The plan calls for adding fishing piers to the property’s two ponds, as well as putting in a trail system and other features. A second phase might involve developing a farm incubator program.

Commissioners also awarded $600,000 in grants through WCPARC’s Connecting Communities program, which supports trail projects throughout the county. Grants were given to projects in Ann Arbor Township, Northfield Township, Pittsfield Township, and the village of Manchester.

In non-voting business, WCPARC director Bob Tetens gave an update on the east county recreation center, a proposed partnership between the city of Ypsilanti and WCPARC in which the city would supply the property and WCPARC would provide the building. The center would be located on part of the 38-acre Water Street redevelopment area. Tetens said they’ve been working with the city of Ypsilanti on a development agreement.

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber and city councilmember Pete Murdock both spoke to the commission about Water Street during public commentary. Schreiber told commissioners that he wasn’t aware of any “show-stopping” issues. He also gave an update on Water Street Flats, an apartment project that’s planned for the site. The complex would be rental apartments for residents with between 50-90% of area median income.

In other action, commissioners approved about $500,000 for repairs at the Rolling Hills water park, and were briefed on several financial reports and project updates.

An issue that had been raised during public commentary at the Feb. 11, 2014 meeting emerged again on March 11: How should deer overpopulation be managed? Two residents – Maurita Holland and Barb Lucas – urged commissioners to play a role in dealing with the issue, which is affecting WCPARC parks and preserves. “We know there’s a lot of political fallout and a lot of education that needs to be done,” Holland said. She reported that a new group has formed – Washtenaw County for Ecological Balance. Members of WCEB include Larry Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County’s clerk/register of deeds, and Chris Graham, who serves on Ann Arbor’s environmental commission.

Commissioners discussed the issue at length. Jan Anschuetz advocated for a cautious approach, noting that it’s a complex problem that needs to be addressed by multiple entities, not just WCPARC. She also expressed concern that action by WCPARC could affect the 10-year renewal of the operations millage that WCPARC expects to be put on the November 2014 ballot. “If we do something that displeases our public, we will not have a millage and will not have a parks commission and we will not have a preserve,” she said.

Janis Bobrin noted that in this community, “If we start talking about killing anything, there are people who will just not hear anything after that.” There’s the actual management of the problem, she said, but also a major education piece that’s needed. “How do we begin to get a dialogue that isn’t one camp against another? That would seem to be a productive first step.”

Tetens told commissioners that WCPARC has applied for a $29,960 grant through the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources wildlife habitat grant program. Those funds would allow WCPARC to quantify the deer impact on county parks and preserves more precisely. Everyone agrees that the growing deer population is a problem, Tetens said, but “nobody can solve it on their own.”

Commissioners also authorized Tetens to draft a letter opposing a proposed sand and gravel mine that McCoig Materials wants to start in Lyndon Township, on 189 acres north of Chelsea on M-52. The rural site is located near several parks and nature areas, including Waterloo State Recreation Area, the Pinckney State Recreation Area, Park Lyndon, the Green Lake Camping area, and the Waterloo-Pinckney Hiking Trail. WCPARC has been interested in buying the property for at least two decades, and is hoping to work with the current landowner to add the site to the county’s nature preserves, rather than being mined.

The March 11 meeting began with a moment of silence for Fred Veigel, a long-time parks & recreation commissioner who represented the road commission on WCPARC. He died on March 2. Commissioners also passed a resolution of appreciation for his work. A replacement to WCPARC will be appointed from one of the current three road commissioners: Barb Fuller, Doug Fuller or Bill McFarlane. [Full Story]

County to Protect More Farmland, Nature Areas

Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission meeting (Feb. 12, 2013): The first meeting of WCPARC in 2013 kicked off when each member received a copy of a half-hour video history of the county park system, in honor of WCPARC’s 40th anniversary.

Miller Creek, Washtenaw County parks and recreation, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A section of Miller Creek runs through a property off of Geddes Road that the Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission might help preserve, in partnership with the city of Ann Arbor. The land is located in Ann Arbor Township. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners were then briefed on what WCPARC director Bob Tetens called a record monthly expenditure for his time with the commission: $3.9 million in January 2013, including $2.9 million for parks and recreation – primarily for capital improvements at Rolling Hills, Independence Lake and Sharon Mills parks – and $1 million for natural areas preservation.

Expenditures in January for the natural areas preservation program included acquiring land from the Ford Road Property LLC on the east side of Berry Road in Superior Township; for improvements at Trinkle Marsh, Spike, Hornback, and Nagle preserves; and for phase 1 due diligence on the proposed purchase of the Trolz property in Manchester Township.

The commission also approved taking the next steps on several additional natural areas preservation proposals. Those steps include applying for (1) federal funds to help cover the purchase of development rights on farmland in Superior and Lima townships, and (2) a state grant to help develop the Staebler Farm, located in Superior Township, into an active park. Commissioners also approved the purchase of a conservation easement on 82 additional acres from the Ford Road Property LLC in Superior Township.

Also discussed was a proposal to help the city of Ann Arbor buy the 8-acre Taylor property on Geddes Road, east of Huron Parkway. The land is immediately east of the city’s Ruthven nature area, and is seen as a priority because a section of Miller Creek runs through it. The creek is subject to flash flooding during heavy rains, and has been the focus of stormwater management efforts by the city and the county water resources commissioner. Conan Smith, a county commissioner who also serves on WCPARC, questioned whether this is an appropriate project for the county’s natural areas preservation program. He indicated that it might be better for the city to partner with the water resources commissioner on this project instead.

In other action, commissioners voted to increase fees at WCPARC facilities, including the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, and Independence Lake and Rolling Hills parks. A staff report indicated that the fees would still be lower than comparable public recreation facilities in this region. [.pdf of fee schedule]

WCPARC members were briefed about applications to fund eight projects through the Connecting Communities initiative, under which WCPARC helps pay for non-motorized transportation trails throughout the county. The city of Ann Arbor is among those applicants, asking for $300,000 to fund development of trails along the Allen Creek greenway, including at the city-owned 721 N. Main site. Final decisions will be made at WCPARC’s March meeting.

WCPARC members also re-elected their officers, set the 2013 meeting calendar, and got updates on two months’ worth of activities at the county’s parks and recreation facilities – including a report on flooding at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center in January, and steps toward developing a new recreation center in Ypsilanti.

The meeting was attended by six of the current nine-member commission. One vacancy remains to be filled on WCPARC by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, which appoints all WCPARC members. A vote on that position is expected at the county board’s Feb. 20 meeting. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to Apply for Grants for 721 N. Main

The city-owned parcel at 721 N. Main was the subject of two grant applications authorized by the Ann Arbor city council at its Dec. 17, 2012 meeting. One application is for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. The other is to the Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission’s Connecting Communities program.

The city considers its proposal for 721 N. Main to be a strong candidate for the Connecting Communities grant, because it incorporates paths and trails through the site that could potentially be extended to connect to the cross-county Border-to-Border Trail.  [.jpg of conceptual 721 N. Main site plan]

The conceptual site plan includes the following: (1) open space on the floodway portion of the site; (2) floodway portion … [Full Story]