Stories indexed with the term ‘east county recreation center’

County Expands Natural Areas Preservation

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Feb. 11, 2014): After skipping the January 2014 meeting for lack of business, commissioners had a heavy agenda for their meeting in February.

Superior Township, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of Bloch/Vreeland property in Superior Township. Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission approved the purchase of a conservation easement on this parcel. (Image from WCPARC board packet.)

Action included approving the purchase of a conservation easement on 129 acres in Superior Township – fronting Vreeland and Leforge roads – for $613,500. Purchase of another easement was authorized for $95,731 on the Rogers parcel, 157 acres in York Township.

Commissioners also heard an update on the proposed agreement between WCPARC and the city of Ypsilanti that would result in WCPARC building a new recreation center on 4.1 acres of land in the Water Street redevelopment area, next to the Huron River. Some of the changes in the draft agreement came at the request of the Ann Arbor YMCA, which is partnering on the project and would operate the center. The goal is to complete construction by late 2016.

Grant applications for WCPARC’s Connecting Communities initiative were reviewed. Requests from four townships and the village of Manchester totaled $1.35 million. That’s far greater than the $600,000 available for the grant program, which was created to build non-motorized trails across the county. Commissioners will decide at their March 11 meeting how to award the grants.

During public commentary, three residents spoke to the commission about the ill effects of over-abundant deer in the county, and urged WCPARC to address the situation.

The commission also welcomed its newest member to the group: Dan Ezekiel, a science teacher at Ann Arbor Public Schools and former chair of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission. One of the longest-serving commissioners – labor leader Fred Veigel, who has represented the county road commission on WCPARC – didn’t attend the meeting because of ill health. He died on March 2. [Full Story]

More Land Preserved in Superior Township

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Oct. 8, 2013):  WCPARC’s October meeting saw the commission taking final action on the acquisition of a conservation easement on 82 acres in Superior Township, northeast of Ann Arbor. The land is adjacent to 65 acres that are already part of the county’s natural areas preservation program.

Ford Road, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map of showing the location of 82 acres of mostly agricultural land in Superior Township that the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission is preserving through a conservation easement.

The new parcel of mostly agricultural land, on the north side of Ford Road a bit east of Berry Road, is owned by Ford Road Property Company LLC. The intent is to provide a buffer between Ford Road and the land that WCPARC previously purchased, as well as Superior Township’s nearby Schroeter Park. WCPARC authorized purchase of the easement for $413,000, which will prevent the land from being developed.

In a separate vote, commissioners authorized moving ahead on the purchase of 10 acres in Bridgewater Township – located near the southern border of Washtenaw County on the south side of WCPARC’s 43-acre Riverbend Preserve. Commissioners approved the preparation of a purchase offer of $92,500 contingent on completing all necessary due diligence and WCPARC’s final approval.

Also on Oct. 8, WCPARC director Bob Tetens provided an update on the proposed recreation center near downtown Ypsilanti, a project that WCPARC began almost two years ago. The proposal is to build a multi-purpose recreation center on part of the 38-acre Water Street redevelopment area on the south side of Michigan Avenue, next to the Huron River. The project would be a partnership, with the city providing the land, the county constructing the building, and the facility to be managed by the Ann Arbor YMCA.

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber attended the Oct. 8 meeting, to emphasize the city’s strong support for this project. Discussion focused on possible changes to the design developed by a team of University of Michigan architects and students. The need to make changes arose from the city of Ypsilanti’s 2013 master planning and rezoning project, which is nearing completion.

In addition to the regular financial reports and updates, other actions at the Oct. 8 meeting included approving WCPARC’s participation in Pittsfield Township’s State Road corridor improvement authority. The CIA to improve State Road would entail capturing a percentage of taxes from several local entities, including taxes that support WCPARC. [Full Story]

Land Added to County Preservation Efforts

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Aug. 13, 2013): After skipping the July meeting for a summer break, WCPARC tackled a full agenda at its August session. Commissioners took action related to land preservation and the east county recreation center in Ypsilanti, and were briefed about a proposed corridor improvement authority along State Road in Pittsfield Township.

East County recreation center, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing proposed location of a county recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti, in the city-owned Water Street property next to the Huron River and south of Michigan Avenue. (Image from the WCPARC Aug. 13, 2013 meeting packet.)

Commissioners approved expenses totaling $1,760,780 to acquire complete or partial interests in 140 acres for the natural areas preservation program (NAPP), and took the first step to approve acquisition of conservation easements on 170 acres of farmland for $258,500.

The NAPP purchases include 71 acres in Ann Arbor Township presently owned by DF [Domino's Farms] Land Development, west and north of the intersection of Plymouth and Dixboro Roads. The purchase includes 54 acres – known as Arbor Vistas – on the south side of Ford Road. WCPARC will contribute $928,780 of the total price of $2.167 million, with the remainder of funding coming from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Trust Fund ($1.088 million) and Ann Arbor Township ($150,000).

Two other parcels – 5 acres and 12 acres – are located near the larger site. In total, these three acquisitions will enhance access to existing preserves, according to staff, and will benefit from the parking areas and trails already built in those preserves.

The WCPARC also gave final approval to purchase the 66-acre Primeau property in Freedom Township for $420,000, and to buy the 3-acre Holley property in Pittsfield Township for $90,000. The Holley property – on the south side of Textile Road, north of Michigan Avenue – is important because of its woods and its adjacency to three other heavily wooded parcels that WCPARC has given tentative approval to purchase. The 8-1 vote for the Holley purchase came over dissent by commissioner Fred Veigel, who questioned paying $30,000 an acre for property that could be developed.

The WCPARC also administers the agricultural land preservation program, which protects farmland by purchasing development rights (conservation easements) rather than title to the land. At the Aug. 13 meeting, commissioners gave preliminary approval for two such purchases: (1) the 101-acre Cort property in Salem Township, for $100,000; and (2) the 69-acre Schneider property in Lodi Township at the southeast corner of Scio Church and Parker Roads, for $158,500.

The commission was briefed on one ongoing project: the proposed recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti‘s Water Street area. The presentation included a summary of a survey about how such a new facility might be used. The survey had been commissioned by the Ann Arbor YMCA with some funding from WCPARC, and showed that there is sufficient demand and willingness to pay for the center. The results also provided details to guide decisions about fees and the size and nature of facilities in the building.

In action related to the center, commissioners approved extending for six months a letter of intent to reach a development agreement between WCPARC and the city of Ypsilanti. The plan is to use that time to negotiate a full development agreement so that the city can transfer the property – up to 8 of the 38 acres on Michigan Avenue east of downtown Ypsilanti – before Jan. 4, 2014.

Commissioners were briefed about a proposed Pittsfield Township corridor improvement authority along State Road. It would use tax increment financing (TIF) to provide funding for upgrading South State between Ellsworth Road and Michigan Avenue.

The commission also approved several financial reports for June and July, and received updates on various projects and activities. Director Bob Tetens distributed a draft of the WCPARC budget for 2014-2017, but there was neither description nor discussion of the document, which will be on the September agenda. [Full Story]

County to Acquire More Nature Preserves

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (June 11, 2013): WCPARC’s June meeting, the first since the summer season kicked off on Memorial Day weekend, focused on two of the commission’s main responsibilities: maintaining and improving its parks and recreational facilities, and acquiring land for its natural areas preservation program (NAPP).

DF Land Development LLC, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Within the black circle, three parcels outlined in black are owned by DF Land Development LLC and might be acquired by the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission for nature preserves.

One NAPP deal that’s been years in the works took a step forward, with commissioners giving initial approval to acquire three parcels totaling 71 acres in Ann Arbor Township, owned by a subsidiary of Domino’s Farms. The deal includes a 54-acre parcel that had received widely varying appraisals, which had delayed the acquisition process. That property will cost a total of $3.25 million – with NAPP paying $928,780 and the remainder coming from other partners, including a contribution by the owner. The other two parcels are (1) five acres at a cost of $100,000, and (2) 12 acres for $215,000, with a possible contribution from Ann Arbor’s greenbelt program. The commission will consider giving final approval to all three acquisitions at its July meeting.

In other NAPP-related action, the commission gave final approval to $1,502,336 worth of NAPP purchases: the four-acre Jarskey property in Scio Township for $57,140, and the 249-acre Ramsey-Lippert-Carr properties in Northfield Township for $1,445,196. Both proposals had been described and discussed at WCPARC’s May 14, 2013 meeting.

Commissioners also approved a staff recommendation to expand NAPP’s stewardship program by creating three new staff positions, doubling the county’s investment in NAPP crews to about $350,000 a year. The expansion is possible because of an ordinance change approved by the county board on Sept. 19, 2012, removing constraints on how funds are allocated between NAPP acquisition and maintenance.

Regarding parks & recreation facilities, WCPARC staff updated commissioners on a new water park – called Blue Heron Bay – that’s located at Independence Lake county park. The water park, fenced off from the rest of the facility with a separate admission fee, has amenities designed for younger children, including spray-and-play features and a water slide.

Another expanded facility – Rolling Hills water park, on the east side of the county – includes a wave pool and spray-and-play installations. One of the improvements that seemed of great interest to commissioners was the new three-story water slide.

Commissioners were also briefed on recent market research regarding a proposed east county recreation center, to be built and managed in a partnership with WCPARC, the city of Ypsilanti and the Ann Arbor YMCA. The study indicated support for a 44,000-square-foot center – smaller than the county’s 51,000-square-foot Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center in Ann Arbor and the 70,000-square-foot Ann Arbor YMCA. The full report will be presented on June 25 to WCPARC members and other stakeholders.

In other updates, WCPARC staff noted that bids for construction of the Ann Arbor Skatepark were received, with the lowest bid of $1.2 million coming from Ann Arbor-based Krull Construction. The skatepark’s original budget was $800,000, including a $400,000 contribution from WCPARC. The city of Ann Arbor is working to amend the project’s scope and find additional revenue sources. [The item is on the agenda for the Ann Arbor park advisory commission's June 18 meeting, with a revised construction bid of $1,031,592, based in part on changes to the project's scope. The total project budget is now $1,224,311.] [Full Story]

County Gives More Support to Rutherford Pool

Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission (May 14, 2013): At their most recent meeting, county parks & rec commissioners voted to grant $150,000 to the city of Ypsilanti to help complete the Rutherford Pool project. The Friends of Rutherford Pool is trying to raise about $1 million to rebuild the community pool, located on the eastern end of Recreation Park at 975 North Congress Street.

Recreation Park, Ypsilanti, Rutherford Pool, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

The entrance to Recreation Park in Ypsilanti, where Rutherford Pool is located. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners also took steps that could lead to spending over $1.713 million on natural areas preservation. They voted to move forward with the acquisition of three deals for the county’s natural areas preservation program: 17 acres in Scio Township ($55,000); about 245 acres in Northfield Township (about $1.4 million); and 65 acres in Freedom Township ($420,000). The latter two purchases were approved contingent on completing due diligence assessments, followed by final approval from the commission.

In addition, WCPARC approved an initial step in replacing the HVAC system at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center on Washtenaw Avenue, and heard reports on upgrades at several other facilities. Those include the nearly-completed major improvements and expansion of water parks at Rolling Hills and Independence Lake parks. Both are set to open Memorial Day weekend, kicking off WCPARC’s summer season.

In other news related to Ypsilanti projects, WCPARC director Bob Tetens reported that the Ypsilanti city council had recently passed a resolution reaffirming support for the east county recreation center project, proposed in the Water Street site near the Huron River. Tetens also presented a report on WCPARC’s marketing and communications program, which staff have expanded into new venues – including AATA buses. The effort is partly in preparation for a millage renewal coming in 2014.

Commissioners also discussed the desire to add another off-leash dog park in addition to Swift Run, which the county runs in partnership with the city of Ann Arbor. Interest is especially keen in light of Ann Arbor’s difficulty in finding a new dog park location. Some commissioners want to include a water element where dogs could play. Jan Anschuetz put it this way: “We’ve done so much to provide water recreation for people – now let’s do it for the dogs.” [Full Story]

Ypsilanti: Master Plan

WEMU reports on a clash between an update to Ypsilanti’s master plan regarding the long-vacant Water Street site, and a possible Washtenaw County recreation center, which has been proposed for the northwest corner of the property. From the report: “The design team that’s taking public input and converting it into recommendations for council recommends locating the proposed recreation center further south on the parcel, mostly due to the building’s large size and parking requirements.” [Source]

County Awards Trail-Building Grants

Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission meeting (March 12, 2013): Several actions at WCPARC’s most recent meeting related to grants and partnerships – including the allocation of $600,000 in Connecting Communities funding.

721 N. Main, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, Ann Arbor, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A view of the 721 N. Main site in Ann Arbor, looking south from Summit Street. The Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission awarded the city a $150,000 grant to develop trails in the property, but only if the city gets matching funds from the state. (Photos by the writer.)

Four communities received grants from WCPARC under that trail-building program: the village of Dexter ($225,000); Ypsilanti Township ($75,000); Pittsfield Township ($150,000); and the city of Ann Arbor ($150,000). Funding for Ann Arbor – only half of the $300,000 that the city had applied for – is to fund a trail at 721 N. Main, a city-owned site that’s being redeveloped. The award is contingent on the city receiving a matching grant from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Trust Fund (MDNRTF).

WCPARC is also applying for an MDNRTF grant, hoping to get $300,000 to help develop a master plan for the Staebler Farm County Park. The 98-acre property, which straddles Plymouth Road in Superior Township, had been a family farm for nearly a century. The commission held a public hearing on this issue, and heard from four nearby property owners who raised concerns about trespassing. The proposal calls for WCPARC to contribute $450,000 in county funds to the project.

Moving forward on another major project, commissioners approved three actions related to the proposed recreation center on Ypsilanti’s Water Street redevelopment site, located along Michigan Avenue. WCPARC agreed to share equally with the Ann Arbor YMCA in a $28,000 market study to help determine whether there’s enough community interest to support the proposed center. Commissioners also authorized staff to move forward with the acquisition, for $31,500, of an easement from the Huron Fischer Honda Leasing Co. for a section of the Border-to-Border (B2B) trail that would connect Riverside Park to the Water Street site. The third action was a resolution acknowledging a partnership between WCPARC and the city of Ypsilanti to design, build and operate the rec center.

And WCPARC also authorized staff to apply for $1.4 million from the federal Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) to extend the B2B River Terrace Trail from Dexter-Huron Metropark east 1.1 miles to Zeeb Road. TAP is administered through SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments). The application would be in partnership with Scio Township and the Washtenaw County Road Commission. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Preserves Superior Twp. Site

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Dec. 11, 2012): At their December meeting, commissioners took action on properties for the county’s natural areas preservation program. They gave final approval to spend $500,000 for 65 acres on Berry Road in Superior Township, in an area that’s known as the Superior Greenway.

Ford Road Property LLC, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, natural areas preservation program, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map showing two Ford Road Property LLC parcels (encircled) that the county is purchasing for its natural areas preservation program. A third parcel, which fronts Ford Road, is not part of this deal. The land is located in Superior Township.

In a separate vote, WCPARC authorized staff to undertake due diligence toward a sales offer on 473 acres on the border of Jackson and Washtenaw counties. This deal – for the Trolz property in Manchester Township – is a project that could result in a new state recreation area that includes the southwest corner of Washtenaw County. [See Chronicle coverage: "County Pursues Major New Parks & Rec Deal"]

Commissioners also bid adieu to Jimmie Maggard, who has served on WCPARC for over 30 years, and to outgoing county commissioner Barbara Bergman. Janis Bobrin, who has served on WCPARC for more than two decades by right of her position as Washtenaw County water resources commissioner, did not run for re-election but will continue on WCPARC as a public member. [She was appointed by the county board at their Dec. 5 meeting.] Evan Pratt, who was elected water resources commissioner on Nov. 6, will join WCPARC in January – he attended the Dec. 11 meeting.

In the hour before the meeting started, commissioners and WCPARC staff held their annual holiday party. The highlight was a first viewing of a 30-minute video history of WCPARC, created by county staff over the past several months. The video will be available to the public soon, according to WCPARC deputy director Coy Vaughn. It will run on monitors at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, on cable television, and in smaller segments on the WCPARC website.

Also at the Dec. 11 meeting, the commission approved spending $33,375 to buy grooming equipment for cross-country skiing trails at Independence Lake and Rolling Hills parks. Staff provided reports on finances, highlighted by expenditures to maintain and improve Rolling Hills Water Park and Independence Lake Park; reported on recent projects, including the proposed East County Recreation Center in Ypsilanti; and reviewed WCPARC’s accomplishments in 2012.

An item not on the Dec. 11 agenda will likely receive attention in early 2013: An application from the city of Ann Arbor for up to $300,000 in Connecting Communities funds. If awarded, the grant would be used as matching funds for additional state support to improve the city-owned 721 N. Main property. Applications for WCPARC’s Connecting Communities must be received by year’s end, and the Ann Arbor city council is expected to authorize the application at its Dec. 17 meeting. [See Chronicle coverage: "Grant Applications Recommended for 721 N. Main."] [Full Story]

County Pursues Major New Parks & Rec Deal

Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission meeting (Nov. 13, 2012): At their November meeting, county parks & recreation commissioners approved moving forward with a major project that could result in a new state recreation area in the southwest corner of Washtenaw County.

Trolz property, Manchester Township, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Sign on the Trolz property in Manchester Township, which might become part of a new state recreation area in southwest Washtenaw County. (Photo by Russ Serbay.)

The proposal is to partner with the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources to acquire a total of 2,160 acres straddling the border of Jackson and Washtenaw counties – the Trolz property. The area includes an abandoned rail right-of-way that could become a multipurpose trail.

The county parks system would purchase about 461 acres of that total area – a parcel located in Manchester Township and appraised at $1.37 million. The commission authorized staff to conduct additional work on the potential deal, with a final proposal and request for approval in the coming months.

The commission also received an update on the proposed East County Recreation Center from Craig Borum, professor at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Borum presented two options for laying out the entire 38-acre Water Street redevelopment area in Ypsilanti, where the rec center would be located. He also reviewed two possible draft designs for the recreation building on a portion of the site.

The commission kept up its pace of land preservation efforts, often in partnership with other organizations. It gave final approval to acquire conservation easements on the 124-acre Drake property in Lodi Township, in partnership with the Ann Arbor greenbelt program. Final approvals were also given for easements on the 73-acre Hornback property in Salem Township, partnering with the greenbelt and Salem Township; and for the 213-acre Bailo property in Superior Township. In addition, the commission authorized preparation of a purchase offer for 65 acres in Superior Township – the Ford Road property – at a price of $500,000, contingent on completion of all due diligence and the commission’s final approval. When completed, WCPARC’s contribution to all these deals would total $900,224 to preserve 475 acres.

The nine-member commission will face some turnover in 2013. At the end of the meeting, commissioner Jimmie Maggard announced his intent to resign after 24 years of serving on WCPARC. Barbara Bergman, who serves on WCPARC because of her position as a county commissioner, did not seek re-election and will be leaving the county board at the end of 2012. The same is true for Janis Bobrin, who did not seek re-election as the county’s water resources commissioner. She’ll be replaced by Evan Pratt, who won the seat in the Nov. 6 election. Bergman expressed the hope that Bobrin would be appointed to a vacancy on WCPARC – those appointments are made by the county board. [Full Story]

Public Gives Input on East County Rec Center

About 70 people crowded into a Sept. 27 open house at the Spark East office in Ypsilanti to hear about plans for a proposed new recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti, on the northwest corner of the Water Street redevelopment area. Two conceptual designs were presented for feedback, developed in large part by students and faculty at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The overall project is being spearheaded by Washtenaw County parks and recreation.

Model of a conceptual design for a new recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti

Model of a conceptual “canopy” design for a proposed new recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti. It was one of two models displayed at a Sept. 27 open house to get feedback on the proposed project.

Robert Tetens, the county’s parks and rec director, gave the gathering an overview of the project. “We’re an organization run by data, and our surveys over the years have showed demand for a rec center in the east part of the county,” he said. “We went to the Ypsilanti city council last fall, and proposed that the city provide the land, we [the county] would build it, and the Y[MCA in Ann Arbor] would run it. The seven- or eight-month project has taken us to where we are now.”

The center would be located on the south side of Michigan Avenue just east of downtown, next to the Huron River. The building likely would be 60,000-65,000 square feet – larger than the county’s 51,000-square-foot Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, and smaller than the 70,000-square-foot Ann Arbor YMCA. Construction costs are estimated at $200 per square foot, or about $12-14 million. [Construction is only part of overall project cost, which typically includes infrastructure, professional fees, and more. No estimate of total project cost was made at the Sept. 27 meeting.] Tetens said that construction could not start until after the county’s parks and recreation millage is renewed in November 2014.

Two millages totaling 0.472 mills support the county’s parks and recreation efforts: one for operations, and one for development. The operational millage, at 0.2353 mills, was renewed for 10 additional years in 2004. To ensure operational continuity, that millage is typically renewed two years in advance of its expiration date. The current operational millage expires in 2016, but will likely be on the ballot for renewal in 2014.

Previously, Tetens had said that the schedule for the proposed east county recreation center would include settling on a specific plan for the building by December 2012. At the Sept. 27 meeting, he said other steps would include collaboration between the Ypsilanti city council and the county parks department over the next 8-10 months, followed by a campaign for the county parks millage renewal in November 2014, which is needed to ensure adequate cash flow. Then, Tetens said, he hoped to have bids out and be ready to get approval from the county board of commissioners, sign a contract, and start construction “right after that.”

The planning group showed two possible ways of developing the entire Water Street site: a “river ribbon” street plan with a storefront-style, elevated rec center building; and a “grid” street plan with a canopy-style building. Before designing the specifics of the building, the planning group defined the project’s objectives and the pertinent qualities of the overall site. Running through the discussion, including audience participation at the end, was the desire for the publicly-funded rec center and the adjacent Border-to-Border trail to create enough use of the site to attract private investment in retail, residential, and commercial uses that would generate tax revenue for the city of Ypsilanti. [Full Story]