Stories indexed with the term ‘Staebler Farm’

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 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]

County Parks: Options for Staebler Farm

Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission meeting (June 12, 2012): This month’s meeting concentrated on Staebler Farm, a 98-acre WCPARC property on Plymouth Road in Superior Township.

Corn crib at Staebler Farm

A corncrib at the Staebler Farm in Superior Township. The farm isn't yet open to the public, but plans are underway to develop the site for educational and recreational use. (Photos by the writer.)

The parks and recreation commission bought the farm in 2001 and set aside more than $2 million to develop it for eventual educational and recreational uses. Possibilities include children’s gardens, a farm market, fishing, and demonstrations of farm activities.

Donald Staebler, who turns 102 in August, has lived there since he was two and has a life lease to stay in the 140-year-old farmhouse. The property is not yet open to the public.

At the June 12 meeting, commissioners heard from a consultant who described the use of similar property in three other communities: Ambler Farm in Wilton, Connecticut; the Intervale Center in Burlington, Vermont; and Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Commissioners discussed possible uses for the land, and decided on the next steps in creating a master plan for the farm. Dan Smith, a WCPARC member who also serves on the county board of commissioners, noted that this project fits with other efforts supported by the board, including community gardens on the former juvenile detention center site and the Washtenaw Food Policy Council that was created earlier this year.

In addition to their discussion of Staebler Farm, the commission carried out its usual business of approving expenses, reviewing the budget, and getting updates on its parks, recreation facilities and natural areas. Among those updates was a report that a design team for a proposed WCPARC recreation center in Ypsilanti held its first meeting to review a possible schematic design. The team consists of faculty and students from the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. [For more details on this project, see Chronicle coverage: "More Planning for Rec Center in Ypsilanti."] [Full Story]

County Seeks Input on Parks Master Plan

Donald Staebler was without question the oldest resident to show up at a Jan. 26 public meeting on the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation master plan. And the 99-year-old farmer had a very specific reason why: He sold his farm to the county nearly 10 years ago, and he wants to see what they’re going to do with it.

The barn and out buidlings at Staebler Farm, on Plymouth Road in Superior Township. Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation bought the farm in 2001, will be developing master plan for the property in the coming years.

The barns and out buildings at Staebler Farm, on Plymouth Road in Superior Township. Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation bought the farm in 2001, and will be developing a master plan for the property in the coming years. (Photos by The Chronicle.)

“I’m open to suggestions,” Staebler told The Chronicle, “and willing to give up plenty of what I know.”

During their presentation about a five-year master plan for the parks system, county staff outlined plans for the Staebler Farm – a proposed $2.3 million investment – as well as for several other county parks, recreational facilities and preserves. It was one of three public meetings to get input on the master plan; the next meeting will be on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at the Dexter Library, starting at 7 p.m.

A draft of the master plan – which is also available online – includes items in an extensive capital improvement program that was approved last year by the county’s Parks & Recreation Commission. Several of the largest projects are planned for Rolling Hills Park, including the addition of a dog park, an expansion of the water park and construction of softball fields and an amphitheater. The county also plans to invest nearly $12 million in greenway and non-motorized trails over the next five years. [Full Story]