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Published: Wednesday, 4/19/2006

Grand Rapids seeks public input on plans for Bluebell Island

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Grand Rapids Bluebell Island could be on its way to gaining a firmer connection with the rest of the village.

The island, a circular park in a small spur off the Miami and Erie Sidecut Canal at the eastern end of the village, is eroding as the gray stone wall around it falls apart.

Council is considering two alternatives: replacing the stone wall that protects the island or filling in the canal around it and turning the island into part of the mainland.

A footbridge now connects the island to Bluebell Park, between the Mill House and Rita s Dairy Bar.

The latter option would be cheaper, Administrator Chad Hoffman said. Keeping the island could cost more than $230,000; filling the canal in could be $100,000 cheaper.

Mayor Judy Keifer said residents are welcome to give their opinions at Monday s council meeting, when she plans to discuss long-range plans for the island.

It s probably most economical for the village to change the canal wall and fill in where Bluebell Island is, she said.

The canal around the island would have to be dredged and then filled in with dirt, she said. The current canal wall would be extended across the filled-in area.

Ms. Keifer said that if the area is filled in, a pavilion could be built on the land. Village officials are also discussing replacing the timber frame shelter at Bluebell Park next to the island.

Council voted April 10 to remove the shelter, and it was demolished the following day.

The red oak shelter was rotten and full of insects, the mayor said.

It was actually in worse shape than we thought, she said. Picnic tables now sit on the concrete slab that was its base. Rough estimates to replace it run about $25,000 to $30,000 for a kit with no roof. Labor would add an additional cost, Mr. Hoffman said.

Last week, council invited members of the Historical Society of Grand Rapids to the council meeting. The society sponsored concerts in the former shelter.

We need to keep some kind of pavilion there, Ms. Keifer said.

The historical society planned to meet this week to talk about the issue and bring their recommendation to council Monday.

Member Jim Thomson said the society, which maintains the flowers on the island, would contribute financially to the project, whatever its direction.

We would like to keep the island, he said, but noted that spending a quarter of a million dollars to accomplish that might not be financially feasible.

Filling in the canal around the island could create space for a larger concert setting, he said.



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