OTTAWA LAKE - The 90 acres of mud and weeds at Section and Whiteford roads appears grim now, but it may soon look like a million bucks.
Whiteford Township leaders plan to apply for two grants totalling a possible $1 million, which will get the future municipal park well on its way to becoming an oasis for athletics and recreation. Ultimately, the estimated price tag on a park complex will total about $4 million as more sections are phased in.
"We have been through the process to write a grant," said township clerk Bernice Heidelberg. "We had a public hearing on Jan. 17 to approve or not approve of the draft."
The company that is helping the township through the process, Poggemeyer Design Group of Toledo, suggested the township give its 4,420 residents another month to see the plans.
"Once we submit it, we can't change it for five years," Mrs. Heidelberg said.
The public now has until Feb. 21 to make comments. That evening, a public hearing will take place before the township's regular meeting, after which the board will take action.
The grants in question come from the Michigan Natural Resources trust fund and from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Ideally, the township would receive the maximum each allows, which adds up to that $1 million. At minimum, the grants would total $45,000, Mrs. Heidelberg said.
Additionally, the township is also applying for a DTE grant worth $3,000, she added.
Work would begin on the land after the November departure of Stoneco, the quarry company that now occupies the area. The company has vacated the southern section of the property, added fill dirt, and done some grading. Meanwhile, the northern part of the site remains active, with cranes and other equipment moving earth and stone.
The park would replace the township's existing 30-acre park on Whiteford Center Road. The main concern cited at the Jan. 17 hearing, Mrs. Heidelberg said, was whether the park would have enough baseball diamonds. The current park has six, which gives the township's recreation club "barely enough room" for the children who play there in the spring and the summer.
The new park would have soccer fields that could be converted to diamonds, Mrs. Heidelberg noted, and enough land that two more baseball diamonds could be developed at the front of the property. Indeed, baseball diamonds are the first business of order as the park evolves over the next decade.
"The first development area is closest to Whiteford and Section roads," Mrs. Heidelberg said. "There will be four baseball diamonds, two regulation-size soccer fields, concession stands, a pavilion, and possibly some of the hiking and walking trails."
Eventually, if the township can secure the funding, the project will also have four softball diamonds, a football field, an indoor facility, the details of which are "kind of up in the air right now," she said. Tennis courts and volleyball courts may also join the plan.
At the southern end of the property will stand an "observation hill," providing sledding in the winter and a place to sit and see ball games or possibly concerts in warm weather.
Why a new park now?
"The 30 acres we're using is a difficult piece of ground to use," Mrs. Heidelberg said.
"It doesn't offer that many opportunities to our community. It's difficult to just walk at the park now.
"With diligence and proper spending, we could develop something really nice for our community," she added.
"It would be a wonderful addition to our community."
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