The muddy path into the Grand River in Jaycee Park, which passes for a boat launch, will be upgraded and replaced by a concrete ramp, boardwalk, a fishing pier, paved parking lot and rain gardens or a pond to filter the runoff currently channeled directly into the river after storms.
The City Council on Monday approved a contract with the Department of Natural Resources to develop the site, at the southeast end of Jaycee Park. The development had been identified as a priority in the Parks and Recreation Department’s master plan, said Parks Commission member Rachael Kuntsch.
“This is exciting,” City Council Member Don Willems told the Council before the vote was taken. He said this project builds on a number of improvements to the city’s riverfront in recent years, including the Island Park restoration project and the River Walk.
The entire project is expected to cost approximately $188,000, with the majority of the money from a $139,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, and the remaining $49,000 cost shared between the City of Grand Ledge, the Grand Ledge Parks and Recreation Department and the Downtown Development Authority, said City Administrator Jon Bayless.
The city’s grant application was prepared by Kuntsch and several other commission members in early 2011 and approved in December by the Natural Resources Trust Fund, which uses the proceeds from oil and gas extraction on state lands to pay for acquisition and development of public recreation facilities.
An earlier grant from the Natural Resources Trust Fund paid most of the cost of extending the city’s river walk from Island Park to Jaycee Park, where it leads to the site of the new boat launch and fishing pier project.
On its other side, the new facility will connect to an extension of the city’s wide walk, currently under construction, linking Jaycee Park to the existing walking/bicycling path which parallels Saginaw Highway from Timber Creek to the M-100 intersection.
One of the keys to the success of the application, Kuntsch said, was “Having a project that aligns with the priorities of the Trust Fund, and one of their priorities is increasing public access to waterways.”
The new boat launch will fill a need for access to the Grand River.
“We were able to communicate and justify the project to show there were not a lot of public access sites in close proximity,” said Kuntsch. “The nearest site for launching a kayak or a canoe is in Delta, and the nearest for motorized boats is in Lansing.”
Currently, engineering plans and specifications and bid documents are in the process of being developed, said Bayless. He said it is possible that they will be complete by the end of September.
After the documents are complete, they must be reviewed the Department of Natural Resources before bids are taken, according to the contract furnished by the state. In addition, the Department of Environmental Quality must issue a permit before any work in the river can begin.
“It’s nip and tuck if construction will be this fall or next spring,” Bayless said.
The timing of the improvements is in some doubt because of a four month delay in a State Senate committee over an unrelated issue.
The original bill to authorize the $14,854,400 in development grants and $14,835,800 for land acquisition by local governments was introduced in the House of Representatives Feb. 7 and approved by the House Mar. 20.
It then lingered in a Senate Committee until July, apparently due to a concern over the amount of state land held by the DNR. The Senate finally approved the bill on July 18, and it was signed by the Governor Aug. 1.
Grants for other projects in the mid-Michigan area include $40,000 to Bath Township for lake preserve acquisition, $200,000 for beach development in Lake Odessa, $170,000 for Island Park development in Dimondale, $300,000 for trail development in Delhi Township and $300,000 for Mill Street landing improvements in Eaton Rapids.