Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday announced plans to create a new $26.2 million state park in the city of Flint using federal COVID-19 relief dollars.
The governor said this would be the first state park in Genesee County, the only county in Michigan without land that is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It would become Michigan’s 104th state park. The timing for the project has not been set.
The investment would be drawn from $250 million in funding previously proposed by Whitmer to address a backlog of needs in state parks and trails across Michigan. The Legislature must sign off on the spending. The DNR will look to leverage the Flint River Restoration Plan and collaborate with the local community to develop the park and to seek other funding.
She made the announcement at Chevy Commons, a former industrial site in Flint currently owned by Genesee County that would serve as the center for the new outdoor recreation space. Whitmer was joined by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley and others.
The park would be anchored at Chevy Commons and expanded along the Flint River corridor to connect the park to the University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering University, the Flint Farmers’ Market, the Flint Cultural Center Campus and the Iron Belle Trail. The park could include non-motorized trails, playscapes, accessible open spaces, fishing platforms and canoe and kayak launches into the Flint River.
“Parks are pillars of our local communities and economies,” said Whitmer. “Through the pandemic, park attendance reached historic highs as people went outdoors to unwind and connect with their loved ones. That’s especially true in Michigan’s great cities, which have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. This new park in Flint is a multi-generational investment in the community that will support small businesses, create jobs, and give people a space to enjoy with friends and family.”
State and local parks saw an influx of visitors during the pandemic, with 35 million visitors in 2020, a 30% increase over the previous year. Local parks have seen a similar increase in use during the public health crisis.
The park fulfills elements of the DNR’s Public Land Strategy as well as the 2012 report of the Michigan Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel.
“Repurposing this land for outdoor recreational space will enhance residents’ health and quality of life while giving families in Flint an opportunity to enjoy nature,” said Neeley. “A state park in Flint is a beacon of light and will have vast environmental, economic and social impacts through the transformation of key land within the city.”