Whitmer announces plans for Flint state park, 1st in Genesee Co.

    New proposed state park in Flint | State of Michigan

    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.

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces plans for a new state park in Flint, July 14, 2021 | Whitmer office photo

    “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.”

    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.