Grand Haven Township has grown exponentially since 1990, but its parks system has not kept pace, township officials say.
So, for the first time, the township is requesting voters to approve a 0.4-mill parks bond millage on May 4.
“The investments we are proposing to make to our parks in the next couple of years is substantial – $6 million,” said Stacey Fedewa, the township’s community development director. “And construction is going to begin this year, so there will be an immediate benefit to the community.
“We recognize the need for more recreation opportunities – for everyone, not just those involved in sports leagues,” she added.
If approved by township voters, the annual cost of the millage for a home valued at $200,000 is $40, or $800 over the 20-year repayment period of the bond.
The proposed bond millage came about when Jim Schmidt wanted to ensure that the new park in his name came to fruition during his lifetime so he can enjoy the fruits of his labor.
“The donation agreement is very specific – active sports fields, pickleball, a jogging trail,” Fedewa explained. “The agreement came with a significant clause, that phase 1 must be substantially constructed within four years, and the clock ends in 2022.”
The Township Board in 2019 approved a resolution to bring property donated by Schmidt officially into the parks system as the Schmidt Heritage Park. The resolution allows the township parks’ rules and regulations to be enforced on the property, Township Manager Bill Cargo said at the time.
The more than 70 acres nestled between Ferris and Lincoln streets is being split – with 67.12 acres gifted to the township first; then the remaining 5.68 acres, including a barn, gifted at a later date or upon Schmidt’s death.
The township has since hired Nederveld Inc. to create a development plan and price out the scope of work. The entire buildout will cost more than $13 million, so it won’t be possible to pay for these improvements through grants or general fund dollars.
“A millage is necessary if we are going to bring these sports fields to the community,” Fedewa said. “If we don’t meet the requirement of 2022, then the land automatically reverts back to Mr. Schmidt. We don’t want that to happen because we have already started making improvements in anticipation – principally, installing a water main in front of that parkland to provide the site with municipal water for bathrooms, drinking fountains, irrigation, etc.”
This proposed millage has also come about because the township has received three grants for park improvements: one at Pottawattomie Park, with construction to begin this fall; and two for Hofma Park and Preserve as the township will acquire 15.7 acres later this year and will build more trails and boardwalks in 2022.
“New projects will center on universal design principals to ensure the entire community can enjoy the park system without physical obstructions preventing their enjoyment,” Fedewa said. “New construction will be sustainable by implementing low-impact development techniques such as rain gardens for stormwater runoff. We intend to plant pollinator fields, too, to help the honey bees and butterflies. There will be acres of wildflower fields. It will be strikingly beautiful.”
Fedewa says the township prides itself on being fiscally conservative.
“In fact, state law would allow us to bond over $120 million, but we would rather pay for things ourselves and keep the extra burdens off the taxpayer,” she said. “That’s why we’ve only bonded 8.5 percent of what we’re authorized to incur.”
If the proposal is approved by the voters, the funds will be received fairly quickly. The funds will first go toward developing Schmidt Heritage Park. The construction drawings would be created to build the first phase of the park, of which Schmidt will be heavily involved, along with the township’s Parks and Recreation Committee, Township Board, township staff, consultant Nederveld, the engineering firm Prein & Newhof, and community members – particularly local pickleball groups.
Schmidt Heritage Park would be built in 2022 and open either at the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023.
Funds from the bond would also be used to develop the Hofma Vision Project, which was created in 2017 and construction would begin in 2022.
Other funds would be used for general park improvements, including adding drinking fountains, improving restroom facilities, providing maintenance on the bike path system, and potentially adding new amenities like playground equipment, pavilions and artwork.
“What I really like about this bond proposal is the community will see tangible improvements beginning this year in August at Pottawattomie Park,” Fedewa said. “And I don’t foresee major issues or problems for construction to begin. All existing parks will remain open during construction. We limit our construction zone to the smallest area necessary and only close amenities we are working on directly.”
The Pottawattomie Park project will remove the boardwalk and fishing dock, and close the waterfront for one or two months to complete the work. When it reopens, it will have a new beach area, new boardwalk, and an accessible kayak launch, and the township will be protecting the shoreline from eroding by installing natural plantings.
More information on the township’s parks bond millage can be found at ght.org/parkbond/.