Since opening in August, Mill Creek Park, located in downtown Dexter, has attracted dozens of visitors to the community.
On Friday, members of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) and Washtenaw County Road Commission received a personal tour of the 1.4-acre park in recognition for their involvement in the project.
"Each one of you has played a role at some point in time in supporting our project, whether it was directly or indirectly," village president Shawn Keough said.
To create the park, the dam in Mill Creek was removed. Some restoration was done to the creek and rock control structures were installed. Most of the money for the project came from grant funding. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provided $450,000, the Waterways Infrastructure Program gave $50,000, the county assisted with $200,000 in funding, and DTE provided $4,000.
"The Mill Pond was a weed-choked, stinky pond. Now we have an open central park with an amphitheater, trails, fishing piers and overlooks, boat access, benches, and pretty flowers and trees," Lauren Rubin, director of the HRWC said in a statement. "And the increased activity is palpable. Runners, walkers, and cyclists go by on the path, connecting to the downtown, the trails to the library, and to the river where there are trails completed or near completion both upstream and downstream to the metroparks."
Keough said the two biggest challenges in building the park were property acquisition and the permitting process.
"We persevered to work collaboratively with our Downtown Development Authority, the Planning Commission and all of our different boards to get to a vision of what Mill Creek looks like today," he said.
Part of that process was working with village engineering consultant JJR to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the riverfront, Keough said.
"Through input from our residents, we came up with this idea to build a park," Keough said. "Dexter wanted to be a hub for the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border trail, a hub for this community, and a great example for the county. All of those pieces are falling into place."
State Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, said the project is an example of how different governmental agencies can work together to promote economic development in Michigan.
"This park brings people to Dexter, and it will keep people in our communities because of the high quality of life," he said.
Sen. Rebekah Warren agreed, stating she plans to use Dexter as an example in Lansing to demonstrate the success of state grant funding for local muncipalities.
"The process for applying for grants is more competitive than ever in these hard times. Having such a beautiful project in Dexter that received grant funding is wonderful," she said. "This allows us to go back to Lansing and point to the success of this project to leverage more funding for projects throughout Washtenaw County."