MNRTF’s impact on Ypsilanti Township
Since 1976, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has served as a key funding source for Michigan’s parks and recreation providers, allocating more than $1 billion to protect our state’s natural resources and to develop outdoor recreation opportunities for residents. Countless parks, trails, nature centers and preserves, boardwalks, overlooks, splash pads, playgrounds, and beaches have become a reality thanks to the financial support of the Trust Fund.
To date, Ypsilanti Township has been awarded more than $6.6 million in grants from the Trust Fund. Thanks to three MNRTF grants, including one in 1984 for $415,000, Ypsilanti Township was able to purchase parcels of land to create Ford Lake Park, which has become the community’s feature park. Ford Lake Park officially became a park in 1985 and is home to 98 acres that overlooks Ford Lake. The park is home to three rental shelters, a boat launch, three playgrounds, a park maintenance operation, recently renovated tennis and pickleball courts, trails, and multiple picnic areas. The park also has basketball courts, outdoor racquetball courts and sand volleyball courts.
“It’s our gem, it’s our signature park,” said Mike Hoffmeister, Residential Services Director of the Charter Township of Ypsilanti. “Shelter rentals and the boat launch, on a normal year, are incredibly busy. It has really impacted the community by allowing people to access the lake.”
Ford Lake is one of the larger lakes in the community.
“Ford Lake is more of a sport and fishing lake, it’s pretty relaxed,” said Hoffmeister. “There are a lot of residents that live on Ford Lake and many of them use our parks also. We have a pickleball group that plays out of there as well.”
Another MNRTF grant that Ypsilanti Township was awarded was in 1986 for $500,000 for Eagle Crest golf course.
“This project allowed us to construct the first nine holes of Eagle Crest Golf Resort, which is an 18-hole resort golf course on Ford Lake,” said Hoffmeister. “The property is owned by Ypsilanti Township and is leased to Eastern Michigan University (EMU). The grant was for construction costs, including cart paths, entrance roads, golf course development, landscaping, a maintenance building, plantings, reseeding signage and utilities.”
They have a new pro shop as well. Eagle Crest has had a substantial impact on the community.
“It is a huge economic driver and revenue maker for EMU,” said Hoffmeister. “It’s great to have a feature golf course in our community. It brings in a lot of tourists, especially on football Saturdays, whether it’s EMU or U of M football. The township and EMU have a great relationship. This project brought the University and our township together.”
Another MNRTF project allowed for the development of the North Bay Park boardwalk, a 2,000 foot boardwalk that connects their island chains with their inland nature observation decks in North Bay Park.
“North Bay Park is just north of the Eagle Crest golf course, they border each other,” said Hoffmeister. “We have a number of islands in Ford Lake. We own the land but previous to this grant we weren’t connected, so now there is a trail with a boardwalk that connects all of those islands together for a nice looped trail boardwalk.”
North Bay Park is 139 acres and has an observation tower at the edge of the boardwalk. The Trust Fund grant was for $375,000 and was awarded in 1988.
“The park is used much more now,” said Hoffmeister. “We have a lot of walkers that go out in the mornings and before this we could just walk down to the water. Now that we’ve connected the islands and the beautiful boardwalk you can do a full loop and it allows people to walk over the lake now.”
There was a second phase of development to North Bay Park in 1990 that included construction of a restroom and shelter building with utilities, landscaping, structures and site amenities.
“We have two shelters. The shelters now bring in revenue as well as being used as a public gathering space for events such as the Rosie the Riveter art show traditionally held in July,” said Hoffmeister. “The Trust Fund awarded the township $75,000 for this second phase of development.”
In 1992 the township was awarded $750,000 for the acquisition of 106.3 acres from Ford Motor Company for a youth-focused park called Ford Heritage Park.
“Ford Heritage Park is centrally located in the township and is designed as a youth sports and family park,” said Hoffmeister.
It includes several soccer fields, baseball and softball fields, paved and natural trails, a community built accessible playground and a wooded area. The Trust Fund money was used for acquisition of the property, not the amenities.
“We have youth and adult sports out of this park,” said Hoffmeister. ”It’s a hugely popular playground that sits between two neighborhoods so it is accessible by walking, riding bikes and trail connections. It is heavily used by our youth sports groups, internal leagues and rentals.”
In 1998 the Trust Fund granted the township $1,483,700 for the acquisition of 190 acres to develop Hewen’s Creek Park for active and passive recreation, as well as for natural resource preservation. The site also includes access to Paint Creek and access to a 12-acre unnamed lake.
“The Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association helps us maintain the trails in Hewen’s Creek Park for mountain biking,” said Hoffmeister. “It’s given an outlet to the mountain biking group. The group is also very prevalent in nearby Rolling Hills County Park. I think having this park be the priority for mountain bikers allows for collaboration between the county and township as it relates to mountain biking.”
Another MNRTF project took place in 2003 and was for $432,700 for the construction of a fishing dock, canoe launch and dock, picnic shelter, restrooms, scenic walkway, entry road, gatehouse and parking at Huron River’s Waterfront North Hydro Park.
“North Hydro Park is just off of Huron River right by the dam,” said Hoffmeister. “It is mostly a natural park with walking trails, some docks, boardwalks and a canoe livery. There is also a shelter there that is rentable so we can drive some revenue there. Restrooms also added a huge touch.”
Improvements to the township’s Lakeside Park in 2010 came with a Trust Fund grant of $500,000 and included boat and fishing docks, scenic overlooks, non-motorized pathways, outdoor picnic shelters, site furnishings, community boathouse, parking and bioswales.
“These improvements were directly related to an expansion of the existing Lakeside Park,” said Hoffmeister. “We added fishing docks and a picnic shelter that overlook Ford Lake. The boathouse is a building that we currently lease to EMU for their rowing team as well as Saline High School, who also has a rowing team and they partner with EMU out of there. The lease agreement is for them to operate and we own.”
These improvements are a huge benefit because the township is now a resource for lake access to rowing teams and is another fishing opportunity for residents to utilize the beautiful lake access.
“The shelter is a beautiful place to eat lunch,” said Hoffmeister. “This addition has allowed us to expand because now we are looking into hosting larger rowing events on Ford Lake. That would not be possible without this existing facility. That’s going to be really helpful when we start putting bids in for larger rowing tournaments and events.”
These projects would not have been possible without the financial support from the MNRTF.
“As you can see the Trust Fund has been incredibly helpful in the development of our park system,” said Hoffmeister. “We have over 900 acres of parkland and a big chunk of that comes from the state and their ability to help us.”