2016-11-03 / Outdoors

Coming soon to county parks: groomed cross-country trails

Part of master plan update
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

THIS VEHICLE, owned by Leelanau County, will be equipped with a towed cross-country ski trail groomer and used this winter at Myles Kimmerly Park. THIS VEHICLE, owned by Leelanau County, will be equipped with a towed cross-country ski trail groomer and used this winter at Myles Kimmerly Park. For the first time, groomed cross country ski trails will be available at Myles Kimmerly County Park in Kasson Township this winter.

That’s just one of many changes and upgrades planned over the next several years for the park, according to Steve Christensen, vice chairman of the county’s Parks & Recreation Commission.

Located 1.5 miles west of Maple City on County Road 616, the 140- acre park was dedicated to former Probate Judge Myles Kimmerly in 1974.

A conceptual master plan completed for the park earlier this year outlines efforts to improve tennis courts, parking areas, a disc golf course, golf driving range, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, volleyball and basketball courts, and more.

Christensen said no decisions have been made yet on what to do with a historic wooden barn on the park property on the north side of County Road 616 adjacent to the privately-owned Maple Valley Nursing Home.

He said a decision about what to do with the aging barn was left with the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners after they conducted a site visit in May. County administrator Chet Janik said this week that testing for asbestos and other hazardous substances was conducted recently on the barn, and test results are still pending.

Janik said test results may help the County Board determine its next step for the barn, constructed from a Montgomery Ward kit in 1924 and once part of the county’s historic “poor farm” for indigent citizens. Some ideas have included improving the barn and using it for storage, or demolishing it and selling off the distinctive old “barn wood” planks.

“One of the reasons we put so much effort into a master plan for Myles Kimmerly Park is that it’s a requirement for applying for grant funds which, we hope, will pay for much of what we’d like to do going forward,” Christensen said.

About $6,000 has already been set aside to purchase a cross-country ski trail grooming machine that will be towed behind a utility vehicle the county already owns and uses to help maintain its parks and other properties. The vehicle can operate on tracks as well as wheels so it can maneuver easily over the snow.

Christensen said that the proposed cross country ski trail at Myles Kimmerly Park will consist of a loop of approximately two miles around roughly 30 acres of the park. In future years, cross-country ski trails will extend deeper into the 140-acre park along the existing Patrick Hobbins Hiking Trail.

The existing hiking trails are in a heavily forested area of the park where hundreds of trees were damaged in the big August 2015 wind storm that hit Leelanau County and devastated portions of neighboring Glen Arbor Township.

Christensen said that the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners last month approved a contract with a forester who will inventory trees and develop a management plan for harvesting many of the trees before they become more of a danger to anyone hiking through the woods.

Harvest of the trees will help offset some of the expense of improving trails and portions of a disc golf course at Myles Kimmerly Park, Christensen said. The utility vehicle capable of towing the cross-country ski grooming device is also used for keeping fields mowed, and will also be used at other county parks.

Veronica Valley County Park, located off County Road 641 in Bingham Township, already offers a groomed cross country ski trail consisting of a loop about two miles in length, Christensen said. The county currently uses an aging groomer it acquired several years ago from Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails, Inc., to keep the Veronica Valley ski trail groomed. However, that groomer is reaching the end of its life expectancy, and the new, trailerable groomer will likely be used both at Myles Kimmerly and Veronica Valley in the future.

Christensen said the Parks & Recreation Commission expects to turn its attention in the year ahead to developing new master plans both for Veronica Valley and for the county’s Old Settler’s Park on big Glen Lake in Empire Township.

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