2017-06-08 / Outdoors

Old Settlers park users want few changes

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


LEELANAU COUNTY has proposed plans to upgrade Old Settlers Picnic Grounds in Burdickville, though members of the Old Settlers Picnic Association like the park just the way it is now. LEELANAU COUNTY has proposed plans to upgrade Old Settlers Picnic Grounds in Burdickville, though members of the Old Settlers Picnic Association like the park just the way it is now. A conceptual plan for upgrades to Old Settlers Picnic Grounds is not being met well by some members of the Old Settlers Picnic Association, although minor tweaks to the design may help.

Steve Christensen, the Leelanau County Parks and Recreation Commission secretary, said a conceptual plan is in the works for the Burdickville park, but has not yet been approved.

The proposed design calls for repairs and modifications to the park’s ‘grub shack,’ a little more parking, wildflower plantings, an irrigation system, portable bathrooms to be placed on the opposite side of the park from its permanent bathrooms, and possibly some additional playground equipment.

It also calls for removing one of the park’s driveways and adding a walking path around the perimeter of the park, projects that members of the Old Settlers Picnic Association are objecting to, according to Fred Lanham, secretary of the group.


OLD SETTLERS Picnic Grounds in Burdickville honors those who served our country, as well as its early settlers. OLD SETTLERS Picnic Grounds in Burdickville honors those who served our country, as well as its early settlers. “We use that driveway,” Lanham said. “Why mess with something that’s working, that’s my feeling.”

Lanham said he attended a recent committee meeting in which proposed plans for the park were laid out. According to Lanham, several members of the Old Settlers Association who attended the meeting were opposed to the plan.

The association has about 200 members, 30 of whom are active, he said.

But Christensen said the plan is tentative.

“I’m not sure how much of that is going to make it into the final plan,” Christensen said. “It’s kind of a tweak, if you will, just improving a bit here and there.”

Christensen said the impetus for park improvements was the 2015 wind storm that took out 60 to 70 trees in the park. He said a group of people from the neighborhood came forward, saying they were willing to work on a plan to improve the park and may even be willing to donate some money.

Lori Lyman, a landscape architect who lives on Glen Lake, offered her services to put a plan together at no cost.

But the park is already looking great, Lanham said, after the stumps and roots from all those downed trees were removed.

“It really opened it up,” Lanham said. “The grass is starting to grow now. It looks good.”

He agreed that the grub shack could be improved.

Christensen said the county is in the process of creating conceptual plans for its three parks, including Myles Kimmerly and Veronica Valley. Those plans need to be in place before the county can apply for grants.

The commission would like to have all three plans approved by the end of this year, Christensen said. A plan for Myles Kimmerly was recently adopted and the commission is in the initial phases of a plan for Veronica Valley.

A committee has been formed for each park and community input meetings are being held.

County Commissioner Casey Noonan, District 6, is a member of the Old Settlers committee and attended the public hearing, which he thought went well.

Noonan said the committee will do its best to follow the recommendations of community members at that meeting, including the Old Settlers Picnic Association.

“Any improvements we do make are going to be as minimal as possible,” Noonan said.

He said he was also opposed to some of the larger changes included in the initial plan, including the paved walkway around the park.

“It’s not that kind of park,” Noonan said. “It’s an old park. It’s meant to be natural, left alone.”

The 6.5-acre county park is located on South Dunns Farm Road on the shore of big Glen Lake in Burdickville.

It was established in 1892 as a picnic ground, with the first picnic held in August 1893 to honor two elderly pioneers, Kasson Freeman and John Fisher.

The event proved popular and in 1905 the Old Settlers Picnic Association was formed and began raising money to purchase permanent grounds.

The park was established with two subsequent purchases — a five-acre parcel adjacent to the Methodist Episcopal Church and five years later, the church itself. The church came with the stipulation that it would not be used for dancing.

The church is now a chapel and meeting room that is maintained and rented out by the Glen Lake Woman’s Club.

The Old Settlers Picnic is still held every August.

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