2018-04-05 / Life in Leelanau

Funding sought for park projects

Upgrades in the works at Discovery Pier, Veronica Valley
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


DISCOVERY PIER in Greilickville could be further developed next year if some $300,000 in requested state funding is granted as part of a $806,000 project. DISCOVERY PIER in Greilickville could be further developed next year if some $300,000 in requested state funding is granted as part of a $806,000 project. Local officials are hoping at least two major parks and recreation projects proposed this year in Leelanau County will receive more than $569,000 in grant funding from the State of Michigan.

Since 1976, units of government in Leelanau County have benefitted from more than $14 million in grant funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF). Statewide, MNRTF has doled out nearly $1.2 billion for parks and recreation programs in that span.

MNRTF projects provide for natural resources protection and outdoor recreation. The fund was established through a partnership between the petroleum industry and conservation groups and is funded through state mineral rights revenue. Each year under state law, the fund is required to make 25 percent of its revenues available for acquisition and development of properties to benefit the state’s natural resources.


A WALKING trail around a fishing pond and other areas of Veronica Valley County Park would be included in a $369,435 project to improve the park if state grant funding is received. A WALKING trail around a fishing pond and other areas of Veronica Valley County Park would be included in a $369,435 project to improve the park if state grant funding is received. The Elmwood Township Board last week approved a grant application requesting $300,000 in funding to help develop Discovery Pier in Greilickville. Also last week, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners approved a grant application for $296,000 to help develop Veronica Valley County Park in Bingham Township.

The Elmwood project is in fact a project of Rotary Camps & Services, a charitable organization that two years ago acquired a waterfront property on West Grand Traverse Bay known as the “old coal dock” from Traverse City Light & Power. Now known as Discovery Pier, the property has been opened to the public and is now part of the Great Lakes Discovery Center, an umbrella organization for several water-related non-profit organizations operating from Rotary-owned property off M-22 opposite the pier.


COUNTY PARKS and Recreation Commission Secretary Steve Christensen, left, and consultant Klaus Heinert, outline details of a project to improve Veronica Valley County Park to the County Board last month. COUNTY PARKS and Recreation Commission Secretary Steve Christensen, left, and consultant Klaus Heinert, outline details of a project to improve Veronica Valley County Park to the County Board last month. Because it is a nongovernmental organization, Rotary was required to go through the Elmwood Township government to apply for state funding it hopes to use to improve Discovery Pier. If it receives the $300,000 it is asking from the MNRTF, Rotary has committed to providing some $506,000 in “matching” funds for the Discovery Pier project.

The $806,000 project would include the design and installation of more floating docks around the earthen pier which is currently being used by several “tall ships” operated by the Maritime Heritage Alliance, one of the Discovery Center partners. The new docks would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility to access the waterfront.

The project would also add a small boat launch that could be used by handicapped people, including a hoist used to help people into canoes and kayaks. In addition, the entire east wall of the dock would be made available for public fishing in West Grand Traverse Bay. Other amenities such as a “community sailing platform” would be included.

Also seeking MNRTF money for a development project this year is the Leelanau County Parks and Recreation Commission. The County Board last week approved a grant application for $269,700 that would require a $94,700 “match” from the county for improvement of Veronica Valley County Park.

The biggest portion of the money, $123,900, would be used to construct crushed stone walking trails in the park. One 2,340-foot trail would run around a “prairie” area of the park while another 1,200-foot trail would span around one of the park’s six ponds.

Another $45,000 would pay for a large fishing observation deck near one of the ponds. An additional $31,000 would pay for a “universally accessible” fishing platform for people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility, in compliance with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The grant funding would also cover an estimated $47,535 in design and construction engineering services for the overall $364,435 Veronica Valley Park project.

Officials hope to hear later this year whether an MNRTF Board, appointed by the Governor, will award the grants for the two Leelanau County projects.

In the past, MNRTF funding has been used to help pay for numerous major property acquisition and park improvement projects in Leelanau County. Elmwood Township won MNRFT grants in 2007 to help develop Greilickville Harbor Park immediately adjacent to Discovery Pier. The Villages of Empire, Northport and Suttons Bay have all been the recipients of MNRTF funding for a variety of projects, as have Bingham, Suttons Bay and Leland townships.

The largest single MNRTF expenditure on the peninsula was the Leelanau Conservancy’s $2.9 million acquisition of the Clay Cliffs Natural Area through Leland Township in 2013.

Return to top