Governor Gretchen Whitmer today announced plans to create a new Michigan state park in the City of Flint by utilizing federal relief dollars from President Biden’s American Recovery Plan. This would mark the first state park in Genesee County, the only county in Michigan without land that is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and when completed would become Michigan’s 104th state park.
“Parks are pillars of our local communities and economies,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Governor Whitmer made the announcement at Chevy Commons, a former industrial site in Flint currently owned by Genesee County that would serve as the center for the new outdoor recreation space. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will look to leverage the Flint River Restoration Plan and collaborate with the local community to develop this new park and to seek other funding to bring the park to fruition and provide for its future operations and maintenance
The $26.2 million investment in the Flint state park would be drawn from $250 million in funding previously proposed by Whitmer to address a backlog of needs in state parks and trails across Michigan to help support businesses and local economies.
The park fulfills elements of the DNR’s Public Land Strategy as well as the 2012 report of the Michigan Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel. These documents identify as priorities increased access to diverse recreation opportunities in or near urban areas and the establishment of a “signature park” in the City of Flint.
“We have long recognized the need to build quality recreational spaces closer to the state’s population,” said Ron Olson, chief of the Parks and Recreation Division for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
State and local parks saw an influx of visitors during the pandemic, as people sought safe and socially distanced ways to stay mentally and physically healthy. State parks alone saw 35 million visitors in 2020, a 30 percent increase over the previous year. Local parks have seen a similar increase in use during the public health crisis.
The governor’s proposed investment, which requires approval from the Legislature, would develop a park that would be anchored at Chevy Commons and expanded along the Flint River corridor to seamlessly connect the park to local neighborhoods, businesses, and institutions, such as the University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering University, the Flint Farmers’ Market, the Flint Cultural Center Campus, and the Iron Belle Trail. Although plans are in their earliest stages, the new park could include non-motorized trails, unique playscapes, accessible open spaces, fishing platforms, and canoe and kayak launches into the Flint River.
A timeline for completion and further funding still needs to be developed, but the commitment of state funding will prove a critical catalyst in pushing the project forward.
“Flint is proud to be the first city in Genesee County to have a State Park,” said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
“For the last 10 years, Flint & Genesee Education & Talent has partnered with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources to connect hundreds of Flint teens to outdoor summer jobs and recreational activities,” said Dr. Kimberly Leverette, executive director of Flint & Genesee Education & Talent, a division of the Flint & Genesee Group. “The establishment of this new park builds upon that partnership by creating new jobs and career paths that both teens and adults can pursue in Flint and Genesee County. Through spurring job creation and offering new recreational opportunities for residents and families, this park will surely contribute to a higher quality of life for our community.”