Here is what the Michigan DNR is doing with the nearly $16M it received to upgrade state parks

‘Ensure Michiganders have stunning public parks to enjoy for generations to come’

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory in Belle Isle State Park. Photo by Tyler Leipprandt (michiganskymedia.com) under contract with the MI DNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

DETROIT – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources received nearly $16 million for state park projects in 10 counties and they’re sharing how that money will be used.

State park attendees can expect to find lodge renovations, upgraded electrical and water systems, preservation of historic structures and stabilization of riverbanks for trail resurfacing.

“Michigan’s state parks are beloved, defining features of our beautiful state and because of the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan I signed earlier this year, we are investing resources to show our parks some well-deserved love and much-needed TLC,” Whitmer said. “State parks support tens of thousands of jobs and countless local economies, empowering tourism and recreation small businesses across the state. Together, let’s keep improving them by addressing operational and infrastructure needs and ensure Michiganders have stunning public parks to enjoy for generations to come.”

Park projects in Bay, Cheboygan, Delta, Iosco, Mackinac, Monroe, Ontonagon, Saginaw, Washtenaw and Wayne counties will get underway. The $15,962,000 the DNR received was made possible through Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Building Michigan Together Plan. The plan included $250 million to help address the backlog of repair and maintenance needs at state parks -- and build a new state park in Flint.

“For more than 100 years, state parks have anchored communities and provided safe, clean spaces for people to connect with nature and historical resources and enjoy the outdoors. During the COVID pandemic our parks welcomed people in record numbers,” DNR Director Dan Eichinger said. “We are grateful and gratified to launch this first phase of critical maintenance, repair and upgrade work, knowing that every project will help us deliver even better visitor experiences and outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors of all ages and abilities.”

What to expect in the first round of projects

The DNR shared this list of the first round of projects.

  • Bay City State Park (Bay County): $1.5 million to refresh and renovate the interior and exterior of the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center. Renovations include the reception area, exhibit hall, roof and siding, and the addition of a new science lab. General improvements include enhancements to make the park more accessible for all visitors.
  • Cheboygan State Park (Cheboygan County): $750,000 to construct upgraded electrical and water distribution systems in the modern campground. The project includes the replacement of below-ground water mains and electrical conduit, meters and distribution panels, as well as upgraded jug fillers and electrical pedestals. An additional $2 million is proposed in later phases for additional investments in the sewer system.
  • Fayette Historic State Park (Delta County): $600,000 to reconstruct the south wall of the west casting house in the park’s historic townsite – where visitors can take a walking tour of 20 original structures from the once bustling, late-1800s, iron smelting industrial community. This is the first phase of a historic preservation project in the park.
  • Fayette Historic State Park (Delta County): $400,000 to reconstruct approximately 300 feet of retaining wall adjacent to the historic charcoal kilns in the park’s historic townsite. The kilns were constructed to produce charcoal for blast furnaces to smelt iron ore. This is the second phase of a historic preservation project in the park.
  • Tawas Point State Park (Iosco County): $455,500 to repair water-damaged brick on the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse. The work will be completed by professionals specializing in historic architecture for maritime buildings.
  • Straits State Park (Mackinac County): $2 million to replace the two upper campground toilet and shower buildings, which will mirror finish details from newly constructed buildings in the park’s lower campground.
  • Sterling State Park’s Heritage Trail (Monroe County): $425,000 to stabilize the riverbank in preparation for trail resurfacing. This is the first phase of an improvement project that will leverage federal funding to improve the slowly eroding embankment between the river and marsh lagoon. An additional $3.57 million is proposed in later phases for further investments in erosion control.
  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Ontonagon County): $1.4 million to renovate and preserve the Kaug Wudjoo modern lodge, staff quarters, mechanic’s shop, carpenter’s shop and fire barn. Renovations include the construction and replacement of new roofs and siding, as well as enhancements to accessibility features. Utility and structural upgrades also are included in ongoing historic preservation efforts.
  • New state-county park in Saginaw (Saginaw County): $867,000 to construct parking areas and a park entrance for a state park already in development on the old General Motors site and nearby landfill – a reclaimed brownfield site on the Saginaw River. The project will include the construction of new concrete bumpers, solar lighting, parking gates that meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, fencing and signage. The park will be jointly managed by the DNR and Saginaw County. This project is considered one of the final steps in establishing this new state park, which was originally supported with two grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
  • Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County): $65,000 to install a new fishing pier with more universally accessible features at Portage Lake in the Portage Lake Campground. The project will match a federal grant and state funds.
  • Belle Isle Park (Wayne County): $7.5 million to remove lead paint and replace both the glass and upper steel structural members that support the upper dome (also known as the Palm House) of the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. This project is the second phase of a comprehensive plan to revitalize one of the nation’s oldest turn-of-the-century glass houses still in existence.

You can click here to learn more about the projects.


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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.