Innovation Hills Park to expand, thanks to $500,000 in state funding

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 12, 2022

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Nearly 50 acres of new green space and trails will soon be unlocked at Innovation Hills Park. 

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, said she, working in partnership with Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, recently secured funding in the 2022 state budget to expand the new park in Rochester Hills.

“We were able to secure $500,000 in this year’s state budget to bring back to the community and continue to invest in Rochester Hills,” McMorrow said. 

The funding will enable the construction of a bridge across the Clinton River to unlock 48 acres of green space, as well as appropriate pedestrian access and suitable wayfinding for the area. 

“The monies that were secured thanks to the passage of the budget are going to help us build, I like to call it, a cool, Indiana Jones-style rope bridge across the river to over 40 acres on the other side — which is absolutely pristine and gorgeous, green space the city purchased years ago,” Barnett explained. “That will take this 70-acre park and make it 118 acres for folks to enjoy, with amazing trails and more opportunities to get out.”

Barnett said it will “take some time” for the city to put the bridge project together.  

Innovation Hills, the city’s first new park in 25 years, opened to the public in October 2019 with the first phase of the multiyear project complete — including the construction of various lakes, glow-in-the-dark sidewalks, boardwalks and trails. 

The park has been extremely popular ever since, especially during the pandemic.

“One thing we learned during the pandemic was people love parks. Our park attendance was up 300% during the pandemic,” Barnett noted. “When people couldn’t travel, they couldn’t go far, or they didn’t feel comfortable, they felt great coming out and enjoying their local park.”

In September of 2021, the city opened the park’s newest attraction — a 3-acre, nature-themed universal play area for youth of all abilities. The playground includes a custom-built multi-story treehouse with a locally themed bridge, over 20 unique play elements, a flowing splash river that mimics the Clinton River, and much more. The treehouse has climbing access from the ground level, but also a unique second-story accessed via a bridge from a higher elevation to allow individuals with mobility challenges to enter the treehouse at the second story, without having to climb or crawl.

McMorrow said she loves that Innovation Hills was designed for people of all ages and abilities. 

“It’s attracting people from all around the state, and I’m sure all around the country — when they see how cool it is — to come to Rochester Hills and come to Michigan. That is something to be really, really proud of,” she said.

“This is our pride and joy center,” Barnett added. “We are really excited about what this park has become and what it means to our community. … Obviously, this park is going to continue to expand and create more memories and opportunities for families.”

In addition to the $500,000 earmarked for Innovation Hills, McMorrow said $300,000 in state funds have been appropriated for an Interstate 75 sound wall study between Adams Road and 13 Mile, $80,000 for a crosswalk signal at South Main and 14 Mile roads, and $50,000 for the Royal Oak World War II veterans’ memorial project. 

A $200,000 appropriation was made for the Talent Development Coalition, an initiative of Oakland University providing job opportunities to young adults in the area interested in skilled trades.

Innovation Hills Park is located at 2800 W. Hamlin Road in Rochester Hills.

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