The city of Farmington has been awarded $2.1 million to help fund the Shiawassee Connection Project, which involves the removal and replacement of the existing stairs and bridge at Shiawassee Park.

The city of Farmington has been awarded $2.1 million to help fund the Shiawassee Connection Project, which involves the removal and replacement of the existing stairs and bridge at Shiawassee Park.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Long-awaited Shiawassee Connection Project gets big boost from federal funds

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published February 22, 2023


FARMINGTON — When the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill Dec. 23 to fund the federal government through fiscal year 2023, one of the big winners was the city of Farmington.

The spending package includes $16.4 million for U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens’ 15 community funding projects.

Of that money, Farmington is set to receive $2.1 million for the Shiawassee Connection Project, which will connect the downtown with Shiawassee Park.

The project includes the removal and replacement of existing stairs and a bridge at Shiawassee Park with a new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant boardwalk and bridge.

“We just received word recently from Haley Stevens’ office that we were awarded this $2.1 million allocation to support that connection,” said Farmington Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kate Knight. “We’ve been imagining it for a long time. … Receiving this award in federal funding is a result of years of master planning and community visioning.”

Knight estimated that, to complete the project, the cost will “hover around $4.1 million.”

She said that the money that has been awarded allows the city to get started — it’s enough to cover the initial design and engineering.

“Now that that’s a reality, that we have enough to cover that, we will begin on it, and it will be, most likely, a multiyear project,” Knight said. “We have grants out right now we’re waiting to hear about, and that will certainly help us move it along. … We’ll implement as soon as we have those dollars, even if it’s incrementally.”

Although Knight said that it is “undetermined” as to whether the rest of the money needed for the project will be covered by grants or the city, she expressed optimism about the Shiawassee Connection Project becoming a reality in Farmington.

“We’re doing it,” she said. “(It’s) very exciting.”

As for when the project might get started, Knight said, “It takes a while to carry out the due diligence and execute all the design and engineering work,” she said. “We’ll most likely go out to bid once we get to that construction phase. … That will be a multi-month development, just the design and engineering, so to think we would begin it in 2024 would be very ambitious.”

Aside from a recreation opportunity that can help make Farmington a better place to live, from Knight’s perspective, the project could also have an economic benefit.

“It’s a talent attractor, (and) it’s a way to support those residents who are already here,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s a huge economic development impact. We have a senior residential complex right there at the current staircase, and the residents there, a lot of them are unable to make that descent down into that beautiful park space. So this really supports a lot of purposes for Farmington.”

Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman let it be known in an earlier interview that a connection project has been her aspiration for approximately two decades.

“We — me, in particular — have had a dream for 20 years to put either a switchback or some sort of pathway that runs from Shiawassee Park into downtown Farmington, up the hill, where we currently have very steep steps that are obviously not ADA compliant, and not stroller friendly,” Bowman said previously. “So we’ve had the plans for a switchback pathway for years and years but couldn’t figure out where to come up with the money because it’s very, very expensive.”

In a recent email, Bowman said they are thrilled about the $2.1 million and they hope a Department of Natural Resources-administered Spark grant will add to the available funding.