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 A new arrangement between Oakland County and the city of Madison Heights has dropped the requirement for a parking permit at the Red Oaks Nature Center.

A new arrangement between Oakland County and the city of Madison Heights has dropped the requirement for a parking permit at the Red Oaks Nature Center.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Parking now free at Red Oaks Nature Center

City of Madison Heights, Oakland County work out deal

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 13, 2019


MADISON HEIGHTS — Anyone interested in visiting the Red Oaks Nature Center at Suarez Friendship Woods will no longer need a vehicle permit to park there.

Previously, a $30 pass from Oakland County was required in order to park at the nature center, located at 30300 Hales St. Now residents and nonresidents alike can park there without a permit.

The permit is still required at other Oakland County parks, however, including the Red Oaks Dog Park on Dequindre Road, with discounts available for seniors and veterans.

Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, asked city staff to look into whether a deal could be worked out with the county to make parking at the nature center free.

He reasoned that it was the fair thing to do, since the city retains ownership of the land and pays a portion of the capital improvements.

“It’s double taxation, with tax dollars going to the upgrades, and residents who want to see them needing to pay to park,” Bliss said. “So when we were allocating tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in a vote a couple months ago, I felt the need to speak out on this issue and ask staff to reopen negotiations with the county. I’ve gotten multiple calls about this from residents, since this is a city property and it’s pretty ridiculous to require a parking pass on land that the city owns, regardless of our agreement with the county.

“Now to be clear, in every other way this (lease deal) with the county was and is a huge win for the city. It was before my time on council, but I have high regard for this deal because frankly it saved our nature center during the recession,” he said. “This is a different time, though, and I’m glad that our staff and the county were able to come to an agreement here.”

Bliss also thanked Oakland County Commissioner Gary McGillivray for his work on both the original lease deal and the recent change allowing free parking.

The county’s involvement at the nature center came about in 2012 after nearly two years of negotiations when the Madison Heights City Council approved a 25-year lease agreement with the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission. In exchange for use of the property for the next quarter-century, the city would receive consideration including $1 annual rent.

The city contributes about $8,000 per year toward utilities, plus 50% of agreed upon major maintenance and capital improvement project costs. The county has an annual operation, maintenance and programming service budget of $225,000 per year, plus 50% of the maintenance and capital improvement costs. The county is also responsible for signage at the park, fence modifications and the structured volunteer program.  

Melissa Marsh, the city manager of Madison Heights, said that the lease agreement with the county continues to benefit the city.

“As a result of this agreement, the nature center continues to operate, and programming and special event services have been expanded and enhanced at no additional cost to Madison Heights. The property maintenance has been improved with increased manpower and resources available from (the county), and volunteers have been expanded through a structured program,” Marsh said. “This has been a great partnership.”