Riverbend Park on path to completion

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published June 3, 2015

 Riverbend Park, off Hamlin Road east of Adams, has a new park entrance.

Riverbend Park, off Hamlin Road east of Adams, has a new park entrance.

Photo by Linda Shepard

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ROCHESTER HILLS — The parking lot of the new Riverbend Park, off Hamlin Road east of Adams, is almost complete, along with a new park entrance.

The 70-acre park, which the city purchased in the 1990s, is currently under development thanks to a private donation. Steve and Darlene Stolaruk, on behalf of the Steve and Vivian Stolaruk Foundation, donated $1 million for habitat restoration and to develop the park into walking and jogging paths, and to possibly add canoe and kayak launches.

The Clinton River travels through the park, which also includes two small lakes. City officials aim to take Riverbend Park to the next level and create a regional, world-class outdoor recreation destination that enhances and celebrates the park’s natural features, officials said.

“Two years ago, this park was in a raw state, completely limited, with unsafe access for residents and users,” said Tara Beatty, chief assistant of marketing and communications for Rochester Hills.

“We now have a clear entrance and exit point,”  Beatty said. “Before, there was no parking lot, and (you would) enter at your own risk. This park has had more access in the last six months than in the last six years. That is huge.”

A former dirt utility trail in the park has been paved and will serve as a main spine for future trails.

“As we move forward, we will take it to the next level and include the citizen engagement component that is so critical at this point,” Beatty said. 

By a unanimous vote May 18, the Rochester Hills City Council approved a contract with DesignTeam Plus for park development landscape architect services for up to $100,000.

“We want the city, the shareholders and the residents to be part of the process,” said Ralph Nunez, owner of DesignTeam Plus.

According to Ed Anzek, Rochester Hills’ economic development director, Nunez’s firm is the best choice for the job.

“We solicited bids last fall,” Anzek said. “Ralph is a professor at Lawrence Technological University — he knows the site like the back of his hand; his students know it. It is exciting that the cream rose to the top on this case to select this firm as No. 1.”

In 2012, city officials invited architecture and landscape architecture students from LTU to participate in a design studio for Riverbend Park. As part of the project, students camped on-site and developed potential visions for the area. The subsequent presentations to the Planning Commission inspired residents, including a local philanthropist who contributed additional funding for development of the park in accordance with the initial visions. 

“We are excited to see what your team can bring to Rochester Hills,” City Councilman Greg Hoopers said to Nunez. 

Earlier this year, the city purchased 48.38 acres north of the Clinton River’s north boundary of the park using more than $1 million from the city’s green space millage. In 2005, Rochester Hills voters passed a green space millage to generate funds for protecting and preserving green space areas in the city.

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