Royal Oak to submit grant for arboretum improvements

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 2, 2019

 The city of Royal Oak recently resolved to submit a grant application to pave wood chip  trails and add an accessible picnic table and benches at the Royal Oak Arboretum.

The city of Royal Oak recently resolved to submit a grant application to pave wood chip trails and add an accessible picnic table and benches at the Royal Oak Arboretum.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK — On March 25, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously authorized city staff to submit an application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passport grant program for the paving of trails at the Royal Oak Arboretum, 920 Windermere Ave.

The scope of work would include paving 1,300 feet of existing wood chip trails at the site to expand access to people of all ages and abilities, as well as installing a picnic table and benches compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The proposed project would cost $110,500, with 75 percent — or $82,800 — supplied by the Recreation Passport grant program, and 25 percent — or $27,700 — by the city of Royal Oak.

Julie Lyons Bricker, the city’s grants coordinator and management analyst, said the grant is intended to develop and renovate outdoor recreation areas and facilities and that other municipalities in Michigan have utilized it for projects such as trails, picnic areas, beaches, campgrounds, boating access and fishing areas.

Bob Muller, of the Royal Oak Nature Society, said the city began developing the arboretum approximately 11 years ago. It began as a waste area behind the Royal Oak Community Center overtaken by invasive plants, he said.

“The decision was made to try to have a collection of all the trees native to the state of Michigan that weren’t in either Tenhave Woods or Cummingston (Park) and develop a few other plant communities that used to be here, when the settlers first arrived, as a good teaching aid,” Muller said. “I built half the trails, along with Eagle Scout projects.”

He said the arboretum trails began as dirt trails, but plant life kept sprouting up and it became difficult to differentiate the paths from the rest of the land. The city then placed wood chips on the paths.

“It took, like, 15-20 yards of wood chips. You needed almost 6 inches deep,” Muller said. “The first year, they lasted three to four years. Now that the fungus that eats the wood is on the trails, 8 inches of wood chips lasts one year.”

With a handful of volunteers who maintain the paths, many of them being older, the maintenance has become difficult. The wood chip paths are also difficult for anyone using a  wheelchair or who has difficulty walking, Muller said.

“We need hard-surface trails. This would also allow us to run nature programs for people that have handicaps,” he said. “We’re trying to add a jewel to the nature system that the city of Royal Oak has. We’ve dreamed of this for a few years.”

Muller added that the trails at the arboretum are named after Royal Oak Schools teachers who have worked in the city’s nature parks.

“We have street signs provided by (Department of Public Service and Recreation Director) Greg Rassel with the names of these teachers on them,” he said.

Several city commissioners expressed support for the proposed grant.

“The more access we get to it, the better,” Mayor Michael Fournier said.

A requirement for the grant application is to allow the public a chance to provide input, but no residents spoke on the topic during the allotted time for the agenda item.

“It is really great to see us acting on grant opportunities,” Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said. “We’ve been talking about it a long time, and it is of tremendous value.”

The Royal Oak Arboretum is located 920 Windermere Ave., on the southeast corner of Lexington Boulevard and Marais Avenue. The approximately 4-acre park is located behind the Royal Oak Community Center.

For more information, call (248) 246-3380 or email naturesociety@romi.gov.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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