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 A Natural Resources Trust Fund grant will bring much-needed improvement, including a kayak launch and a new seawall. to Harrison Township’s Waterfront Park on Jefferson Avenue.

A Natural Resources Trust Fund grant will bring much-needed improvement, including a kayak launch and a new seawall. to Harrison Township’s Waterfront Park on Jefferson Avenue.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

State funds would improve outdoor recreation

By: Nick Mordowanec, Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 2, 2019


CLINTON TOWNSHIP/HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, or NRTF, will support projects for 2019, including three projects in Macomb County.

The NRTF is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights. The fund’s money is constitutionally restricted to recreation improvements and land acquisition.

On March 7, the Michigan House of Representatives approved House Bill 4244, which would authorize the NRTF to use $26 million in restricted funds to support 30 land acquisition projects and 34 development projects. Local matching funds of $15.9 million would bring the total investment to $41.9 million.

On April 25, the Michigan Senate also approved HB 4244, sending the bill back to the House for official approval.

Macomb County would see a $150,000 investment in Harrison Township by the trust fund to make $260,000 in improvements at Waterfront Park along Lake St. Clair. The project would replace the existing seawall and add park amenities, including a kayak launch, a boardwalk, a sidewalk, trees, furnishings and educational exhibits.

Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest said the steel seawall, which is roughly 318 feet, would be completely removed as part of the projects planned at the park. The area would then be replaced with a softer material resembling a rocky slope to allow for improved lake water flow.     

Waterfront Park, located on Jefferson Avenue, south of Shook Road, opened for the season April 27.

Verkest said the seawall project will also improve fishing in the area, which is the type of impact the NRTF wants to see when awarding matching funds.

Verkest said the township will make a 40% match, or $104,000.

“It’s a general acknowledgement that kayaking is an incredibly popular sport,” Verkest said, referring to the kayak launch that will be constructed. The boardwalk and sidewalk improvements will improve access to the launch as well as the lake. “It’s all about greater access to our natural resources.”

The educational exhibits will offer a more in-depth look at the impact of the seawall change.

Clinton Township would receive funding for two projects.

The township would receive $175,000 toward a $250,000 acquisition of residential property that is virtually surrounded by existing township park land. Once acquired, the land would be used for a variety of recreational activities in the popular George George and Woodrow Woody parks.

The township would also get $264,600 for a $378,000 acquisition of 6.3 acres of vacant land near the Clinton River Spillway Drain for public outdoor recreation purposes.

Sen. Michael D. MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, voted for the NRTF projects’ approval, stating in a press release that the grants “will help make our region and state a better place to live, work and raise a family,” as well as “encourage active lifestyles, good health and appreciation of our natural resources.”

He elaborated by phone May 1, saying “it’s a good first step, but we still have a lot of work to do” to protect local resources. He regularly communicates with individuals like Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller on how to better develop the area.

As someone who grew up in Mount Clemens and went to what is now Lake St. Clair Metropark every summer day, he said the lake “is unlike almost any lake in the country.” He said that the county deserves more of these types of projects.

“It’s become a part of a community,” MacDonald said. “It’s why people move to the community, and it’s part of the culture. We want to preserve it and add to anything we can.”

Verkest said it’s hard to say when the projects would get off the ground, as the funds haven’t been sent out just yet.

“I’m optimistic that it will start this year, but it’s unknown if it would be completed (this year),” Verkest said. “A lot of people enjoy that park, and I want people to have continued access.”