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New sports field, 5K trail at Livingston County’s new park

Jennifer Timar
Livingston Daily Press & Argus

Genoa Township – Farmer Raymond Fillmore had a vision for the 198 acres he owned along McClements and Kellogg roads in Genoa Township.

In 2006, Fillmore’s trust willed his land to Livingston County with a set of instructions. He wanted it to be a park with active recreation, like sports fields.

After years of planning and months of construction, the county’s new Fillmore County Park is now open, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Following a groundbreaking ceremony this spring, the county constructed a multi-purpose sports field for baseball, softball, soccer and other sports near the northeast corner of Kellogg and McClements roads.

Fillmore’s trust specified that any sports fields built there be dedicated to Jack LaBelle, a 44-year county commissioner who died at 83 in 2016. LaBelle is credited with establishing the county’s EMS service. County officials dedicated the county’s public safety complex in Howell Township in his name when it opened in 2012. He was also passionate about parks and recreation and served as a member of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks board of directors.

The new park also features a 5K trail on about 80 acres through the eastern portion of the property. It also features a new entrance drive, parking area and handicapped-accessible restroom facilities.

Earlier this year, county officials decided to dedicate the trail to late Livingston County Administrator Ken Hinton, who died suddenly at 62 in October. Hinton became the county administrator in 2015 after working as the administrator of Wexford County.

Livingston County Planning Department Director Kathleen Kline-Hudson said county officials are in discussions with the Howell Area Parks and Recreation Authority and South Eastern Livingston County Recreation Authority about possible uses of the sports field.

“It’s a huge field and it can be marked up in many ways for different sports,” and sports programs can bring in equipment like nets and bases, Kline-Hudson said.

“We’re going to have to phase-in use of that field because the grass has to establish itself,” she said.

She said some people, mostly families who live near the park, have already been walking, running and walking dogs on the 5K trail.

“A group of boys was practicing cross-country running to prepare for school. We’d like to get more cross-country events out there,” she said.

County Commissioner Doug Helzerman said county officials are likely to consider more improvements to the park as funding becomes available.

“It’s really a very nice property with a lot of nice possibilities, a large open field and a trail that goes more into the wooded areas,” Helzerman, who serves on the county’s Parks Committee, said.

He said one idea county officials have discussed is adding a playground that people with disabilities could use.

He said he thinks a playground would be a good addition to the park sometime in the future.

He said the county could use more parks, but securing funding for improvements can be challenging.

“There are other places in the county where people may want to donate property to the county for that sort of use, and the county has limited ability to fund it,” he said.

The first phase of improvements to the park came in over budget due to rising construction costs, Kline-Hudson said.

The county received a state Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, which required the county cover 50% of the estimated project cost of $172,000.

“The county put in more than their $86,000. The extra funds came from the Board of Commissioners and the Livingston County Foundation,” Kline-Hudson said. She said she did not immediately know the final project cost.

Two townships and the city of Howell also contributed funds. Genoa Township contributed $20,000. Marion Township contributed $3,000, and $2,000 came from the city of Howell.