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Rochester Hills wetlands get new life

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Rochester Hills – A wooded wetlands tucked inside the campus of Rochester College is being revitalized, with plans to transform the 30-acre site into a public service learning park.

Plans for Lake Norcentra Park include a 50-seat amphitheater, restoration of a patio overlooking Lake Norcentra, walking trails and arched entryways into the campus from the trail. The improvements, projected to cost $5 million.

The park surrounds the lake of the same name, with its northernmost point where the Clinton River and the Clinton River Trail meet.

It’s a popular spot among students, but school officials want to make Lake Norcentra Park a destination for Rochester Hills residents and raise the profile of the small Christian college, which has just over 1,100 students. One of Metro Detroit’s smaller and lesser-known colleges, the school was founded in 1959 by members of the Churches of Christ as North Central Christian College.

“I was so impressed with the area when I arrived two years ago,” said college president John Tyson. “It has an ‘Up North’ feel, but it’s within the city. Our goal is to create a space with learning opportunities for students, while displaying the beauty of the park and engaging the community.”

The idea for Lake Norcentra Park was born from discussions between Tyson and BT Irwin, a 1996 RC graduate, about how to expand the school’s mission while giving back to the city of Rochester Hills.

“This initially started out as a labor of love,” said Irwin, who is the project’s contractor. “It’s a beautiful space with historical landmarks and we thought why not dedicate this space for community involvement?”

Tyson said the project’s cost could decrease or increase based on funding received from government grants, foundations and corporations.

In partnership with Rochester College, Home Depot has donated time and materials to help clean up the park and add picnic tables and benches, which volunteers put together and installed last week.

“It has been a continuous effort in helping to rehabilitate this area,” said Bernard Shabow, the assistant store manager of Home Depot in Rochester Hills. “It’s really important to our company to be able to give back and make the community better. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Tiffany Taylor, who has lived in Rochester Hills for over seven years, thinks the new park will be a nice amenity for the area.

“I wasn’t even aware that there would a park on campus, but I think it would be a nice, safe place to take my daughter,” Taylor said. “Plus, it’s a way to expose her to being on a college campus while enjoying nature.”


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