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Wayne Co. parks to get $2.5M in improvements this year

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans Thursday said the county plans to make $2.5 million in upgrades to some county parks.

“Wayne County citizens should be proud of their park system,” Evans said. “If we’re going to continue to grow as a community, we have to grow those parks and the amenities that are there.”

Evans made the announcement during a media conference held at his offices in downtown Detroit. He was joined by officials with the parks division of the county’s Public Services Department. The department also oversees county roads, buildings and environmental services.

Anthony Ni, 15 of Rochester enjoys some fishing on the shoreline of Elizabeth Lake Park in Trenton on Thursday.

He also said another $1.25 million will be allocated to parks and recreational programs that are managed by Wayne County cities and townships. The funding is part of the county’s capital improvement plan for this year.

“If you don’t have solid parks, you don’t have a good community,” Evans said. “I think we have a great park system. I think we’re doing a good job, but I think we can do better.”

Wayne County has 37 parks that cover more than 5,600 acres and two golf courses, a boat marina and a water park. The parks host more than 500 events and educational programs annually.

The parks division has an annual budget of about $15.3 million, the lion’s share of which comes from an annual county parks millage that generates about $9 million. Voters first approved the millage in 1996, and it’s been renewed three times since then. County residents will be asked again to renew the property tax on the Aug. 2 primary election.

According to the county, the $2.5 million being spent on upgrades is on par with previous years.

Officials said this year’s capital improvement plan focuses on 17 projects at five parks. The plan calls for installing new equipment, assessing critical infrastructure, improving facilities and developing bike and hike trails.

Photos are of the shoreline of Elizabeth Lake park in Trenton, June 16, 2016.

Among the upgrades planned for this year:

■Hines Park, a 17-mile parkway that stretches across a number of communities including Northville, Livonia and Dearborn Heights.

Improvements include a new swing set with a baby swing added to the Gunsolly Mills area, new fencing around the bench area of the baseball fields at Nankin Mills Park A & B, as well as a new boardwalk and trailhead parking at the Holliday Nature Preserve. Restroom facilities in some areas will also be upgraded to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

■Elizabeth Park, a 162-acre island park on the Detroit River in Trenton.

Improvements include a 4,000-feet-long, 10-foot-wide bike and hike trail along Jefferson Avenue as well as the restoration of the shoreline habitat in the park’s canal, removal of invasive species, the construction of five fishing platforms and improved access for canoeing and kayaking.

■Crosswinds Marsh, a 1,000-acre park on wetlands in Sumpter Township.

The park will get a new restroom facility, something it hasn’t had in two decades, officials said.

Don Nicholson, president of the Friends of Nankin Mills, welcomed the news. The group is a volunteer organization that works to preserve a historic mill, which is now used as a nature center, and support the park. Located on Ann Arbor Trail in Westland, the mill was built in the 1840s to grind grain.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “We love to see positive things going on in the community and at the park.”

Beverly Watts, director of the county’s Public Services Department and interim director of its parks division, said the capital improvement plan helps sustain the county’s parks and strengthens the county’s communities.

“It’s very important to us that we continue to make our parks system user-friendly for everyone,” she said. “We want to make sure our parks are for everyone.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058