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Details released of proposed new Lake Michigan park near Muskegon

More details of a planned new Lake Michigan park have been released by Muskegon County, which has applied for a $10 million state grant for the project.

Muskegon County officials have requested just over $10 million from the DNR Trust Fund to purchase the former Nugent Sand mining property in Norton Shores for a 377-acre public park with space for camping, hiking, fishing and kayaking.

The grant application requests $10,075,200 from the DNR Trust Fund, or two-thirds of the land’s appraised value of $14.9 million.  The remaining third of the purchase costs would be funded through a land value donation from the sand mining company and its owner, Robert Chandonnet, and funds raised by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.

The property includes both land and water, with 1,917 feet of Lake Michigan frontage, two inland lakes, wooded areas and critical dune land. It has been for sale for the last two years, and is visible from Sherman Boulevard near the city of Muskegon’s Kruse Park.

The total parcel is just over 376 acres, between Lincoln Road on the east, and Lake Michigan on the west. The two inland lakes are divided to the north and south by the dirt Winnetaska Road.  According to new renderings submitted with the grant applications, the area north of Winnetaska comprises 95 acres of land, including 2.2 miles of potential hiking trails and 1,262 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline. The north lake is about 67 acres.

A small campground area is proposed for the crook of the north lake, which is shaped like a letter C.  The area south of Winnetaska comprises nearly 94 acres of land, including 2.1 miles of potential hiking trails, and 400 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline. The south lake is about 120 acres, and contains a small island.

The proposal was first presented before an enthusiastic community audience in February, and the move to apply for the grant was approved by the county in March. The grant application was submitted on the deadline of April 1, according to Caitlin Hegedus, marketing and operations manager for the county’s visitors bureau, who finalized and submitted the application.

The county will learn in December whether the application has been accepted.  The county would not pay for any portion of the purchase, commissioners have said.  The state requires two appraisals on the land, but only one – conducted by Nordlund & Associates, a Ludington-based firm, valuing the land at $14.9 million – has been conducted so far.  The second appraisal will be conducted in September, Hegedus said, after the DNR releases its initial scoring of the project, indicating how strong the considered projects are.

DNR trust fund grants are considered competitive April Scholtz of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan previously told MLive. In addition to committing to fundraising for the project, the land conservancy is unofficially advising the county as it navigates the application, Scholtz added.

Such a grant has been awarded for similar projects in the region, including the Ottawa Sands park in Ottawa County.

As part of the application process, Muskegon County conducted its own Phase 1 Environmental Study, which examines soil and water for contamination, Bob Lukens, Muskegon County Community Development director, told the Norton Shores City Council on Tuesday, May 26.

That study found that the inland lakes have elevated levels of manganese and iron. The county will have to develop a response plan to remediate those contaminants if it receives the grant, according to Hegedus.

“It’s not an initial concern,” she said.  After the initial scoring comes out, the county may submit letters of support from other partners, such as neighboring municipalities, and any additional information or data requested by the trust fund, according to Hegedus.  But, she added, the county is holding off on approaching most of those partners until the coronavirus emergency lifts.  “We’re in a holding pattern until we get the initial scoring,” she said.

County commissioners have previously said that, if the county is approved for the grant, the board would still have to decide whether to formally make an offer to the landowner. That wouldn’t occur until December at the earliest, officials have said.

If the county acquires the land, it will become available to the public within 90 days of sale, according to Lukens.

At a public hearing before the county commission on Tuesday, March 3, several members of the public referred to the proposal as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Others, as well as one county commissioner, expressed concerns about costs lost by not privately developing the land instead, and startup and ongoing maintenance costs.

The Nugent Sand company mined Lake Michigan dune sand for over 100 years, beginning in 1912.

It has been considered for private development on several occasions over the years since its mining operations ceased, including a 2013 proposal to construct a $50 million gated residential community on 200 acres of the property.

But Denny Cherette, a representative for Chandonnet, the landowner, has said that Chandonnet is most interested in letting the property become a public resource.


Posted By: mlive on June 2, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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