Changes eyed at Rapid River Falls Park

RAPID RIVER — A project proposed by the Delta Conservation District (DCD) could bring major changes to Rapid River Falls Park in the coming years.

The developed portion of Rapid River Falls Park currently consists of a two-acre day use area. However, Delta County owns 80 acres of land in the area.

“The majority of that park has not been developed at all,” DCD Executive Director Rory Mattson said.

If the project goes forward as proposed, the 40 acres of the park closest to County Road I-39 would become the location of several new campsites.

“That’s where the campground will be,” Mattson said. The campground, which would not be visible from the road, would include a total of 25 campsites with electrical hookups. Water would be available from the park’s flowing well.

In the back half of the park, a trail would be established as part of the project.

“We’re going to put in a … four-wheeler trail,” Mattson said. This trail would be about three-quarters of a mile long.

In addition to the trail, Mattson said Rapid River Falls Park could serve as a “hub” for four-wheeling enthusiasts looking to travel around the area. This is due to the park’s location near a legal trail crossing of U.S. 41.

“This (park) is situated perfectly for that purpose,” he said.

According to Mattson, the campground’s focus on four-wheeling would make it unique among the area’s camping facilities.

“There are none in the Upper Peninsula that I know of,” he said.

The possibility of making major improvements to Rapid River Falls Park has been discussed since 2008, and the project is included in the five-year and 20-year Delta County recreational park plans. The DCD took over the county’s parks in 2010, but it has not been able to focus on Rapid River Falls Park before now due to constraints on time, manpower, and finances.

“We had to work on Pioneer (Trail Park) and Fuller (Park) first,” Mattson said.

Currently, the DCD is preparing a grant application for the project plans to submit it to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the coming months.

“We have to have that grant submitted to the (DNR) by the first of April,” Mattson said.

Once the grant application is submitted, Mattson said, he expects to wait for at least a year before work on the project can move forward.

“We don’t expect to do anything until … the summer of 2019 and, realistically, 2020,” Mattson said.

Last month, the DCD held a public meeting to give people in the area a chance to share their thoughts on the Rapid River Falls Park project before the grant application for this project is submitted. Mattson said the meeting, which was held at the Delta County Service Center on Jan. 18, went well.

“Nobody spoke against the project at all,” he said.

Some people shared concerns related to the project, which Mattson said DCD representatives at the meeting were able to address. One of the concerns was the proposed changes would affect the section of Rapid River Falls Park which has already been developed; however, this would not be the case.

“We will not be altering the … day use area at Rapid River Falls Park,” Mattson said.

People still hoping to share their thoughts on the project will be able to attend the DCD’s next regular meeting. The meeting will be held on Feb. 13 at the USDA Service Center in Gladstone at 6 p.m.

Mattson said he believes the project would be a boon to the area.

“I think this is going to be a really good thing … for those who ride four-wheelers,” he said.