GLADSTONE - Thanks to investments from the local community, Pioneer Trail Park has experienced a transformation and is now a full-service camping destination.
According to some officials, two years ago the park was in major disrepair.
"There was a hole in the women's john's ceiling, rain, bugs; whatever coming in. It was a mess," said Rory Mattson, executive director of the Delta Conservation District, which operates Pioneer Trail Park.
New playground equipment is only one of the upgrades made to Pioneer Trail Park. Other improvements include remodeled bathrooms, new electrical wiring and a new commercial washer and dryer set. (Daily Press photo by Ilsa Matthes)
Since then, the women's bathroom building has been re-roofed, and new countertops and stall doors have been installed.
The Conservation District has only been operating the park for two years.
"We determined after one year that there were electrical/water problems that were just embarrassing," said Mattson. "It wasn't only throwing breakers, it was actually burning out wires because the wires that were put in before just weren't proper."
The park has undergone some serious changes in the last two years. To date, the Conservation District has spent $135,000 on infrastructure changes, new electrical, and water in Pioneer and Fuller parks.
In January, the Delta County Board of Commissioners accepted a request for a loan to work on the parks. "We went to the board and last fall they decided to loan up to $200,000 to improve the parks for the people," said Mattson. "It's a loan, which will be paid back with interest, so it's not like they just gave the parks $200,000 and said, 'go have fun.'"
Both parks have used a portion of the funding to create more campsites. "We will have the capacity for 100 sites now at Pioneer, so thats a big upgrade, and at Fuller we're moving up for 25 to 45," said Mattson. "All this could not have been done without the current Delta County Commissioners."
Pioneer Trail Park boasts wireless Internet access and cable television at all of its electrical sites. "It's a nice addition for them," said Stephen Wery, park manager.
Another major project at Pioneer is new playground equipment.
"We put in a brand new children's playground, which is just open to the community. That was quite expensive. That was about $56,000," said Mattson.
The $200,000 loan isn't the only way that the Conservation District is funding the upgrades. Numerous groups, including the Hannahville Indian Community, Plum Creek, and the Community Foundation of the U.P., have helped with grants and donations.
The Conservation District is still pursuing grants for projects like picnic tables, fire rings and grills. "We have just under $100,000 in grants written," said Wery.
Money has also come from fundraisers, including a radio telethon, a millionaire party, and returning pop cans found in the park. "We've probably raised about $500 just on bloomin' pop cans," said Mattson.
One of the goals is to have the parks be self-sufficient. "We bought a four-wheel drive John Deere Tractor with all the attachments so we can do the work, and don't have to constantly be having contractors come in, because it gets pretty expensive. We've had them do a lot. But we can do some of the stuff on our own," said Mattson.
The tractor was purchased with a grant from the Hannahville Indian Community.
Improvements planned for Pioneer Trail Park include a new pavilion and an 18-hole frisbee golf course. Fuller beach will be receiving a 50-foot sand beach next year.
"The buzz has already gotten around," said Wery. "I really believe that in the next five years, our parks will be comparable to any park in upper Michigan and a leader to most."