Upgrades planned at county parks

ESCANABA — Delta County’s parks will officially open for the season on Monday, May 13. Rory Mattson, executive director of the Delta Conservation District (DCD), said the district is planning to make a number of improvements to these parks in the coming months.

At Pioneer Trail Park in Wells, efforts to install a new sewer system in the park’s main campground area will ideally be starting soon.

“We’re putting in a sewer system for 28 sites,” Mattson said.

A bid request for work on the system was recently sent out by the conservation district. Bids are due May 10.

The sewer project is expected to cost about $40,000 to finish. Delta County will contribute an estimated $33,500 towards the project, which should increase yearly revenues at Pioneer Trail Park by more than $6,000.

Mattson said he would like to begin work on the sewer project once a bidder is chosen.

“As soon as they can start, we’ll start,” he said.

Pioneer Trail Park’s paved road system is also slated to get an upgrade this summer.

“We’ll repave all that,” Mattson said.

The repavement is expected to cost a total of $20,000. Delta County and the Delta County Road Commission have both made commitments to support the project, agreeing to fund it by $10,000 each.

Work on the repaving project will be done by the road commission. Mattson said he expects work to start after July 4.

Pioneer Trail Park will be affected by another road project this summer. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s work on the U.S. 2 and 41 bridge over the Escanaba River is scheduled to wrap up in late June.

Mattson said the completion of the project should encourage greater numbers of people to visit Pioneer Trail Park.

“I think it’ll help a lot,” he said.

The sewer project is expected to boost business at Pioneer Trail Park, as well. However, one important factor determining park attendance numbers is out of the district’s control.

“The major thing is warm weather and not a lot of rain,” Mattson said.

With the impending end of the bridge project, Mattson said Pioneer Trail Park will need a new entrance sign. The park’s previous sign was removed when bridge work started and was already in poor condition before this.

“It’s in pretty bad shape,” Mattson said.

The cost for a new sign has been estimated at $5,000.

At Rapid River Falls Park, a 25-site ORV/ATV campground and a new motorized trail will be established in 2020, with work starting this year. Mattson said the county was recently awarded a grant for the project.

“We just got the contract in the mail from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund,” he said.

The grant will cover $87,000 of the project’s total cost, which has been estimated as $118,000. Mattson said the county has committed to providing approximately $29,000 in support of the project; the Delta Conservation District will contribute $2,000, as well. The project is expected to increase annual revenues at Rapid River Falls Park by $12,000.

Along with this work, Mattson said the district plans to put in two new road signs at an estimated cost of $1,500, install a gate for about $500 and fix a flowing well casing, which should cost roughly $1,500, at Rapid River Falls Park.

At Fuller Park in Bark River, campsites 30-33 will be lifted in response to water table-related issues.

“Because of the high (groundwater), we’re getting water on those sites,” Mattson said.

The work should cost $10,000, but it is expected to increase the park’s annual revenue by $5,000 once completed.

In addition, efforts to create six new rustic campsites should be completed this year. The project is expected to cost about $5,000.

Plans are also in place to pave a gravel wheelchair ramp by the park’s bathhouse. Paving work will likely cost about $2,000, and the DCD has applied for a Community Foundation for Delta County grant for this.

A fence separating property the county bought to expand Fuller Park and nearby residential property is set to be built this year.

“We’re going to put a divider fence … between the new property the county bought and the adjacent landowner,” Mattson said.

The fence will cost an estimated cost of $1,000.

A flowing well casing will be fixed at Fuller Park at a cost of roughly $500.

Work towards establishing new lakefront campsites at Fuller Park will also get started in 2019.

“We’re going to start removing the trees for (at least nine) additional sites along the lake,” Mattson said. However, the lakefront campsite project will not be completed this year.

No projects are planned for Sac Bay County Park in 2019, Mattson said.

“We won’t be doing anything there this year,” he said.

Work at Sac Bay — including the installation of new road signs and gravel road work — is expected to take place in 2020 or 2021.

Mattson also touched on plans for the Delta County Forest in Cornell Township, which is included in Delta County’s park system. U.P. Whitetails and Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County were recently awarded a habitat improvement grant for wildlife by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“They received (a $65,000) grant to do wildlife rehabilitation work and recreational trails,” Mattson said.

The wildlife groups are contributing a combined total of $20,000 for th rehab work and trails.

Habitat improvement efforts at the Delta County Forest will be completed in mid-2020.

“That’ll be a two-year project, but the majority of money will be spent this year,” Mattson said.

Work set to take place in 2019 at the county forest includes the creation of wildlife openings and trails, along with the planting of half the trees and shrubs included in the project.

Additionally, barriers will be installed, three new gates will replace existing berms and regular road maintenance will be done at the county forest in the future.

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