Garfield Township Eyes Potential New Parks
By Beth Milligan | Oct. 9, 2018
Garfield Township has the opportunity to acquire up to four different properties that could become new public parks – with Parks and Recreation commissioners agreeing Monday to add the parcels as targets in the township’s parks plan.
The four properties represent nearly 100 acres that could be added to the township’s park system, with most of the land undeveloped, situated near existing parks, and/or containing a variety of ecoystems including wetlands, woodlands, creeks, and meadows. Parks and Recreation commissioners reviewed details of each site and the pro and cons inherent in attempting to acquire them at their Monday meeting. The parcels include:
Site 1 – Ransom Parcel: Consisting of 18 acres running alongside North Long Lake Road, the Ransom parcel is bordered by Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area property to the south and east. The topography consists of steep slopes and woodlands. Township Planning Director Rob Larrea noted owner John Ransom has had previous discussions with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) about acquiring the property; the Conservancy sometimes assists as an intermediary that can later transfer property ownership to partnering jurisdictions like Garfield Township.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Chris DeGood, who also sits on the TART Trails board of directors, called the property “huge from the standpoint of (maintaining) continuity” of trail systems at the Commons. Other board members agreed, citing the parcel as their top priority of the four on the list. Larrea concurred, but cautioned that the initial listing price offered to the township – which he did not disclose – was “very high” and not a realistic figure. “It’d be a great piece to add to our park system; it’s a piece we’ve had on our radar,” he said. “Out of all these properties, I would see this as number one. But it has to be a reasonable price.”
Site 2 – Miller Creek Drive Parcel: This 9.6-acre site is currently owned by Stuff It Storage and is bordered by Cass Road to the east, the Miller Creek Nature Reserve to the west, a storage facility to the north, and commercial properties to the south. The parcel contains “significant wetlands” and a branch of Miller Creek, according to Larrea, and would be a “logical addition to the Miller Creek Nature Reserve.” However, a developer seeking to build a crematorium on an adjoining parcel to the south “appears to have a purchase option on the parcel and would have to formally offer the property for public ownership,” Larrea says. He said Garfield Township would not actively pursue the parcel while it was under negotiation with another party, but could list it as an aquisition target in the event a deal doesn't go through.
Site 3 – Lewis Parcel: Owned by the James P. Lewis Trust, this 21-acre property is located between Buffalo Ridge Center to the north, the Stoneridge subdivision to the west, several US-31-fronting businesses to the east, and a large parcel home to First Christian Church to the south. The parcel contains two branches of Kids Creek, significant wetlands, and woodlands. “It’s a beautiful piece of property that’s very sensitive with two creeks going through it,” says Larrea. “It’s been on our radar for some time…it’d be very nice for our park system.”
According to the township planner, the primary challenges with the property include access – it does not adjoin any existing township parkland, as Buffalo Ridge Center sits between the property and the Kids Creek Park to the north, and easements to the site are unclear – as well as the property’s value. The owner has requested the township make an offer on the site, rather than setting his own price for the parcel. Garfield Township “typically does not conduct appraisals on parcels under these circumstances,” Larrea says.
Site 4 – Traverse City Light & Power Parcel (pictured): The final property includes a nearly 50-acre site on Cedar Run Road just west of Barney Road owner by Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P). As previously reported by The Ticker, the TCL&P board has authorized utility Executive Director Tim Arends to explore potential uses for the property, including installing a solar array and/or selling off some of the land. The property used to be a dumping pit for coal ash from the former Bayside Power Plant, rendering approximately 10 acres of the site unfit for development.
Parks and Recreation members noted the property could not only make an attractive public park but could provide a Safe Routes to School connection for walkers and cyclists to reach Traverse City West Senior High School. The property is also only one parcel away from Hickory Hills. Larrea pointed out the deal would involve a transfer from one public entity to another – the city-owned TCL&P to Garfield Township – but cautioned the utility’s public discussions about potential uses for the property have generated “some development pressure" on the site.
While Parks and Recreation commissioners agreed the Ransom parcel near the Commons was their top priority for an acquisition, the board and staff also concurred that all four parcels should be pursued. “Whether it’s trail connectivity, or expansion of a park, or protection of environmentally sensitive areas adjacent to residential districts, they all have some type of value,” Larrea said. DeGood made a motion to amend the township’s parks plan to list all four parcels as targeted acquisitions, citing the fact the board “determined that they all have relevant value to park opportunities in Garfield Township.” The motion was unanimously supported by commissioners.
Larrea tells The Ticker amending the parks plan doesn’t commit the township to purchasing all four properties, but clears the way for Garfield Township to begin pursuing funding opportunities for the projects. “For us to get a grant from the state, for example, it has to be supported by the (parks plan),” Larrea says. “So this will allow us to go out and apply for grants for those (properties).”