Traverse City News and Events

GT Commons To Expand By 40 Acres

Nov. 16, 2016

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has agreed to convey 40 acres of state-owned property to Garfield Township – a move that will expand dedicated public parkland at the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area by nearly 30 percent.

DNR officials confirmed to The Ticker this week the township’s application for the parcel known as “State 40” has been approved. “It’ll go before the DNR director at our next meeting in January (for final sign-off), and then we’ll put together the official public use deed sometime after that,” says Paul Johnson, a specialist in the DNR’s real estate division.

The large swath of forested property abuts the west boundary of the Commons, stretching from the Copper Ridge development over to Carlson Drive and up to North Long Lake Road. Hikers and bikers frequently use the property without realizing it’s not part of the Commons. Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) representatives have tried to secure the parcel for local ownership for over a decade, but state officials demurred, citing a communications tower in use on the property.

After the tower was recently removed, the DNR put the parcel on its “dispose of” list, meaning it could be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Garfield Township Deputy Planner Brian VanDenBrand says GTRLC alerted township officials the property could be sold to a private buyer, potentially opening the door to development on the site.

“This is just isn’t some random piece of property in the middle of nowhere,” says VanDenBrand, referencing the types of parcels typically listed for DNR disposal. “It’s a critical part of the park area and a key piece of the overall trail network.” In their conveyance application, township officials noted “the property is already home to, and the best location for, a number of freeride mountain biking trails. Riders from all over the state come to this property to enjoy these trails.” The annual Conquer the Village Mountain Bike Race depends on the State 40 for its route, officials said.

“The conveyance of this property will allow the township to formally fold it into the planning and management activities which are underway at the overall park, and secure it for the future enjoyment of Traverse City residents and visitors,” the township’s application states.

The DNR’s approval of Garfield Township’s application ensures the site will be used as parkland in perpetuity. Johnson says a deed restriction on the title stipulates that if the property is not used for park or recreation purposes, it reverts back to the state. The state also maintains all mineral rights on the parcel.

With the property soon to be in Garfield Township hands, officials are working on a formal park plan for the entire Commons area that could include future new amenities and recreational enhancements to State 40. In its conveyance application, the township describes its intention to “encourage the development of safe, sustainable freeride trails as part of a multi-discipline biking draw, including the International Mountain Bicycling Association-quality singletrack, the freeride zone, and a to-be-built skills park, pump track and dirt jump area located off North Long Lake Road.”

“The idea is we might have destination mountain bike trails, especially if we can connect it up to Hickory (Meadows),” VanDenBrand says. He calls the existing trail network a “mess right now...there's poor trail design and navigation." He says the township plans to conduct a SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) analysis of the park, then “hand that off to a professional trail designer."

The township’s goal: to eventually create a world-class trail system that accommodates a diverse range of users at the Commons. “We want to recognize all the different groups out there,” VanDenBrand says. “Not just mountain bikers, but hikers and nature watchers too – everyone who uses the park.”

Comment

New Marriott Hotel, Senior Center Projects On Planning Commission Agenda

Read More >>

Hagerty Lays Off 6 Percent Of Global Workforce

Read More >>

Eleven Candidates Vie For City Commission Seat

Read More >>

Michigan State Police To Reopen Traverse City Post

Read More >>

Save The Date: Recess of Giving December 7!

Read More >>

Townships Use Moratoriums To Address Hot-Button Issues

Read More >>

Great Lakes Incubator Farm Receives Nearly $700K Grant

Read More >>

Last Call For City Commission Applicants

Read More >>

How NMC's Newest Degree Could Help Shape Water Cleanup Projects In Michigan And Beyond

Read More >>

Downtown Light Parade Rescheduled For Tuesday

Read More >>

Spotlight On Northern Michigan Artisans, Makers & Crafters

Read More >>

Curling Center On Track For January Opening; More Additions Planned At Kmart Property

Read More >>

Road Project Updates: Hartman-Hammond Bridge, Bluff Road, Veterans/Cedar Run/Voice Resurfacing

Read More >>

Snow, Freeze, Thaw, Melt: How Local Ski Resorts Navigate Big Weather Fluctuations

Read More >>