February 6, 2017

The Nature Conservancy Awarded 2016 CII Grant for Riverfront Park

Approximately 334 Acres to Enhance Urban Recreational Opportunities: Saginaw River Headwaters Rec Area  

RACER Trust RACER and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) have executed an exclusive option agreement for the transfer of just over 334 acres of former industrial property along the west bank of the Saginaw River, to be used for nature-based, passive recreation activities and an open space resource under the management of the Saginaw County Parks and Recreation Commission.


The property, owned and managed by RACER Trust since 2011, is the site of the former General Motors Saginaw Malleable Metals foundry and Greenpoint Landfill. Potential recreational uses of the proposed Riverfront Park include hiking and biking trails, wildlife viewing, and catch-and-release fishing. Additional trails may connect the site to the Iron Belle Trail, downtown Saginaw and the nearby Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.


“The location and characteristics of this property make it ideally suited for the type of usage envisioned by the MDNR and its local partners,” said Elliott P. Laws, of EPLET, LLC, administrative trustee of RACER Trust. “Communities increasingly are embracing the value of open space and passive recreation resources as a means of enhancing the quality of life and stimulating additional economic development activity nearby. We are pleased to know this property will be in good hands and a benefit to the community moving forward.”


The property, located in the City of Saginaw, is characterized by wetlands, shallow ponds and forested river corridors, providing significant outdoor recreation opportunities near densely populated urban settings.


“The potential benefits of a revitalized and publicly accessible area along the Saginaw River are substantial,” MDNR Director Keith Creagh said. “We expect this resource will serve a large number of people in and around the City of Saginaw, encouraging healthy lifestyles, safe recreational opportunities and wildlife appreciation and conservation, all of which are priorities for MDNR.”


In December, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board of Directors recommended that the state Legislature approve a $290,000 grant from the trust fund, to be used for trail development and safe site accessibility.


The Nature Conservancy’s Michigan chapter also has played an important role in the project, securing grant funding from the Saginaw Community Foundation for preliminary site assessment work and spearheading the collaborative public-private planning process that resulted in the proposed Riverfront Park.


“One of the recommendations in the Report of the Michigan State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel urges the MDNR to use parks and recreation areas as key tools in revitalizing Michigan’s urban areas and to integrate green infrastructure into redevelopment efforts,” said Rich Tuzinsky, Director of Protection for the Michigan chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “As champions of conservation and advocates for open space and recreation, we certainly support that vision and are pleased to play a role in creating this resource for the people of Saginaw and surrounding communities.”


 “This is a unique opportunity to create a tremendous community resource in the heart of Saginaw, and we are thrilled that MDNR, The Nature Conservancy, the Saginaw Community Foundation and RACER Trust worked in partnership with the Saginaw County Parks Department to advance this project to this stage,” said Brian Keenan-Lechel, Executive Director of the Saginaw County Parks Department. “We’re excited for what’s ahead.”