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| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin | dmarrin@thesuntimesnews.com |

Congestion at the Mast Rd. bridge over the Huron River is well-known to Dexter area residents as paddlers and tubers crowd the spot and its easy access to the river. Vehicles are often parked in areas where parking is prohibited, often leaving the driver’s side of their vehicle partially on Huron River Drive. Clusters of people are frequently in the road carrying their river gear.

In an effort to keep people from clotting their small parking lot for hours, the party store on the corner of Huron River Drive, Mast Road, and Joy Road (it’s a 5-point corner) began offering free parking on their empty lot across Joy Road, complete with a porta-potty.

Looking for a solution to the ongoing problem, Dexter City Council is in discussion with several other organizations about the possible purchase of property on the corner of Huron River Drive and Mast Road.

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At City Council’s Sept. 9 meeting, City Development Manager Michelle Aniol gave an update on the process. Her complete report can be found at this link beginning on page 55.

Here is what she had to say regarding the river property:

Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) Mast Rd/Huron River Dr. Property Discussion:

On August 20th staff (and Councilman Cousins) attended a meeting at the HRWC offices with select HRWC staff and Barry Lonik. The purpose of the meeting was to restart discussions regarding the possible purchase of property at the corner of Huron River Dr and Mast Rd (see attached parking lot concept sketch).

For some in the group, there is an urgency to secure the property, as some members of the group believe the opportunity may not present itself again. During the meeting, we identified the Huron Clinton Metropark Authority (HCMA), Webster Township, Washtenaw County Parks and the Washtenaw County Sheriff as agencies/organizations that needed to be part of the future discussions, as well as the property owners.

Councilman Cousins offered to follow-up with the property owner and HRWC is talking with a real estate agent interested in waterfront land protection.

Background:

Council will recall the City’s 2016-2021 Park and Recreation Plan established a variety of goals and objectives, which reflect the community’s desires regarding future recreation in the City and among other things, includes improving access to the Huron River, at the Mast Road Bridge. To achieve those goals, the Commission created an action item to develop and implement solutions to improve access to the Huron River, at the Mast Road Bridge. Relevant excerpts from the Park and Recreation plan accompany this report, to help provide context on this item.

Post Meeting Update:

After the initial meeting, staff consulted with the City Manager and Mr. Cousins and then emailed the group some points to consider regarding the boundaries of the property, in relation to the Huron River. Attached to this report you will find an aerial photo map (Washtenaw County GIS) of the property and surrounding area.

The following bullet- points provide context for what you see on the map:

  • The subject property (dashed yellow line) abuts a side stream (light blue line), however, it does not directly abut the Huron River (dark blue line).
  • The light green areas represent property that is owned by the HCMA.
  • The red circled areas on the north side of the Huron River, directly to the east and west of the Mast Road Bridge represent public road ROW, which is under the jurisdiction of the
    Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC).
  • The side stream branches off from the Huron River and meanders between HCMA property and private properties on the south side of Huron River Dr, west of the Mast Road Bridge, before reconnecting with the Huron River, just before the Mast Rd bridge.
  • The flow of the side stream is intermittent and the depth of the side stream is not sufficient to float a kayak, canoe, tube, etc.

The following are questions staff suggested the group consider, and offer them for council’s consideration, as well:

  • Will people need to walk their kayaks, canoes, tubes and other watercraft from the property to the Huron River?
  • How feasible or safe would it be to walk to the actual put-in location?
  • What is the condition of the area between the side stream and the point at which it
    connects to the Huron River?
  • What buy-in from and coordination with HCMA and WCRC will be needed?
  • Since the County GIS map is general information, how much will it cost to determine
    ownership of HCMA properties, as well as those under the jurisdiction of the WCRC?

Additionally, Councilman Cousins followed-up with the property owners. Though that conversation he found out that their contract with the current listing agent expired over the Labor Day weekend, which was them contemplating their next steps, and that the property owners are split on whether 1) to see the property end up as a public space or 2) to sell the property quickly.

HRWC has encouraged the group to “go see the property next week” and Mr. Cousins will help arrange it. HRWC is also following up with the County and HCMA.

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