Dexter Seeks $500K Grant for Park Upgrade

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The City of Dexter is requesting state grant funding for a makeover of one of its popular city parks.

Dexter’s Mill Creek Park is bisected by Main Street. The southern section is the large visible natural area that includes a riverwalk leading to a one-mile city trail through wetlands, exiting near Creekside School.

The northern part of the park, albeit significantly smaller, might be known to surrounding communities as the trailhead for the B2B Trail leading out to Hudson Mills. “Mill Creek Park North” features river access, a stroll under the historic and picturesque stone railroad trestle, and a playground. Smaller and tucked away out of sight behind the fire station, Mill Creek Park North very well could be as busy as its counterpart across the road, if not more.

In the world of recreational spaces, with much love comes much wear and tear. Dexter’s Parks & Recreation Commission has its sights set on upgrading the outdoor hotspot. But as ideas and concepts have grown for the park, perhaps “reimagining” is a more accurate description.

To help crystalize the vision, per Parks & Rec recommendation, the City Council approved $15,500 in Nov. 2021 for the Smith Group to develop a master plan for the park/playground.

Priorities outlined in the master plan include:

  • Improved lighting for better safety and longer hours of use.
  • Public restrooms.
  • Playground improvements that could include multiple themed playscapes and a treehouse.
  • A slide coming down the slope from Alpine St.
  • Greater ADA compliance for the playground equipment and accessibility.
  • Improved accessibility for the general population.
  • A shelter for group events/rentals.

At its Dec. 12, 2022 meeting, the City Council approved the city’s application to the Michigan Dept of Natural Resources SPARK Grant Program for $500,000 for the Mill Creek Park North makeover. The grant encourages but doesn’t require municipalities to put up an eligible financial match. Dexter is committing $200,000 in matching funds.

The grant monies, administered by the MDNR, are Federal funds from the Coronavirus American Rescue Plan. A total of $65 million was designated for Michigan. Individual grant amounts range from $100,000 to $1 million.

From its website, the MDNR explains, “Projects must support and enhance neighborhood features that promote improved health and safety outcomes or address the increased repair or maintenance needs in response to significantly greater use of public facilities in local communities that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The $65 million will be distributed in three rounds in 2023. If the city is not awarded a grant in the first round at the end of January, it plans to revise the application and resubmit in a subsequent round.

Photo: Mill Creek Park North. Photo by Doug Marrin.

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