Mill Creek Park North is Getting a Makover


Mill Creek Park North. Photo: Doug Marrin.

By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

At its November 8, 2021 meeting, the Dexter City Council considered a recommendation by the Parks and Recreation Commission to approve the scope of services by the SmithGroup for the development of a Master Plan for Mill Creek North.

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

The northern part of the park, albeit significantly smaller, maybe better known to surrounding communities by being the trailhead for the B2B Trail leading out to Hudson Mills. This parkside includes river access, a stroll under the historic and picturesque stone railroad trestle, and a playground.

Nestled among history and nature, the playground is a favorite spot for active families to burn off some energy and is at the heart of the Master Plan.

Updating the playground equipment at Mill Creek Park North has been discussed by Dexter’s Parks and Recreation Commission over the summer. The Commission discussed how to best approach updating a playground with such unique features. The typical method for updating any playground is choosing the equipment and installing it, maybe with recommendations from the vendor. But the Commission took a different approach.

Conceptual sketch illustrating some of the possible changes. Image courtesy of SmithGroup.

City Councilmember Jamie Griffin serves as council liaison to Parks and Rec. She explained to the Council reason for recommending a developer.

“People on Parks and Rec felt like Mill Creek Park North is a really unique space,” said Griffin. “There are a lot of surrounding natural elements. We started looking at examples of natural playscapes, something that’s different than your run-of-the-mill wood and metal playground that is put into a rectangular space.”

“It seemed like working with a firm could help us really respect the importance of that space so that it is more than just putting new equipment in there,” added Griffin.

SmithGroup has submitted a proposal of $15,500 to develop the park’s new concept. The project is not a total redesign of the park. The plan is to integrate playground equipment and picnic tables with the natural setting. The addition of outdoor ping-pong tables is included. What role the existing equipment would play is yet undecided.

“I was very excited to see (the plan) included the slope,” said Councilmember Zach Michels during the discussion. “I think that’s a un element that you can’t find in a lot of parks. It would be fun to find some way to make use of that topography.”

Michels drew upon his experience in urban planning to present one caution about the use of wood. “I have installed and maintained a lot of recreational equipment for playgrounds at municipal parks. Wood takes a lot of maintenance, a lot of work. And bees love it. And kids and parents don’t play well with bees.”

Scope of services by SmithGroup include information gathering and analysis, creation of the master plan and graphics, and subsequent meeting with the City to finalize the plan. SmithGroup intends on starting immediately upon approval.

“(Mill Creek) north was always intended to be somewhat more of a playground and the south more passive, more natural and open,” said Mayor Keough. “This is a good time to look at that. I’m in support of doing it.”

Others on the Council agreed. The Council voted unanimously to approve the scope of work from SmithGroup to develop a Mill Creek Park North Master Plan for an amount not to exceed $15,500.

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