Manchester Approves River Raisin Park Contract

By Seth Kinker,

Monday, Mar. 5 the Manchester Village Council unanimously approved a contract from  SmithGroupJJR, an integrated architecture, engineering and planning firm, for the design development, construction documents, bids, and construction observation of the new River Raisin Park in downtown Manchester this summer in the amount of $48,000.

The park will be developed with a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Trust Fund Grant with Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation. The grant resolution, passed in September, was the only resolution needed for the park project and was needed by the MDNR to show the Village’s commitment to the project. Passing of this resolution will “appropriate fall funds necessary to complete the project during the project period and to provide $320,000 dollars to match the grant authorized by the MDNR.” The park will include a boardwalk, a boat launch, a canoe livery, and a fishing pier with hopes to draw visitors to downtown businesses.

Conversations at the Village Council Meeting on Mar. 5 included council voicing their concerns regarding the delay in the project, with dredging and construction both delayed since last fall.

Neal Billetdeaux, a senior landscape architect, was on hand and agreed to increase construction meetings from a prior agreed six, to twelve meetings throughout construction.

The dredging of the pond wasn’t able to be worked in with all the permits and bid document work that goes along with the project, Village Manager Jeff Wallace said that the bids for dredging will go out next week and should be back by mid-April. It will not be able to start, however, until after June 31 due to environmental quality regulations

SmithGroupJJR has been working with the village for several years and they’ve collaborated on the grant application and preliminary design of the park as the park has gotten closer and closer to reality.

If it seems like this project has been a long time coming, it has, Wallace spoke to The Sun Times about the work that has been put in to get to the point of contract approval for the new park.

We started about seven years ago working with the River Raisin Watershed and they were putting their master plan together. We’d like to get recreation in the village along the River Raisin included and also be able to have a water trail designated from Sharon Mills to the Village of Manchester,” said Wallace. “We applied for the grant, I think, three years ago, the MDNR trust fund grant. We were turned down but we learned from that application process, then applied again last year. A year ago in December, we were told that we were selected but that goes into the next budget year, when the state puts its budget in place. It’s not a one year process, it’s a lot of work that goes into that,” added Wallace. “It was in our parks master plan, we reaffirmed that in the five-year plan we just did jointly with the township, we were happy we were able to work with them. We actually just got news that that plan got approved too.”

The Village and SmithGroupJJR have a history together, even though this is the first recreational project they are collaborating on, they did help design the key project that redid downtown Manchester.

Wallace said that it’s probably been around 25 years since a new park has been installed in the village.

“What we’re hoping is to help create more placemaking in the Village of Manchester where people will have more activities to do,” said Wallace. “We’re excited we get to work with Washtenaw County Parks and hopefully be able to work with them as we did on this grant. We told the state we’d work with them to have a canoe livery there to run from Sharon Mills, one of their parks, and it’d come out at the mill pond in Manchester. By that we were hoping it would help us develop Manchester downtown and to help the businesses and building owners downtown by creating a sense of place to be where people may come to town to visit, use the canoe pull out, maybe hopefully visit our downtown merchants our downtown restaurants, to be a draw for our community, especially downtown.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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