SAGINAW, MI – A former industrial site is reverting back to nature, allowing visitors from around the area a chance to enjoy another slice of Michigan’s natural beauty and waterways.
The Saginaw River Headwaters Recreation Area held a virtual groundbreaking on Thursday, Sept. 24 at a former General Motors site located at 77 W. Center St. and along the Saginaw River.
The 334 acres, located at will become a destination park for hiking, fishing, wildlife-watching and sledding in 2021, according to Saginaw County Parks and Recreation.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources acquired the land from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Trust (RACER) for a new waterfront park. The DNR and Saginaw County entered into a formal written partnership to manage the park.
The acquired property includes wetlands, shallow-water ponds and forested river corridors.
“You know how they say good things happen to those who wait?” asked Helen Taylor, state director for Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “I’m not sure I agree with that. I think it’s good things happen to those who don’t give up and who collaborate together to make something really wonderful happen.”
Features leftover from the property’s industrial era and subsequent decommissioning are being integrated into the park’s future. For example, the land boasts a landfill hill that will be turned into a wintertime hotspot for kids.
“So many people said the children in Saginaw need a good sledding hill and they don’t have one,” Taylor said during the groundbreaking. “And so now, the landfill behind us is that. “So a perfect win-win for nature and people. “Everyone got what they wanted.”
The property was one of many sites that were owned and operated by GM before RACER took ownership in 2011 as a result of the GM bankruptcy. It was among 89 properties in the U.S. that moved into RACER’s possession that also include the former Saginaw Malleable Iron Plant property, a closed landfill and a small parcel that is adjacent to the former Delphi Saginaw Steering Gear Plant 2, as previously reported by MLive.
“Pure Michigan and pure solutions-oriented collaboration at its finest is demonstrated here,” said Elliot Laws, who was appointed by the bankruptcy court in 2011 as an administrative trustee with RACER.
“The Saginaw Riverfront park is proof that a property’s industrial past need not be a barrier to its beneficial reuse,” Laws said during the groundbreaking. “Our excellent cleanup team will continue to monitor and manage the environmental remedies at the property under Michigan’s EGLE’s oversight.”
The history of the property stems back into the World War II era and stretches into decades of industrial commerce.
“Many of the former GM properties that we took over had a storied history,” Laws said during the groundbreaking. “Here, machine guns were made to help the Allies win World War II and GM for decades provided thousands of good manufacturing jobs for the community. This site has values, memories, and meaning. We celebrate that history and we join you in welcoming and embracing its future.”
The park also will serve as a connecting piece of the Iron Belle Trail Network.
“We now will have an urban waterfront park for hiking, fishing, wildlife watching that is connected to and part of the larger Iron Belle trail network that reaches from Ironwood in the upper peninsula down to Belle Isle in Detroit,” Laws said.
More from MLive:
Former GM site in Saginaw to become a 334-acre public park
$10 deal will turn closed GM foundry & landfill in Michigan into urban park
Health Department millage and school district bond on Saginaw County’s November 2020 ballot
Teen paving path to become Saginaw County’s first female Eagle Scout
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Millions in tax revenue lost as Consumers Energy power plant demolished in Bay County