The “public use” designation of the White Pine Valley Recreation Area will remain

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GREEN TOWNSHIP — White Pine Valley Recreation Area in Green Township will continue to be designated for public use at this time.

At a park board meeting earlier this month, Jeff Abel, the parks commission supervisor, told the board that the request to remove the return clause was denied by the department. of Natural Resources.

A letter from the DNR, dated Jan. 7, said “the application has been reviewed by the Department’s Land Exchange Review Committee … (and) after careful consideration, the application has been denied.”

County Administrator Paul Bullock previously said county commissioners asked him to try to have the property’s return clause removed more than a year ago.


He was able to do this for an 80-acre parcel on the property, but not for an additional 120-acre parcel.

Removing the return clause would free the county from restrictions imposed on the use of the property by the DNR when the property was acquired by the county, allowing it to transfer it to another entity or sell it, s he decided to let go. of the property.

Bullock said the county has no plans to revisit the matter in the foreseeable future.

The property was acquired by the county in the 1930s due to non-payment of taxes. The state took the property and turned it over to the local government with certain restrictions, including the clawback clause, which states that the property will revert to the state if the county does not use it for its intended purpose, which are for public use. .

“The reversion clause release request would have allowed the county, if it wished in the future, to explore all options to transfer or sell the property without stipulations from the DNR,” Abel told the Pioneer. “The request for release from the act restriction was denied at this time, meaning the act restrictions remain as they were before.”

One of the things that could have been done had the return clause been removed is the transfer of ownership to Green Township.

Township Supervisor Jim Chapman previously said the township was prepared to purchase the land or accept a transfer of the parcels to the township, should the opportunity arise.

WPVRA CONTROVERSY

The White Pine Valley Recreation Area has been a point of contention between county officials and residents for the past few months.

In June 2021, the Mecosta County Parks Commission asked the county to remove the facility from the county’s park inventory due to safety and liability concerns and to close the area to the campground.

Abel explained that the main concern with keeping the area open to camping was that it was not a licensed campground. Other concerns related to the safety and stability of structures on the property.

Local Scout leaders protested the closure and demanded that Scouts be allowed to continue to use the area for primitive camping and other Scouting events as they have done for 50 years.

The council referred the matter to the building and grounds committee for further investigation.

Residents, former park superintendents, former and current scout and scout leaders, and local government officials spoke in favor of preserving the White Pine Recreation Area for primitive camping purposes at the subsequent meeting. of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

During the meeting, it was decided that if the structures were renovated or removed, the county could pursue the acquisition of a primitive camping permit for the area, which would allow Boy Scouts and others to continue to use it.

In August, a team of local scout leaders demolished and removed the old cabin structure from the property in preparation for the establishment of designated campsites.

“Given that the current plan for the property is to explore licensing as a public campground for group organizations, this letter and denial has no short-term impact on the future of property,” Abel said. “Currently, no further work has been done in preparation for submitting the Campground License Application. The property is open for day use of the trail system and is available to groups for daytime gatherings.

He said the next step in the bidding process will be to finalize a provision for the number of campsites or group campsites needed and the boundaries of each of the sites. This would include creating a maximum allowable occupancy for the camping area.

The placement of a sink and vault toilets will also need to be included in the plan to ensure proper setbacks.

“We hope to be able to commit time to this project in the coming months, but we currently do not have an established timeline for submission to EGLE,” he said.

IN OTHER CASES

During the meeting, the park’s board approved the continuation of a proposal from Prein & Newhof for architectural services related to the renovation of the Paris Hatchery building. The proposal includes field measurement and drafting of plans and elevations of the existing building for a fee of $3,000 and, if required, any survey work would be provided for an additional fee.

The architects will provide schematic design work to show the most basic to the most elaborate renovation options for an additional fixed fee of $6,500. As part of the study, preliminary budget estimates, based on costs per square foot, will be provided for each option.

Once an option is decided, a fee of 6% of construction costs will include all architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical work.

During the meeting, the board also approved the purchase of 50 new picnic tables at a cost of approximately $25,000, as part of an ongoing plan to replace the 1,200 picnic tables -nice from the network of parks.

The parks commission is working to recruit additional worker campers for the 2022 season and has recommended that the park board hold two additional campsites in each of the four campgrounds for this purpose.

“We are currently accepting job and labor camp applications for the 2022 operating season, which typically runs from late April to early October,” Abel said. “We will be looking to hire approximately 50 seasonal employees over the next few months with employment starting in late April or late May depending on the role.”

Anyone 16 or older interested in working part-time, as needed, or in a 40-hour-per-week capacity is encouraged to apply, he said.

Applications are available at mecostacountyparks.com.

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