Projects in Ionia, Saranac, Portland areas gain legislative approval
State Rep. Julie Calley recently led the Legislature’s approval of funding for improvements to parks and trails in Ionia and Saranac and the expansion of the Portland State Game Area.
The funding was included in recommendations from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and approved with overwhelming support by the House and Senate last week. The measure is awaiting consideration from Gov. Whitmer.
“Ionia County is a great place to live, raise a family, and retire – and the many great recreational opportunities we have help add to the charm,” said Calley, of Portland. “These projects will create even more opportunities for families who like to get outside and enjoy the trails, parks and wildlife in our beautiful community.”
A $300,000 development project will renovate 3.2 miles of the Fred Thwaites Grand River Trail along the Grand River from Ionia Free Fair Grounds to Quarry Road. In addition to repaving the existing trail, this project aims to significantly improve the Cleveland Street trailhead. At this newer trailhead, the improvements will include a paved parking lot, benches, picnic tables, a trailhead kiosk, and portable restroom enclosure. The trail serves as a vital connection between Ionia’s commercial district, neighborhoods, Riverside Park, and the Ionia Free Fair Grounds.
In the village of Saranac, a $300,000 investment will enhance Scheid Park, a 15.6-acre neighborhood park along the Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Rail Trail. The project will construct a restroom-concession building, additional barrier-free parking, and accessible walkways to existing ball fields.
A $350,000 investment will purchase 66 acres of land to expand the Portland State Game Area. The property will provide wildlife habitat conservation, land consolidation, and additional recreational opportunities such as hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and fishing. The property has three-quarters of a mile of frontage on the Grand River and a half-mile shared boundary with the state game area. The parcel has about 45 acres of farmland and an intact riparian forest which together provide quality habitat for species such as wild turkey, deer, small game, sandhill crane, and waterfowl.
Funding for each of the projects is part of Senate Bill 1028, which includes $45.6 million for 22 land acquisition and 95 recreational development projects throughout the state with revenues from the Natural Resources Trust Fund. The fund’s board approved the projects in December 2021.
Money in the Natural Resources Trust Fund comes from the development of minerals on state land – not general tax money – and is distributed on an annual basis in partnership with local governments. The money must be used for acquisition or recreational development projects, according to the Michigan Constitution.
Calley, of Portland, said the Open Meetings Act is frequently referenced by public bodies, the people who serve on them, and the public – yet it currently includes confusing language and complicated legal terminology that can inspire more questions instead of providing clear-cut answers. The solution Calley is offering rewrites the Open Meetings Act using plain language.
State Rep. Julie Calley, center, recently welcomed a Hastings family to the state Capitol, where they shadowed her as “Representatives for a Day.” Dr. Paul DeWitt and his wife Jennie won the opportunity through the 2020 fundraiser auction benefitting Green Gables Haven, a nonprofit organization in Hastings that serves people impacted by domestic violence. They were accompanied by their grandchildren, Christian and Lily Haire.
State Rep. Julie Calley today voted to eliminate a mandate recently put in place by the unelected Natural Resources Commission (NRC) that, if allowed to stand, could result in criminal penalties for deer hunters who fail to comply.