$9 Million Construction In Millennium Park Planned

January 14, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Donations from the Meijer Foundation and other local philanthropists, plus the purchase of a key piece of real estate in the middle of Millennium Park by the county, have triggered a nearly $9 million, three-year project to construct trails and public amenities in the park starting this spring.

Peter Secchia, chairman of the Secchia Millennium Commission, said the Fred Meijer Millennium Trail network will total 20 miles of developed trails inside the 1,500-acre park and will include bridges, raised boardwalks, a pedestrian-bicycle tunnel under a road, and two trailheads with restrooms, parking and picnic shelters.

The $8.9 million-plus project is being funded primarily through private contributions, a "lead gift" from the Meijer Foundation, and others from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Harvey and Annie Gainey, Dick and Sandy Hansen, Sidney J. Jansma Jr., plus Sandco Inc. and Maynard Avenue Transfer, a consortium of business entities owned by the Leonard Maas family.

Kent County also provided $1.1 million, approved in mid-December by the county commission, for acquisition of land owned by the Maas family. Securing the Maas acreage was a "critical component in making this project a reality," according to a news release from the county, because the 114-acre parcel extends about two-thirds of the way across the middle of Millennium Park.

"The Fred Meijer Millennium Trail Network will greatly expand the use of this green space," said Kent County Board Chair Roger Morgan. "It will provide unprecedented access to all areas of its natural landscape and creative recreational opportunities for people of all ages and interests. The generosity of private donors in partnership with the county has allowed us to continue our efforts in fulfilling the vision of Millennium Park."

The four-season network of trails among and around the series of interconnected ponds formed by former gravel pits will not be open to motor vehicles, and will connect with Kent Trails, city of Walker trails and the city of Grand Rapids trails for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The Meijer Millennium Trail Network is designed for a variety of activities ranging from rollerblading and biking to running, walking and cross-country skiing. According to Assistant County Administrator Mary Swanson, a portion of the paved trail network will be 12 feet wide, and there will also be a 6-foot-wide nature trail surfaced with crushed stone.

The original park master plan was designed several years ago by O'Boyle, Cowell, Blalock and Associates Inc. of Kalamazoo, with help from BauerFord Design. The latest designs unveiled by the county last week for the Meijer Millennium Trail Network were also prepared by O'Boyle, Cowell, Blalock.

Secchia said 93 percent of the land planned for Millennium Park has been acquired or is under contract. Millennium Park is being developed by the Secchia Millennium Commission and Kent County, and is traversed by three miles of the Grand River on its southeast side. The park includes areas of Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker and Wyoming.

Secchia said Millennium Park has "put Grand Rapids on the map" as a successful example of a joint public/private community project.

The park swimming area opened in August 2003, and the "recreation core" was formally dedicated in 2004.

The first phase of the new development plans starts in the spring with construction of eight miles of trails, three bridges and a trailhead with a parking lot and shelter. Phase Two takes place in 2009 with construction of another six miles of trails plus the widening of existing trails from 8 to 12 feet, according to Secchia. Phase Three, in 2010, will add another six and a half miles of trails and two bridges. Completion is expected by the end of 2010.

Swanson said the latest $9 million expenditure will make a total of about $32 million invested so far in Millennium Park.

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