DNR, county near deal on park

By David Fleet
A preliminary concept to develop a working partnership between the Oakland County Parks and Recreation and the Michigan Department of Recreation for the management of the Groveland Township ORV Park moved step closer on Dec. 6, following a meeting of the Oakland County Parks and Recreations Commission meeting Waterford Oaks County Park.

The commission voted 10-0 to move forward with negotiations.
The meeting, which drew more than 300 off road enthusiast eager to take on the new Groveland Township ORV Park now set to open later in 2018. The project moved forward last June when the MDNR purchased 113 acres of property from Steve Stolaruk of Star-Batt, Inc. and 122 acres from Katie Leoni of Holly Disposal. The 235 acres, were mined for gravel, but earmarked for a state park, comes after the MDNR reported in December 2014 a grant for $2.9 million was approved from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Only a portion of the grant was used in the property purchased so far. Currently, about 145 acres of the 235 are included in the first phase of the ORV park. Some of the remaining acreage is still mined.
“The room was packed,” said Bob DePalma, Groveland Township supervisor, who attended the December meeting. “The four-wheeling groups organized via social media and showed up en mass. They were very organized and demonstrated how off-roaders are very family oriented and really need a place to go here in Southeast Michigan.”
In conjunction with the Oakland County Parks, the state property is intended to be used for a professionally designed off-road track state park. The concept will test the skills of drivers and abilities of machines at slow speeds, in a safe, legal environment on the south side of Mt. Holly where the noise will not be intrusive nor change the character of the community. The off-road track was opened to the public as a test in late 2014 and attracted several hundred spectators during the Dixie Gully Run.
DePalma said the agreement with the state has been ongoing for about a year.
“The nuts and bolts have been worked out,” he said. “The contract should move pretty fast. Key in the deal will be assuring there’s enough money for improvements—there are several avenues.”
Dan Stencil is the executive officer of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission which includes 13 parks, golf courses and a $25 million budget.
“The ORV park is a long time coming,” said Stencil. “We could look to the spring of 2019 to have the park open on a regular basis. But, look for later this year for part of it going.”
About $160,000 in available for the new park gathered from ORV stickers sold in Oakland County, he said.
At a cost of $26.25, an ORV license is required on eligible county roads, state forest roads in the Upper Peninsula and eligible national forest roads as well as on the frozen surface of public waters. This license is required to operate anywhere off of private lands. In addition, an ORV trail permit is required when operating on designated and signed ORV trails, routes and scramble areas. The cost is $10.
“At some point, as part of negotiation we’ll come up with a master plan for the entire park,” said Stencil. “We’ll seek help with the process from state, county and townships in addition to ORV enthusiasts. When completed the park will provide for a variety of interests from motocross to quads to Jeeps.”