By Rosemary K. Otzman
Hoping on upcoming approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Belleville Downtown Development authority voted unanimously at its Dec. 17 meeting to go out for bids on the kayak launch and other upgrades to Horizon Park before FERC rules.
If all goes well, the DDA would like to have a community celebration during the Taste of Belleville on Aug. 20, when local officials and others ceremoniously launch their kayaks and canoes to kick off use of the facilities.
The project is estimated to cost $172,000 and the MDNR Trust Fund grant is $121,000, with a $51,000 match from the DDA.
When it applied, the Belleville’s application was among 200 grant applications statewide and scored the highest.
The application received lots of support, especially since it would be a part of the Huron River Water Trail, an effort of the Huron River Watershed Council. The trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the river’s natural environment, its history and the communities it touches.
The DDA started planning the project design in October 2012 and moved forward with application for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Grant in early 2013. Funding for the grand was recommended in December 2013.
Then, the Van Buren Township review said a review by FERC was needed, because of the dam at French Landing, and so a new series of reviews started.
The VBT permission letter for the MDEQ was received in July, 2014. The MDNR review approved the final plans and bid documents in October and the MDEQ permit was issued Nov. 25.
The FERC process started in December and includes reviews by the DNR, SHPO and U.S. Fish and Wildlife by early January, followed by STS Hydropower (which runs the dam) then submission to FERC for review and public comment.
The DDA plans bid out the project in February and award the bid in March with a request to guarantee bid prices for six months.
They hope to receive FERC approval in the spring or summer and to begin construction, which will take two or three weeks.
Vallier said they would do it in two divisions. First the “everything else” category and then the floating dock construction.
Carol Thompson, Belleville DDA coordinator, said Belleville is just asking to extend a standing project at Horizon Park and is putting nothing on the lake bottom. She said she expects FERC to approve the project without a problem.
Besides the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) canoe/kayak launch, the upgrades include an ADA floating dock system, improvements to the landscape, signage and kiosk improvements, benches and trash receptacles, a concrete pad for an ADA picnic table, and parking lot resurfacing.
Dave Vallier, of Spicer Engineers, said they will clean up the trash along the shoreline and plant a mixture of wildflower seeds.
He said they wanted five finger docks to accommodate 10 water craft, but the manufacturer recommended 20’ spacing so they reduced that to three, with eight docking spaces.
“We hope we can have it complete in July and have it completely done Oct. 15,” Vallier said.
Thompson said there are looking for a local business to be a livery for water craft for the launch, someone who would rent the craft at Horizon Park and then have someone there to show the person how to use it.
Mayor Kerreen Conley, who sits on the DDA, said the city council just approved $40,400 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for ADA elements of the project.
City Councilman Tom Fielder asked about the construction’s impact on park use this summer, since there will be big machines needed for the project.
Vallier said some areas of the park will be fenced off during construction and there will be some big equipment. The concrete work and the resurfacing of the parking lots will require areas being blocked off.
He said the landscaping should affect the park too much. They will use an approved chemical to kill off the vegetation, then harvest it, and put more soil on the bank and then the seed mix.
“Parts will be off limits for a while, but the fishing platform should be open all the while,” Vallier said.
City Manager Diana Kollmeyer said they have agreed to stop work early on the Thursdays that Music Lakeside will be at the park.
Thompson said there is a slight risk if they bid the project without the FERC approval, and then had to rebid, there would be additional cost.
Fielder said he talked to Mike Dotson of Wayne County Community College and he is interested in a rowing team for WCCC. Fielder said he put Dotson in touch with Belleville High School so maybe they could have a club sport.
Fielder also said he had concerns about the Belleville Bridge. He said the DDA invested money in the bridge and the county has not maintained the basic structure very well.
“We need to at least call them to have a look at it,” said DDA Chairman John Hoops.
Hoops said he was making a decision on whether to continue with a new term on the DDA, so this might be his last meeting.
Treasurer Sabrina Richardson-Williams said she lives in Victoria Commons and usually takes the “back way” home from work and doesn’t drive through downtown Belleville. But recently, she drove down Main Street and, “I put my brakes on when I saw Belleville Bariatrics Center.” She was amazed at how beautiful it looked. And then, she said, “If you squint and close one eye, Egan’s looks like Rochester and Detroit.”
By Rosemary K. Otzman