Where the dam used to be--now a destination for kayakers, walkers, runners, and bikers

This past Saturday, I went to the ribbon cutting ceremony in Dexter for the Mill Creek Park, a 1.4-acre public park located in the heart of the downtown business district. Wow, is it beautiful.  I know the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Mill Pond was a weed-choked, stinky pond.  Now we have an open central park with an amphitheater, trails, fishing piers and overlooks, boat access, benches, and pretty flowers and trees.  And then there’s the creek.  Anglers have spotted brown trout jumping this past week!

Mill Pond before dam removal

And the increased activity is palpable.  Runners, walkers, and cyclists go by on the path, connecting to the downtown, the trails to the library, and to the river where there are trails completed or near completion both upstream and downstream to HCMA parks.  There were a half dozen anglers and people learning to fly fish as Colton Bay and Ann Arbor Trout Unlimited folks were giving fly fishing demonstrations.  And then the people ambling in from downtown Dexter.  People who had just been to the farmers market, the bakery or running errands who came to the water edge to rest and watch.

Two anglers hoping to catch the brown trout jumping about

The Mill Creek dam removal in 2008 sparked the idea of a central park in Dexter. Restoration included some in-stream and bank activities to enhance habitat, direct the stream, and slow flows.  The Village of Dexter went to work establishing a vision for a vibrant, beautiful, and well connected park in downtown Dexter.  The project includes an amphitheater, boardwalk, two boat launches, two observation and fishing decks and benches along the path.

The project cost $1.24 million with most of the money coming from grant funding. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provided $450,000, the Waterways Infrastructure Program gave $50,000, Washtenaw County assisted with $200,000 in funding, and DTE provided $4,000.

Capturing the stormwater and using it as an amenity

Congratulations to the Village of Dexter and Paul Cousins, Village council member and HRWC board member, who took the lead on the project.  At the ribbon cutting on Saturday, Allison Bishop, Community Development Director at the Village,  told me that she is receiving numerous calls from residents saying that Dexter is turning in to one of the coolest places to live and is very vibrant. The river is one of the “coolest” things we have going for us in SE Michigan and when we restore it by removing dams, improving access and recreation, and opening up economic opportunities, we are seeing a real river (and community) renaissance.

and more work to come:

A second phase of the park’s construction will probably begin within the next five years.  A path to connect Hudson Mills Metropark to Mill Creek Park is slated for this fall/winter.