BY MICHAEL WALTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Department is applying for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to improve Maple Bay Park.
The grant could fund the construction of new bathrooms, picnic facilities, trails, pavilions and more at the 400-acre park in Acme Township.
Improvements are estimated to cost $430,000. The trust fund requires 25 percent local funding matches for development grants. The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy pledged up to $50,000 toward the project, and parks and recreation officials asked the Grand Traverse County Commission for an additional $80,000.
The county contribution, if approved, would increase local funding to $130,000, about 30 percent of the project's total cost. Jason Jones, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the additional 5 percent in local funding could give the Maple Bay application an edge as the trust fund board combs through grant requests.
"It gives us some extra points in our evaluation," Jones said during a commission committee meeting.
Commission Chair Herb Lemcool described Maple Bay Park as "absolutely gorgeous." He said board members seemed to like the improvement plans, but he didn't know if they will approve the $80,000 request.
"The challenge is going to be figuring out where the money will come from," Lemcool said.
The county purchased the Maple Bay Park property with roughly $6.8 million in trust fund grant money about 10 years ago.
Another application for trust fund money seeks to turn two large, privately owned tracts of land in the Grand Traverse region into state-owned forest.
The Forest Resources Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is asking for a $700,000 grant to purchase the 240-acre Dair Creek Property in Benzie County's Weldon Township, and for a $1 million grant to buy the 160-acre Strombolis Lake property in Grand Traverse County's Whitewater Township.
Both properties are largely surrounded by land that is already designated state forest.
The trust fund was created under the DNR in the 1970s for the purchase and development of public recreation lands. Royalties and leasing fees from oil, gas and other mineral rights fund the state-owned trust.
Local governments in Grand Traverse County received 45 grants worth a combined $37.5 million since the fund's creation.