Construction is moving forward on a $1.2 million project designed to make Ford Lake and Lakeside Park a “rowing hub” and improve public facilities already in place.
Among the highlights are a boathouse that will house the Eastern Michigan University and Saline High School rowing teams; an extension of the trail network that will connect it to regional trails; a new pavilion; fishing docks and lookouts over Ford Lake.
The development will be funded with a $500,000 grant from the Michigan State Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, $450,000 from EMU, $250,000 from the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission and $50,0000 raised by the Saline rowing team.
Construction was delayed by poor weather and is expected to be completed sometime this fall.
“Crewing is a growing sport and we will be able to provide added open parkland, added trails and new recreational opportunity for the community,” said Art Serafinski, director of Ypsilanti Township’s Parks and Recreation Department. “Being able to do this is a monumental task and when the dust settles and we’re up and running, there will be lots of different opportunities for the community.”
A 6,000-square foot boathouse costing $320,000 will function as a meeting area for crew teams, provide public bathrooms and serve as a storage space for the EMU and Saline crew teams’ shells.
The boathouse will also be utilized for public rowing lessons, training and the development of an area club team. Rowing lessons would be available for all skill sets and ages, and it would be run by EMU rowing members through the Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Department.
A docking network with fishing piers is also planned for the boathouse, and plans a new 900-square-foot pavilion with tables and grills that can be rented or used for other activities is being built.
Former EMU crew coach Brad Holdren previously said the idea to build a row hub was discussed as far back as 2001 but took years to pull together with multiple partners and funding sources for the project.
Locally, EMU, the University of Michigan, Concordia College, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Ann Arbor Huron, Saline and Northville all have rowing teams. When a rowing tournament in Indianapolis was canceled due to flooding, the EMU and U-M teams were able to organize the event last minute on Ford Lake.
Holdren previously called Ford Lake a “fantastic” spot for rowing and said he expects races there could draw up to 10,000 visitors annually.
Although the lake is expected to serve as a center for rowing in the area, Serafinski stressed that the lake and Lakeside Park is for everyone’s use and highlighted the partnership between organizations.
“We’re getting a first class park and development because of this marriage of partners,” he said.
The project comes as construction begins on an asphalt pathway along Textile Road outside the 21-acre park. The Textile pathway will connect to Bridge Road’s bike lanes and paths. A pathway planned for South Grove Road will run from North Bay Park on the north side of Ford Lake to Bridge. When complete the paths will form a non-motorized route around Ford Lake.