Riverfront Restoration Project underway

On yet another sunny afternoon, in what has become a beautiful summer in Midland in August, a beautiful idea was presented Monday by a group of Midlanders who have lent their time, talents and treasure to many summers here. 

Speakers from the Michigan Baseball Foundation and the City of Midland, along with other civic leaders, touted the hard work that’s been done the past 7 years on the long-blighted site of the 4D/Oldcastle brick plant along the Tittabawassee River, just southeast of the Tridge downtown. 

City Manager Brad Kaye and Foundation President David Ramaker presented their group’s vision of the South Riverfront Restoration Project, a 19-acre recreation, wildlife development and beautification project that will include an elevated pedestrian walkway across the river.  

The combination of philanthropic foundations, business and government organizations, foundations and individuals who have or will contribute to the two-stage project that officially began Monday at the base of the Poseyville Road Bridge spoke of the importance of making the river again the focus of Midlanders and the city’s visitors. 

Drawing for the Riverfront Restoration Project in downtown Midland
According to the City of Midland website, it will “create a sustainable park, complemented by connections to adjacent wetland restoration sites (Dow Wetland Restoration Site and Towsley Dike Park) and other community amenities.” 

The new trail will complete a loop along the river, bookended by the Tridge and the Farmer’s Market to the west, and the new park and and the “Ott Family Foundation” pavilion, the terminal for the “Schuette Family Walkway” across the Tittabassee on the east, which begins on East Main Street near Dow Diamond and the Founders Garden. 

The late Alan Ott, the long-time Midland banking executive who along with wife Jean, helped develop many downtown projects as president of Chemical Bank and Trust and the Gerstacker Foundation, was an inspiration for a lot of the improvements downtown. 

Bill Schuette, Gerstacker Foundation trustee and contributor to the project, says the group worked tirelessly to get the approvals needed to improve and restore the property in the floodplain, an effort that culminated in a trip to Federal Emergency Management Agency offices this year in Chicago, to gain final approvals for the walkway and to get the project moving forward. “If you are not moving forward you are falling behind,” he says. “The goal is, as it has always been, to make Midland the best town in America.” 

Fisher Contracting is the general contractor.  Work is now underway. Phase 1 includes parking lot and stormwater detention area, clearing along the riverfront, pathway from foot of Tridge east along riverfront, removal of rubble and site grading. It will also include two fishing piers and boardwalks along the pathway. The second phase won’t begin until financing is secured.

 

Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at ralphewirtz@gmail.com.