From cross-country ski trails and a communal bonfire pit to bird sanctuaries and disc golf, Auburn is expanding its year-round recreation opportunities.
A 25-acre park with a variety of activities and amenities is planned inside the existing Auburn Shooting Range. Known locally as simply “The Range,” the park is a multi-use, year-round facility on Lagoon Drive in Williams Township, about 3 miles north of Auburn.
Auburn City Administrator David Haag, who is overseeing the project, said he foresees the park bringing local communities together while enticing residents outside of the area to come and enjoy.
When completed, the new park will span 25 acres and include trails for walking, running, and biking. as well as cross-country skiing. A sledding hill will be in place near a communal bonfire pit for individuals and groups to enjoy. The park will also incorporate a gun range, which is already in place, and bird sanctuaries for nature enthusiasts.
“My goal is to have a phenomenal sledding hill and a nice open fire pit next to it [and] a bathroom facility in the pavilion, where families can go out there and hang out by the fire while their kids are sledding,” says Haag.
One of the more anticipated features will be Bay County’s first pro-level disc golf course. The course is being designed by disc golfers and a local disc golf club, helping with ideas and solutions for the course. There will be two tee-pads per hole, one for novice players and one for those who are more experienced. The course will be available for recreation and tournament play.
“The Range will provide a wide range of fun, accessible, and physical activities for people and pets of all ages,” says Haag.
With excavation underway and community support swirling around The Range, Haag is eager to get development running full steam. The total projected cost for the park is $290,315 and will be developed in three phases. Phase One is excavation and development, expected to cost $98,200. Phase Two is gaining electrical access and expected to cost $32,000. The third and final phase will see the installation of a multi-use pavilion and bathrooms, projected to cost $113,900.
The majority of the funding was made available by the Healthy Living Fund and given to The Range through the Bay Area Community Foundation. The Healthy Living Fund is a $1 million grant provided by the Dow Corning Foundation in 2018.
“The donor’s interest is in supporting recreation and healthy experiences, allowing all people and ages to come together and enjoy a sense of community,” says Bay Area Community Foundation President and CEO Diane Fong.
Obtaining approval for the funds was not a walk in the park for Haag. His first attempt to secure the Community Foundation failed.
“Grant funding was the only source of support for the project, the committee wanted to see a higher level of community buy-in and support for the park,” says Fong.
Haag says he understands the early rejection. “We weren’t ready,” says Haag. “We were scrambling in order to get things in time for the grant deadline.”
The delay in funding allowed Haag to garner support and secure community contributions, both in dollars as well as materials and services.
His efforts paid off.
“Haag came back and had all of those partnerships and community engagement in place,
says Fong. “The committee was impressed and voted to fund the project.”
Haag agrees the second application was stronger. “We were in a better position to show we are getting support and funding from other sources than just the Healthy Living Fund,” says Haag.
The Range is expected to open within a year. At latest, it should open by the end of summer 2021. Haag is looking forward to the development of a new park in Bay County.
“How often do you get to create a park?” Haag says enthusiastically. “We are such a central location for Linwood, Pinconning, Midland, Bay City, and Freeland for everybody to use.”
Fong is equally excited about the project and is amazed that Haag is able to “take a property that has been underutilized and upgrade it to an asset that will be year-round.”
Haag is still seeking volunteers and contributions for The Range. To donate, contact him at Dhaag@auburnmi.org.
Funds are still available within the Healthy Living Fund to support projects such as The Range. For more information, visit the Community Foundation website at bayfoundation.org.