New Parks and Recreation Master Plan is underway in Fort Gratiot Township

Fort Gratiot Township is a natural tourism and recreational attraction for many residents and visitors alike, with its close proximity to the Lake Huron shoreline. The township has many natural amenities like lakes, rivers, woodlands, and parks used for both recreation and relaxation. Five of its nine parks are associated with bodies of water, scattered across more than 300 acres of parkland.

ADA walkway at Keewahdin Road Beach in Fort Gratiot Township.After community input, market research, and collaboration with local and regional stakeholders, Fort Gratiot Township has released its Parks and Recreation Master Plan for 2023-2027. The comprehensive 108-page document highlights plans to support existing recreational facilities, implement accessible equipment and barrier-free access, and create more recreation opportunities across the township.

“The Master Plan is something that we work on that gives us an idea as to what things we want to build or consider in the future,” says Rob Crawford, Fort Gratiot Charter Township Supervisor. “It’s also a requirement if you’re going to apply for any Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grant financing.”

The Master Plan was adopted in January by the Fort Gratiot Township Board and was submitted to the Michigan DNR for acceptance, which was approved. It outlines six main goals for the township intended to be completed over the next five years.
  • Provide high-quality recreation opportunities for all residents based on their interests and active living.
  • Build on the strengths and opportunities within the existing park system and nearby parks to provide a high quality of life for the Fort Gratiot community.
  • Acquire additional recreational land for potential park facilities, if deemed appropriate.
  • Provide safe, non-motorized travel.
  • Improve/implement barrier-free access and universal design standards in parks and recreation facilities.
  • Enhance and protect the township’s natural resources.

Kettlewell Loop trail located at Fort Gratiot Pond in Fort Gratiot Township.To help accomplish these goals, Fort Gratiot Township contracted Spicer Group of Saginaw, a civil engineering and surveying firm that helps with community planning and architecture. Crawford says the township has previously worked with Spicer Group on several projects including the bike path along 24th Avenue as well as improvements involving the Department of Public Works.

“They’ve been very successful in being able to develop grant applications through the Michigan DNR,” Crawford says. “They’ve raised $30 million in park recreation dollars from grants for development of municipal parks.”

Crawford says to help draft the Master Plan, two public input meetings were held and an online community input survey was sent to residents during the summer of 2022 to gather thoughts and gauge concerns. The survey received 112 responses, 70.5% of which were from township residents, sharing their thoughts on public park usage, appearance, facilities, and accessibility.

Of the survey responses, 34% shared that they visit Fort Gratiot parks 1-5 times per year, with 33% visiting 6-10 times per year, and 29% visiting more than 10 times in a year. The facilities most utilized by survey respondents were North River Road Park, Robert E. Crawford Park, Fort Gratiot Nature Preserve, Fort Gratiot Canine Commons, Fort Gratiot Pond, and Keewahdin Road Beach.

Nori, a 5-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, plays at Fort Gratiot Canine Commons, a dog park located in Fort Gratiot Township.

Survey respondents identified that they would like to see more amenities and recreational opportunities in Fort Gratiot Township such as splash pads, pickleball courts, walking paths, picnic/pavilion shelters, and more play equipment in its parks.

Several of the items identified by survey respondents are actively being worked on by the township with a few already completed and available for the public’s use. Fort Gratiot’s first outdoor disc golf course was completed at Fort Gratiot Pond last fall and work on a new play structure at Fort Gratiot Pond and an ADA walkway at Keewahdin Road Beach recently finished, but that’s not all. The township is awaiting the status of its application for $600,000 in Congressional funding for a sanitary sewer system serving the Parker Road properties, but clearing of the roadway has already begun, providing access for the construction of two highly-anticipated pickleball courts.

On Parker Road across from Fort Gratiot Canine Commons, work is underway to clear the road and prepare for the construction of two pickleball courts.

Other grants including Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Fort Gratiot American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are being looked at to support future park improvements such as drinking fountains for both dogs and people at Fort Gratiot Canine Commons, but Crawford says the township also hopes to receive funding from the DNR for a few other initiatives.

“We applied for the DNR Passport Grant to build a trail,” Crawford says. “This trail would be an open field area highlighting native plants, wildlife, and birds. It will also connect to the existing Fort Gratiot trails and the regional Bridge to Bay. Another grant applied for from the DNR is a Land and Water Conservation Fund development grant to start a Fort Gratiot campground – starting with 25 full-hookup ADA accessible sites, a play structure, and restrooms.”

Prior, the most recent grant application to the Michigan DNR was back in 2009 for the Parker Road Park expansion. The township’s parks and recreation budget for 2022 was $94,075 - including operation and maintenance, and general expenditures. Additional funding in the form of grants is necessary to implement these initiatives across the township’s neighborhood parks, community parks, regional parks, and special-use parks.

The township is also looking to increase its efforts to protect its natural resources with a focus on preserving the open space along the Black River, Lake Huron and other water areas, wetlands, floodplains, and rivers. Some of the plan’s top priorities include updating playground equipment to be accessible for all ages and abilities, providing additional recreation programming with the Port Huron Area School District, installing necessary sewer and power infrastructures along Parker Road, and extending the bike path near Birchwood Mall.

To see the full 2023-2027 Parks and Recreation Master Plan for Fort Gratiot Township, visit To learn more about parks and current recreational opportunities in Fort Gratiot Township, visit
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing resident, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at