METZ TOWNSHIP - An application from Metz Township officials for a grant to build a park along the Northeast State Trail is back in the hands of the state, according to the township clerk.
The township applied some months ago for around $120,000 of Natural Resources Trust Fund money to build a park between the township hall on County Road 441 and the former Lake State Railroad grade, now a four-seasons trail connecting Alpena and Cheboygan, Township Clerk Nancy Kandow said. If built, the park would include a play area, pavilion, picnic tables, water fountain and pit toilets.
Ideally, the park would serve as a stop-off and starting point for trail users, and historical elements planned for the park would make it a draw to the unincorporated community of Metz, Kandow said. In September, township officials received a response, informing them of how the application stacked up against grant scoring criteria. The application got a score of 330 out of 520, a respectable score. They also were given three issues with the application needing fixing.
"We had to formally create a park committee," she said. "We informally created one when the idea of a park even came into being."
Additionally, the township had included items of a historic nature on their plan, items that can't be funded by grant money, Kandow said. These included a story board about the Metz Fire of 1908, as well as a railroad gondola car and a relief shack built for those made homeless by the fire.
These historical items are still planned for the park, Kandow said. The township will have to find a separate funding source.
Lastly, the township has committed to buy the land needed for the park from Lake State Railroad, which still owned land adjacent to the trail, Kandow said. The township is still negotiating a price, and the money to purchase it wouldn't come from the grant.
"We were attempting to lease the property," she said. "We found out that we indeed need to purchase it."
On Sept. 11, township officials held a public meeting to discuss the purchase, Kandow said. Only two members of the public showed up, neither of whom objected to the purchase.
In an effort to boost the grant application's score, a nature trail stretching east alongside the trail was added to the plan, Kandow said. This trail could include a rustic camp site somewhere in the future.
"(It's) so that bikers that would be making any type of a distant bike ride might be able to camp out," she said.
Now, the township must wait for a response, Kandow said. If approved, the money would fund a positive project for a community that's seen little change for many years.
"It's not only for trail users, but for motorists and local users, too," she said. "It's a recreation place, but it offers a historic museum experience."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.