At Planning Commission this week the Ann Arbor Parks Department, together with consultant Norman L. Dietrich and Associates, landscape architects, presented us with the first look at the "preliminary plan" for the development of Argo Park and surrounding area. There were no major surprises, or changes from the original concept for the park first presented to the voters in 1971 at the time of the last park bond issue. There have been some refinements of the plan, and some detailing of portions of it, and it will likely get a few more minor changes and more detailing before it is presented to the City Council for approval, probably this fall. The Parks Department is also considering another public exposure to the park plans at a later date, and to be held somewhere in the neighborhood, because presentation to the Planning Commission had to be brief, and somewhat sketchy, as it was only one of a number of public hearings on the agenda. Although there is nothing especially controversial about the preliminary plan, we would like to see the Parks Department follow through on this idea, if only to acquaint more of the area residents with the complete plan, and the timetable for development. This latter point especially needs emphasis, because this is a long-range plan, and there is only enough money presently available to complete a portion of it. The Parks Department will have to set priorities to determine which portions to develop first, and citizen input might be helpful here. As one who was involved in publicizing both of the last park bonds, as well as the bond to repair the dams, I have been asked many times recently about the river parks - why we are so slow in developing them, how soon are we going to have various facilities in them, how long will it take before they are complete, and did the recent "borrowing" by the city affect the park fund. Definitive answers to all of these are not easy to come by. In the case of the inter-fund borrowing, for instance, we have been assured by the city manager that this will be repaid (and much of it has been repaid already) , but the interest which normally would have accrued will not be paid by the city, or the departments which borrowed. Slowness of the projects is at least partly tied to work on the city's four dams, because most of this work had to be done before the recreational developments could occur. As for how much of the work shown on the plans can be completed with the money left, this will depend on a number of variables, including availability of federal and state matching funds, availability of revenue-sharing money, and construction costs at the time the bids go out. I must admit that I am as disappointed as many at the slowness, and some of the roadblocks that have come up. Especially galling is the fact that we've not been able to come to an agreement with Penn Central over permission to cross their line along Barton Pond to build our boat access there. The plan submitted for Argo Park and surrounding area again shows a final form which may take some years to complete, and will certainly require additional financing, especially if we are to add several parcels of land either presently available or expected to be available. One of these parcels (see map this page, figure "a") is really quite necessary to the orderly development of the section around the canoe livery and boat launch. We must have some way to accommodate some parking in that area, and this parcel, now available, would allow us to do that in a lot set back from the shore and landscaped. This would allow us to grass and landscape the shoreline area, instead of having to extend parking into that area. Another vital parcel is the section back of the Gas Company property west of the Broadway bridge ("b" on map). If we are to carry through our plans to increase Summit Park (once Lansky's is moved) and extend it to the river with an overhead walkway above the railroad tracks, this parcel is a vital and necessary link. A third parcel ("c" on map) is the Detroit Edison facility to the east of the bridge. If we are to have a trail connecting the Argo area to Riverside (and from there downriver), we must have at least a strip from that property along the river. And there are indications from Edison that they might wish to vacate that entire parcel, with the exception of a small piece in the northeast corner, to which they would move the present sub-station now adjoining the old powerhouse. When the city bought the ponds and dams from Edison, they purchased the foundation of the powerhouse, and the raceway flow-through, but Edison retained the building and the little sub-station area adjoining the powerhouse. Parks would like to turn this corner into a major entrance to the park, perhaps using the building for a small museum or display area, landscaping the corner, and building a series of ramps and walkways to allow access down to the river, along the raceway to the west and down under the bridge to the east. And if Edison really wishes dispose of that entire property I (now a vehicle maintenance I and storage area), we should I obtain it and add it to the river park system. It adjoins present Riverside Park, and could be used to extend the activities of that park. The present use of that parcel is certainly not suited to the area, and it should be protected from other, and equally unsuited, development. The other parcel is, of course, the Johnson-Greene area (figure "d" on map), which the city has been attempting to purchase for almost a decade. Not only would this be a most useful park area, but it is vital to protect the scenic values of that area. One could imagine the impact visually of extensive development in that now-scenic bend of the river. (And even that could be improved with the I removal of the asphalt plant next to the bridge!) It is clear, from a study of these possibilities and the available funds, that we are going to have to start thinking soon of some way to obtain the additional money not only to add these valuable parcels, but also to finish up the development. Of course it would help if we could speed up the development now in plans or in progress, and let the people of Ann Arbor get a little clearer look at the exciting possibilities of the completed river park system. It's awfully hard for most people to visualize at this early stage of development what the final park system will look like. And it has been over three years since the park bond was passed. It is a real problem, but it seems the only thing to do now is to get this Argo Plan approved, and begun as early as possible, and to try to speed up the work on Geddes and Barton Pond development, too. Perhaps enough interest can be generated I through these actions to convince the people that it is necessary, somehow or other, to acquire these key parcels before they are lost forever.
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