HOUGHTON - Funding for the City of Houghton's acquisition of .77 acres for a neighborhood greenspace park was among $5.2 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund projects, State Sen. Majority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, announced recently.
The city received $22,000 in grant money, with an additional $7,440 coming from current owner Shalini Suryanarayana.
Three years ago, Suryanarayana bought the land, which adjoins her existing property.
Daily Mining Gazette/Garrett Neese
Part of .77 acres in a planned greenspace park in Houghton is seen Friday afternoon. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund recently awarded the City of Houghton $22,000 for the park, which will be matched by more than $7,000 from the park’s current owner, Shalini Suryanarayana.
"I just wanted to preserve green space, so I was looking for ways we could turn it into a community project," she said.
After several years of searching, she found the Trust Fund program, run through the Department of Natural Resources. As the project required a municipality, she began working with the Planning Commission and City Council.
Suryanarayana credited City Manager Scott MacInnes for his work on the project, including the grant-required steps of scheduling a public hearing and adding it to the city's five-year recreation plan.
"He was very helpful and did a lot of the background work and helped arrange the steps in order for the process to be completed," she said.
Suryanarayana said the park contains numerous species of plants, including some transplanted during the expansion of the Michigan Technological University Trails. Animals including deer, woodpeckers and albino squirrels also frequent the park.
Suryanarayana said once funding for the park has been received, she plans to follow up with teachers in local school districts to see if they're interested in bringing students to the site. She said it may also be a good fit for Tech's Summer Youth Program, which she works with.
"If they ever want to do a quick field outing, this is within walking distance of campus, so it would be easy for them to get into a small woods space without leaving town," she said.
In July, the City Council approved applying for the grant. The Trust Fund board recommended the project, along with 80 others, to Gov. Jennifer Granholm in December.
"By continuously improving our community's parks and trails we can help our local businesses by attracting local tourism and driving the recreational activities that are vital to the U.P. economy," Prusi said in a statement. This will create jobs while making more of our natural resources accessible for all to enjoy."
Garrett Neese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.