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DNR to hold open house on Douglass Houghton Falls

Courtesy of Michigan DNR

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is looking for community input on conceptual designs for the Douglass Houghton Falls scenic site. An open house will be held Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lake Linden-Hubbell High School auditorium, 601 Calumet St., Lake Linden.

Since its purchase of the 115-acre site in 2018, the DNR has amassed just over $900,000 in grants and funding opportunities to purchase, develop and improve access to the site of Michigan’s tallest waterfall.

The land was transferred in an agreement with James Kuusisto. Years of public access had resulted in injuries and death due to erosion and the risk associated with a hundred-foot waterfall, and the site was closed to the public from 1996.

Kuusisto, a Vietnam War veteran and former Post Commander of Copper Ingot Post 4624 VFW in Hubbell, agreed to the land transfer with the DNR in 2018 that included a commitment to designate the site as a Veterans Memorial Park.

Doug Rich, district supervisor for Parks and Recreation Division of the Western U.P., said the department intends to honor that agreement, but also add to the accessibility of the scenic site.

“Essentially, we are at 90% of our phase 100 design study, and part of that we want to have this public meeting to make sure we’re hitting the mark,” said Rich.

Developments will ensure safety and bolster areas of the site that have been impacted by erosion and use by the general public.

“Right now, there’s basically nothing, all the trails are basically trails the general public has made on their own. What we want to do is actually make the site safe and meet American Disabilities Act requirements. Essentially, this plan that UPEA (U.P. Engineers & Architects) has put together is looking at parking, getting cars off M-26 and then having some basic amenities like a vault toilet,” Rich said.

The first phase of trail development will fit the falls with overlook decks, making access possible with a wheelchair, and refine elements to reduce erosion and any further degradation to the existing site.

Engineers from UPEA and DNR staff will discuss conceptual designs and site plans including a parking lot, vault toilet, information kiosk, pedestrian path, pedestrian bridge, observation deck(s) and safety fencing.

The project will most likely take place in phases regarding funding and construction schedules.

“The people who use the facilities come up with the best ideas and that’s why we want to incorporate this public comment period so we can see what is the best use of the site,” said Rich.

Materials will be available at the open house for attendees to peruse regarding the conceptual designs of the project along with a presentation on all that the project entails with time afterwards to provide comments on the scope and development of the area.

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