Anonymous donor wants to add land to the City of Muskegon's Richards Park
Published: Monday, August 23, 2010, 5:56 AM
Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle
MUSKEGON -- The donor of $4 million to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County is investigating the purchase of Muskegon River property as a gift to the city of Muskegon.
The anonymous donor is working with a environmental consulting team to make the best use of his gifts to the community, which he hopes will help the restoration of Muskegon Lake.
That environmental team has identified the Abonmarche property on a creek flowing from Sanfords Bayou directly into the south branch of the Muskegon River. The three parcels totaling 7.5 acres are on the south bank of the Sanfords Bayou creek directly across from the city's Richards Park.
Muskegon city commissioners this week heard a plan in which the donor would purchase the land from Abonmarche -- a Benton Harbor-based waterfront design and development company -- and donate it to the city.
The donor hopes the property would be open to the public but be a preserved natural area, said Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, the city's community and economic development director.
Commissioners supported the property donation and directed staff to complete the deal. "I think we ought to do it," Commissioner Larry Spataro said.
The donor also has been working with Kathy Evans, environmental planner with the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission in Muskegon.
WMSRDC continues to manage a $10 million restoration of the south shore of Muskegon Lake through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Great Lakes Commission. The NOAA funds are helping restore natural plants and wildlife along the shore.
If the property is donated to the city, Evans told commissioners that funds would still be available to reduce the steep slope of the property's creek bank and improve the habitat for native plants and wildlife.
The city intends to add the Abonmarche property -- valued for property taxing purposes at $106,400 -- to its Richards Park parcel, which is the site of the city's former sewer plant. Richards Park is being planned for the headquarters of the Muskegon Conservation District.
Conservation district officials are preparing a final site plan for the property that would include new offices, educational and recreational improvements to the property and overall conservation of the river environment. That plan might now include the Abonmarche land.
The Abonmarche property owners have held the site since the late 1980s when the company was investigating a marina and condominium project on adjacent Muskegon Lake property then owned by Consumers Energy. The company's Muskegon development plans never materialized.
The three parcels are west of Ottawa Street and north of Bayou Street.
The anonymous donor established a fund with the community foundation at the end of 2009. The $4 million created Fund 2012, named because the donor wants to spend the funds by the end of 2012, foundation officials have said.
City officials said they do not know whether the donor would use money from the Fund 2012 to pay for the Abonmarche property.
The donor's gift is the largest ever to the $112 million community foundation. He has not been identified, beyond being described as an out-of-town physician with deep family ties in Muskegon. He also funded two post-doctoral research positions with the Grand Valley State University's Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon.