BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
A site previously known as an unofficial deer refuge might instead become home to soccer fields, baseball diamonds, and concerts.
The 70-acre, two-parcel property on both sides of Clarkston Road just south of Eston Road is owned by Clarion Farm, LLC. It is not currently for sale, but Independence Township officials are reaching out to owners to discuss redeveloping it.
“I sent a letter to the family and made several attempts to talk to them and discuss it,” said township Treasurer Paul Brown at the May 7 Township Board meeting. “While the family didn’t have any interest in selling the property, seeing what this opportunity might be, the family said, yes, they would entertain this idea of us applying for grants so that we might be able to have parks for the whole township to use for perpetuity.”
The Walters Lake parcels are among just a few large properties still undeveloped in the township. A large parcel is owned by Clarkston Community Schools, reserved for a future school location.
Preliminary plans for the property include a soccer complex, amphitheater, public beach, fishing pier, sand volleyball courts, tree house village, nature and fitness trails, pavilion and restroom facilities, and potential barn programming space, said Derek Smith, township director of parks, recreation and seniors.
“This is a very unique piece of property on the east side of the township,” Smith said. “We have begun the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant process through the DNR. Through that process, we are required to have a public hearing to allow members and residents of the township an opportunity to come and speak on whether they approve or do not approve.”
One of the grant’s requirements is for Smith’s department to collect letters of support from residents, which are due May 17.
“There are just so many opportunities with this piece of property,” said Smith. “We’re just really excited to be part of the process. It’s been a lot of work to this point, and we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re on track.
“The new signature park will have significant regional impact for Independence Township and the surrounding communities by preserving public open space, providing a point of interest with non-motorized trail connectivity, promoting economic impact, and creating health and wellness opportunities for all.”
Combined, the parcels would provide a wide range of recreation options and resource conservation opportunities. The landowners, the Zeunen family, are a strong proponent for natural resource conservation, and the family has managed their land in a way to ensure both parcels have been preserved in their natural states. The family specifically wanted to encourage preservation of wildlife. It is the wishes of the family that both properties should be preserved as open spaces and developed into public parks, Smith said.
Total cost of the Walters Lake land is estimated at $3 million to $6 million, he said.
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund would provide a $4.5 million match, 75 percent, with Independence Township providing $1.5 million, 25 percent.
Brown said the Zeunen family has owned the land since the 1950s. He spoke to the family in recent years and told them that the township would be interested in acquiring the property.