Michigan's next state park is an old auto industrial site in Flint. It's a place where General Motors built their cars for nearly a century.
It's been a decade since they brought down the last building in Chevy in the Hole. Since then, efforts have been underway to transform the 60-acre brownfield into a public green space.
The Whitmer administration is ready to spend more than $26 million in federal COVID relief funds to convert the former "Chevy in the Hole" site into Michigan's 104th state park.
The past few years have seen millions of dollars being spent in cleaning up the decades of industrial waste at the former Chevy in the Hole auto plant site in the heart of Flint.
Michigan has been getting millions of dollars from the federal governments over the years to help with the continued cleanup of polluted former industrial sites.
History of Chevy in the Hole
Between Kettering University and downtown, along the Flint River in Flint, Michigan, what is now "Chevy Commons," was the site of a saw and a paper mill before becoming the home to "Flint Wagon Works" in the 1880s.
It is well known as the site of a former Chevrolet factory called Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing but popularly known as "Chevy in the Hole." Automotive manufacturing at the factory began in the year 1904, and the factory employed 14,000 workers at its peak. The Flint sit-down strike was at this same location.
The last buildings on the site were razed in 2004 by automotive parts supplier Delphi, leaving it a barren brownfield.
For many years before the idea of Chevy Commons was considered in 2014, withering elimination at Chevy in the Hole was considered.
In 2014, Flint's Mayor of that time, Dayne Walling, announced 2 separate grants (of $1.6 million and $1.9 million, resp.) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to turn the city-owned Chevy in the Hole into a state park.
Genesee County Historical Society president Dave White noted that this was the first time in almost 200 years that the site was not being used for manufacturing or commercial purposes.
According to Walling, the idea of Chevy Commons was conceived to provide event space and recreational areas and also to recognize the site's auto and Native American history. He considered it as "an interesting, natural space right in the heart of the city."
Christina Kelly of the Genesee County Land Bank noted that the project was dependent on federal funds. The site's redevelopment was planned to focus on capping the ground and building up the soil on top of it instead of concentrating primarily on its decontamination.
However, before the first EPA grant, thousands of trees were planted on the site to help decontaminate it naturally.
On April 10, 2014, approximately 70 people expressed robust support for the project at a public meeting.
From Barren to Green
Since 2015, the site has been transformed from a desolated stretch of concrete into a green city park. The project required piling tons of topsoil over the brownfield that General Motor's auto assembly plant left behind.
Ron Olson, Michigan's Parks and Recreation Division chief from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said that the plan includes the Flint River.
Olson says, "Right now, there's a concept. And it's a vision. And there's been a lot of ideas that are being suggested."
"The Department of Natural Resources has expertise in maintaining state parks linked to Michigan's industrial past." said Olson.
The new state park would be the state's 104th. However, Genesee County is the only county in Michigan not to have a state park.
So, are you excited about your next state park?
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