A few years ago, Kent County Parks (KCP) did an extensive review of the infrastructure and buildings at Dwight Lydell Park. It was determined that the condition of the retaining walls was degraded to the point where it needed to be addressed sooner rather than later (see photos below). As a result, KCP reached out to representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) regarding the best approach to address various issues with the walls and concrete lining of Mill Creek. It was the professional recommendation of these two agencies that for the health of the Mill Creek stream corridor, it was best to remove the walls and concrete lining and begin the process of restoring a natural floodplain for Mill Creek. After working with these two agencies, an overall project plan was developed and will be implemented this summer (see master plan). The project will remove the retaining walls, concrete lined creek channel, ponds, as well as some of the existing paths in order to safely remove the walls and to develop a floodplain area along the edge of the creek. The park will be regraded, paths will be re-built, a boardwalk connection from the parking lot to Lamoreaux Drive is planned, a new bridge crossing near the library will be installed, an overlook deck will be constructed, and new playground equipment will be installed. Future plans call for a spray park near the north parking lot.
January 2021: Park Renovations at Dwight Lydell are nearly 85% complete. The wet fall pushed completion of the project into 2021.
Please note: The park remains closed to all users as construction continues on the boardwalk and overlook deck, we expect these to be completed sometime in February. We know that it is tempting to be able to walk up to the creek and walk along the banks, but the grass and vegetation is not yet mature and walking on these sensitive areas will increase the chances of the creek edges washing away during spring flooding.
So, what is left to finish? The boardwalk and overlook decks will be the first items completed this year. Once weather allows, the paved paths will be installed, final site grading and restoration will be completed and, finally, the new play area will be installed. These final items will all require a dry area to work so timing will depend on our spring weather. The tentative schedule is to begin finishing these items in May with completion in June.
For the time being, we ask that you find another Kent County Park to enjoy while we finalize our work. When the park does open it will initially be limited to paved paths, shelters, boardwalks and the play area while we give our lawn areas time to mature. We hope to have another update for you in May!
Here are some pictures of what we've been working on:
September 2020: The crew has been hard at work and they are making great progress!
The new clear span bridge is in place! This bridge connects the library to the park. Thanks so much to Comstock Park DDA for your contribution in funding the new bridge!
Here you can see the new flood shelf that has been created along the creek. The flood shelf will allow wildlife easier access to the shore and water while providing an area for rising water to dissipate during heavy rain events. This will slow the flow of the creek and allow sediment to settle before reaching the Grand River. As you can see, the ducks approve!
August 2020: The restoration project is underway and the old retaining walls are in the process of being removed. Here's a few pictures of what we've discovered so far:
This wall failed several years ago and had to be buried to stabilize it. This failure caused the stretch of Mill Creek from the north bridge to Lamoreaux Drive to become more narrow, which in turn caused more erosion on the opposite bank, undermining trees and vegetation and causing damage and instability.
This is the north retaining wall with soil removed from behind it. As you can see, it was only a matter of time before this wall collapsed into the creek!
History of Dwight Lydell Park
In the 1800’s the property that is now Dwight Lydell Park looked very different than it does today. At that time the creek was still a wild, meandering, undeveloped stream corridor. In the mid 1800’s a saw-mill was erected and in the late 1800’s the property became a fish hatchery for what is now the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). During this period the creek was lined with concrete, walls were erected, and control structures were formed on the creek to divert water to the fish hatchery and saw-mill.
In 1949, the State deeded the property to Kent County for a park which was dedicated in 1954 and named after the former head of hatchery operations. At this point, the park was inundated with ponds (photo A). During the 1960’s when US-131 was constructed north of I-96, the ponds in the southern half of the park were filled. (Photo B). In the 1980s, the site was again modified to construct the three ponds that exist today. As part of that project a water pump system was created to pump water from the creek into the ponds to maintain water levels and help circulate water through the ponds. Most recently the park has undergone several transitions in anticipation of the creek restoration project. This included moving the maintenance building to the west side of the railroad tracks and updating the parking to accommodate more spaces for the open shelter picnic facility.
To read more on the history of the park area, be sure to visit the informative page provided by the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority!
Aerials of 1938 and 1963
Common Questions and Answers:
Q: When will the project start?
A: The project began on August 3rd.
Q: Why are the ponds being removed?
A: In order to develop a floodplain for Mill Creek, the distance between the pond edge and the proposed floodplain edge was not large enough to safely maintain a pond structure.
Q: Will there be opportunities for fishing in the Park?
A: There will be areas that allow access to Mill Creek for fishing such as boardwalk overlooks and dedicated areas along the bank of the creek.
Q: Why are you removing trees?
A: In order to remove the walls and create the natural floodplain, the trees and soil behind the walls must excavated to restore the creek channel. Tree trunks, branches, and root wads that are removed will be used in the project to help protect the creek bank once the walls are removed. KCPD will relocate as many trees as possible that are easily relocated. In addition, 250 new trees will be planted in the park as well as over 600 shrubs and perennials!
Q: Why are you removing the pathway on the east side of the creek that crosses the middle of the park?
A: Unfortunately, we needed to reduce the number of crossings over the creek to improve floodplain development and flood capacity for Mill Creek.
Q: Will I still be able to cross from the library parking lot to the park?
A: Yes, we will be replacing the wooden bridge with a new steel bridge that spans the creek channel.
Q: Will I still be able to cross the creek at the north end of the park and get to Lamoreaux Drive?
A: Yes, we have proposed a boardwalk system that will connect the parking lot to Lamoureux Drive. The boardwalk will cross the floodplain and creek.
Q: Will there be a playground?
A: Yes, we are moving the playground location so that it is not in a flood prone area.
Q: Will I still be able to walk at the Park?
A: Yes, we made it a focus to keep walking paths at the Park. However, during construction, the Park will be closed to all uses.
Q: Will the Park flood or have large puddles in it still?
A: The Park will have a direct connection to Mill Creek and will have areas that flood. However, the project addresses wet, low areas with improved drainage and shaping the ground to improve drainage. At peak flooding during spring rains and snow melts, portions of the park and path may flood but should not remain flooded as the Creek recedes.
Q: What is in the red building (i.e. old fish hatchery building)?
A: The red building is home to the Grand Rapids Model Railroad Historical Society. They frequently host community open houses. More info can be found at www.grmrhs.org