Under threatening skies, dozens of wandering geese in Saline’s Mill Pond Park erupted into startled flight, winging quickly to the open dark water of the pond, its edges laced with ice.
The geese had the expansive fields of Mill Pond, the city’s largest park at fifty-four acres, mostly to themselves on this winter day, but that could soon change. Thanks to a $40,000 Washtenaw County grant, the city will seek bids to evaluate and design a nonmotorized pathway to run the length of the pond, from the park’s Bennett St. parking lot south to Michigan Ave.
The proposed pathway has been on the city’s park master plan wish list for a decade. Saline mayor Brian Marl, who has pitched the pathway in his annual State of the City addresses for the past two years, says, “The Saline River and Mill Pond are the city of Saline’s greatest natural assets, and we should do more to leverage that.”
Jeff Fordice, the city’s director of public works, says the pathway will probably be about eight feet wide, with the first phase likely to begin in the summer of 2021. Total construction costs are still to be determined. “This will create a nice walking loop–down the park, up Michigan Avenue, up Mills [Rd.], and back to your car.”
The project also will include an observation deck that will extend over the twenty-acre pond, as well as a pedestrian crosswalk to Curtiss Park on the south side of Michigan Ave.
“A lot of people want to sit and watch the water,” says Carla Scruggs, director of the city’s parks and recreation department. “It’s very calming. There’s a lot of birds down there. Blue heron. Geese, of course. Kingfishers. [It’s] really interesting bird watching.”
Marl is thrilled that Saline has snagged funds from the county’s Connecting Communities program for the Mill Pond project, especially since city taxpayers have contributed significantly to the county parks system. He says he plans to “aggressively compete for these dollars in the future.” The city will also seek grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, other agencies, and local foundations to pay for construction on the new pathway.
The work will involve mostly grading and paving, but recent flooding at Mill Pond could complicate things. “Mill Pond Park doesn’t typically flood,” Fordice says, “but, because the water level is so high there, we have to look at the stability of the soil and design a pavement system that will work.”
Fordice notes that future plans could allow walkers to use sidewalks and pathways from the city’s border with Pittsfield Township “all the way through to Saline Township.”
“Mill Pond Park is arguably one of the nicest parks in the city of Saline,” Marl says, “and a completed river walk would be scenic and well-used by residents and visitors.”
One of those residents, Don Dickinson, was walking his collie Foggy on a recent afternoon over the frozen fields along the water. He especially likes the idea of a pedestrian crossing to get safely across Michigan Ave. to Curtiss Park, where he also often walks.
“If there was a paved pathway, I might use it,” he says. “That would be really nice, I think.”