Newsroom Midwest Region

Designing award winning parks for people and wildlife

February 12, 2018

A vacant lot was enhanced and restored with native plants. Photo courtesy of Zachary Branigan/Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.
A vacant lot was enhanced and restored with native plants. Photo courtesy of Zachary Branigan/Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.

On February 8, 2018, the O.U.R. Saginaw Project was awarded the 2017 Park Design of the Year by the Michigan Recreation and Park Association. The Park Design award recognizes groups and organizations for projects that contain landscape and facility components such as splash pads, outdoor aquatic facilities, sports fields, playgrounds and trails. The O.U.R. Saginaw Project is a unique recipient of this award, consisting of the following outdoor areas for people to enjoy:

  • A new nature trail network at Saginaw Valley State University, provides the campus and general public with access to outdoor exercise trails and serves as a National Collegiate Athletic Association certified cross-country course.
  • The restoration and enhancement of a former parking lot into a two-and-a-half- acre nature preserve. The site includes native plants that are pollinator friendly, 900 feet of paved trail and an outdoor classroom for the Saginaw Arts and Science Academy campus.
  • The transformation of 327 vacant lots, totaling 60 acres, in the City of Saginaw. These lots have been transformed into desirable pollinator and wildlife habitat. An additional 1200 lots are planned to be enhanced and restored in 2018 and 2020.
  • The restoration of a 16-acre vacant lot, owned by Saginaw Children’s Zoo, was converted into a nature trail with interpretive signs explaining the benefits of native plants for pollinators and wildlife. An outdoor classroom was also added to the site to serve visiting children.

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, Saginaw County Land Bank, City of Saginaw and Saginaw Future Inc. began the O.U.R. Saginaw Project in 2015. In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program got involved by providing financial and technical assistance for the native plantings and restoration components.  

“The City of Saginaw is directly adjacent to Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, so restoring pollinator habitat and creating habitat corridors to connect natural areas is a priority for us,” said Michelle Vander Haar, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Private Lands Biologist. “In addition, this area is in the Saginaw Bay Lakeplain Focus Area and any project we do in this area contributes to improvement of water quality and habitat, including coastal wetlands, of Lake Huron. Protection and restoration of habitats for fish, migratory birds and threatened and endangered species is a priority for the program but these restorations also assist the local communities with quality of life, property values and recreational access.”

For 20 years, the Partners Program and the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy have partnered on projects like O.U.R. Saginaw. These working relationships have helped the Service build trusting relationships with community leaders and urban citizens. By being a good neighbor, the Partners Program brought O.U.R. Saginaw partners and Shiawassee refuge staff together and the connection has resulted in youth employment opportunities and opened the door for the urban community in Saginaw to access public lands in their community.

“The Service is dedicated to conserving, restoring and protecting natural resources for the American public. The Partners Program plans to continue to fund this partnership as they continue to restore natural areas for public access,” said Vander Haar. “We look forward to new partnerships and projects that help the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species.”

We are proud to be one of many partners on the O.U.R. Saginaw Project and honored that Michigan Parks and Recreation Association has recognized this project with the 2017 Park Design Award. This project is a great example of how we work with landowners -- including families, park boards, local and state governments, organizations and tribes to restore land into desirable habitat for wildlife while providing the American people with access to the great outdoors.

Executive Director Zack Branigan of Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy and Brian Lechel of Saginaw County Parks accepting the Park Design Award from mParks Michigan Recreation and Parks Association. Photo courtesy of Zack Branigan/Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.
Executive Director Zachary Branigan of Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy and Brian Lechel of Saginaw County Parks accepting the Park Design Award from mParks Michigan Recreation and Parks Association. Photo courtesy of Zachary Branigan/Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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