Jerry Goffin had been waiting years for this day, serving the last several years as an advocate for public recreation in Eaton County. On Monday, Feb. 27, with walking stick in hand, Goffin and fellow Friends of Eaton County Parks, John Bumgartner strolled Eaton County’s newest public space — Crandell Park, taking in the sights along the coast of the 160-acre lake that serves as the center piece of the 432-acre park.
Goffin, like many in Eaton County has been following the ebbs and flows surrounding the county’s plans to purchase the former gravel pit from Randy Crandell. The $3.9 million purchase was completed in 2016, thanks to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant, which covered 75 percent of the cost. Crandell donated the remaining 25 percent.
“It’s a real gem for the county to have a park like this in the central part of the county,” said Bumgartner, vice president of the Friends of Eaton County Parks. “The amount of lake space that we have is probably one of the largest lake areas we have in the central part of the state.”
Eaton County Parks Director Clay Summers said he actually got goose bumps when the Crandell Park sign was installed.
“There was a time, and not too long ago, that we weren’t sure this was actually going to happen,” Summers said. “From the Parks Department standpoint, we are just thrilled to be open to the public.
The park is currently open from 8 a.m. to dusk for what Summers called passive recreational use — walking/hiking, carry in kayaking and canoeing, or mountain biking. There is no fishing allowed currently, as the county is waiting to have a fish study completed by the DNR Fisheries Department in an effort to get a baseline understanding of the lake’s fish population.
“We would rather be responsible with it up front,” said Eaton County Commissioner Brian Lautzenheiser of the fish habitat in the lake. “We would rather take that extra time now to see what we have in the lake, rather than take the risk of getting fished dry.”
Summers said the study would be a short-term process, adding that he is confident that the lake will be open for fishing by summer. In terms of future uses of the park, Summers said the park will remain as is, at least for the first year.
As chair of the Public Works Committee, Lautzenheiser will be working to help organize several town hall meetings this spring designed to gather public input regarding future use of the park. The goal is to hold six to eight meetings throughout the county, gathering as much public input as possible.
“We hope people wander around the park, and let themselves dream a little bit,” Lautzenheiser said. “We’re looking to piece together what the community’s vision is, and see what types of partnerships we can create.”
In the meantime, Summers said he hopes people understand that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“There are going to be some bumps in the road, but we’re building toward a plan out there,” Summers said. “We’re hoping people use it, and use it the right way.”
Crandell Park, located on the corner of M-50 and Stewart Road, can be accessed from the entrance off of M-50.
Crandell Lake