Crandell Park made its highly anticipated debut in March. The soft opening was intentional, as plans for the park’s future are as of yet unknown. Eaton County Commissioners instead were hoping to tap into residents’ visions for the park before setting any kinds of concrete plans for the park in place.

“We hope people wander around the park, and let themselves dream a little bit,” said County Commissioner Brian Lautzenheiser when the park opened in March. “We’re looking to piece together what the community’s vision is, and see what types of partnerships we can create.”

Eaton County Parks Director Clay Summers said county officials identified the need for public involvement as a key strategy during the very early stages of the Crandell Park project.

“We can’t create something internally without listening to the public,” Summers said. “We may develop something we think the community needs and it ends up not being something they want.”

The first of six planned meetings will take place Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Eaton Township Hall. Eaton County residents with an interest in the future development of the park are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts. The meetings will be facilitated by Arnold Weinfeld, Director of Urban Policy Initiatives at Michigan State University.

The second meeting will take place Tuesday, May 2 at AL!VE in Charlotte, followed by meetings at the Hamlin Township Hall in Eaton Rapids on Tuesday, May 16, at Crandell Park on Tuesday, May 30 (the official grand opening date of the park), Benton Township Hall in Potterville on June 13 and Delta Township Hall on June 20. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.

“We selected locations where people could get to and where we could see the greatest impact,” Summers said.

The park, located at the corner of M-50 and Stewart Road in Charlotte, 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.