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Where Grand Rapids will seek state grant for $1.2 million boardwalk

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A dilapidated boardwalk through wetlands in Huff Park could get rebuilt with help from a state grant and with money from a new voter-approved city parks tax.

Grand Rapids City Commission will schedule a 7 p.m. Feb. 24 hearing on the estimated $1.2 million boardwalk replacement, with plans to submit a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application this spring. If the grant comes through, the city may be able to rebuild the boardwalk in 2016.

The city's new 0.98-mill property tax for parks could provide local money required by the grant.

“It’s getting so deteriorated,” said Steve Krogman, the city's parks and facilities supervisor. "The baseboards are old railroad ties and there’s just nothing to screw into any more, and the boards are coming off or being thrown off by people.”

Grand Rapids 20 years ago put the 3,500-foot boardwalk through Huff Park wetlands using railroad ties and plastic decking made from recycled milk jugs. Volunteers in past years have replaced missing planks, but the city closed the walk last year.

The snow-covered boardwalk west of Ball Avenue NE, between Aberdeen and Knapp streets, is passable, thought potentially hazardous. "Danger: Keep Out" signs are posted.

“Commissioner (Ruth) Kelly and I have gotten so many calls on this because it’s in such disrepair,” Second Ward City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said.

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Grand Rapids four years ago got a $300,000 Trust Fund grant to build Pleasant Park at the border of the Heritage Hill and South Hill neighborhoods. That park just got completed last summer because the city didn’t come up with local money for the required grant match until a special assessment was approved on properties near the park.

With the new property tax now producing money earmarked for parks, Grand Rapids could use that money to pay boardwalk costs not covered by the grant.

Grand Rapids previously got a Trust Fund grant for Huff Park, receiving $294,000 in 1991 for work that included irrigation, fencing, picnic areas, playground equipment, parking, landscaping, signs, footpaths and renovations of softball fields.

The Trust Fund gets money from oil and gas royalties paid to the state. Mayor George Heartwell, in his annual State of the City speech this month, called on Gov. Snyder to ban hydraulic fracturing, a process of mining natural gas.

Matt Vande Bunte covers government for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at mvandebu@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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