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New Crystal Waters State Playground Opens in Monroe County | Michigan News

By DEAN COUSINO, The Monroe Stories

MONROE, Mich. (AP) — Fishing and hunting enthusiasts hail the creation of the all-new Monroe County State Game Area in the county’s north region that opened last fall after the sale of the owned by Crystal Waters at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The 680-acre site in North London Township has previously served hunters and anglers and is expected to attract even more hunters and outdoor enthusiasts as word spreads, supporters say.

The plot was sold in September by Mark Brant, owner of Crystal Waters LLC, to become the county’s fifth state gaming area, reports The Monroe News. Although far from fully developed, land is available for hunting, fishing, trapping and walking on the sprawling wooded site while the property is being improved for visitors, said Joseph D. Robison, supervisor of the Southeast region of the DNR which includes 17 counties in Southeast Michigan.

“It’s a great location for a playground,” Robison said. “It’s a (reasonable) driving distance for many hunters who live outside the county. It’s big and there aren’t many houses in the area. Anyone can use it.

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He praised Brant for working with the state and stakeholders such as Pheasants Forever, Gibraltar Duck Hunters and Michigan United Conservation Clubs to iron out a three-year deal.

“Mark was patient and a great guy to work with,” Robison said. “Without the owner, this would not be possible.”

The game area is already used for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other recreational activities and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are also over six miles of hiking trails.

The hunting area, which has yet to be officially named, will be maintained like all hunting areas in the state – with revenue from hunting and fishing license fees.

“Our goal is to make it the best possible habitat and create grasslands,” Robison said. “People are welcome to walk around there and look for mushrooms too.”

The play area is bounded by Darling, Tuttle-Hill, Palmer, and Grames roads and takes its name from half a dozen lakes that are on the property. Part of the play area was once a quarry operated by the former London Sand Co. in the 1980s. The sand property was one of the county’s first wild turkey release sites in the late 1980s , did he declare. London Sand, which was later acquired by Stoneco of Michigan, eventually sold the land to Brant.

Brant said the property was valued at $6.2 million and he sold the site to DNR for $3.675 million and donated the rest of the money to DNR. He says he “donated the excess value between the appraised value and the negotiated price. I will be able to deduce the difference in the values.

MUCC and the DNR trust fund provided the money for the acquisition.

Currently, there are no other public hunting grounds within 30 miles, and approximately 23% of the state’s population lives in one of the counties bordering the site.

The state has a huge amount of properties in northern Michigan, but has relatively few in the lower half of the state and virtually none in the southeast corner, with the Pointe Mouillee state game area being an exception, both Brant and State Representative Joe Bellino. noted. Brant said he was approached by MNR about five years ago to sell the 680 acres for a playground.

“It was brought to my attention at the time that the new director of the DNR wanted to bring more outdoor recreational activities to this part of the state where the majority of the population resides,” Brant said in an e-mail. mail. “My property was identified as a good candidate because it was one of the largest undeveloped contiguous properties in the area and under one owner. It had seven lakes, was within a 50-mile radius of 5 million people, and was in a rural area that could accommodate a state playground.

With a little nudge from Robison, state senator Dale Zorn, former state representative Bill Lavoy and Bellino, Brant said he was convinced to sell the land at a discount and make donating the remaining value to the state to establish the gaming area.

“I had big plans to develop the property, but in the end those plans weren’t achievable and I decided that selling it to the state for everyone’s enjoyment was a better use of the land,” he said. Brant said.

Zorn and Bellino, R-Monroe, applauded the acquisition and said they were eager to promote its benefits to area voters. Bellino said 95% of state-owned land for hunting and fishing is in northern Michigan, and many county residents have to travel long distances to get there.

“It’s nice to see the state spending more money upstate and less money upstate,” Bellino said. “It’s a good move for Southeast Michigan.”

He said the game area would slowly grow, like the River Raisin National Battleground in Monroe.

“But when it’s done, it will be beautiful,” he said.

He added that money from a DNR trust fund that collects oil and gas royalties from industries that extract minerals from the earth will be used to develop the new play area. He said there were around 500 million in the fund and that the money could also be used to fund walking trails and other improvements at Sterling State Park.

He said the game area is not far from Lake Erie, another hotspot for fishing and boating.

Zorn, R-Ida, cited the benefits of a recreation area in helping those suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Access to public lands and recreation have proven to be the keystone to the mental health and well-being of Michiganders during the pandemic,” Zorn said. “This acquisition provides much-needed recreational opportunities in an area that is, essentially, a wasteland of public land.”

Robison said there’s still a lot to do on the site. A sign that reads “Public Hunting” is posted near the Darling Rd. entrance between Tuttle-Hill and Palmer Rds. Half a dozen new parking lots are planned as well as directional signs. The seven inland water bodies include two large lakes and three man-made ponds, he said.

The 680 acres are a “national treasure” that provide various types of cover, water resources and excellent habitat for deer, turkeys, waterfowl and many other wildlife, he said. He remembers hunting on the plot in the 1990s with former state legislator Jerry Bartnik.

“This new play area will be used more and more as people understand,” he said. “Next year I see a lot more people there.”

Besides Pointe Mouillée, the county also has three other game areas: Erie State Game Area, Petersburg State Game Area and Pointe aux Peaux State Wildlife Area in Frenchtown Township, he said.

In the MNR Wildlife Division’s application to the Trust Fund Board, a proposed schedule of amenities and offerings was outlined. In it, it was stated that hiking trails would be established within a year of the closure and that a boat launch and access road would be expanded and improved on the 85-acre lake. Improvements would include adding security lights and parking within two years and planting warm-season prairie grasses on 300 acres of farmland and fallow fields within three years.

MUCC contributed $335,000 to advance the sale and played a central role in helping pass legislation creating the trust fund and bringing the various parties to the negotiating table, said Amy Trotter, executive director of MUCC. She said the organization was proud to help acquire historic public lands.

“Access to quality public lands for hunting, hiking, trapping and outdoor recreation is a key policy issue for MUCC and its members,” she said in a press release. “With this purchase, residents of southeast Michigan will now have more opportunities to pursue their passions on land and water that will be managed with conservation in mind for generations to come.”

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