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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:41 PM   #1
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Angry this is bad the mounds may close

In Genesee Township, a Mounds of confusion over ORV site
by Elizabeth Shaw | The Flint Journal
Monday March 03, 2008, 5:01 PM
GENESEE TWP., MICHIGAN -- Who owns the Mounds?
Until recently, that wasn't even a question.
Now, it seems that about 50 acres of the popular off-road vehicle park's buffer zone actually belongs to the state, due to an apparent legal oversight dating to 1993.
Theoretically, the sale of the land to a private individual could throw a wrench into the Mounds' future as an ORV park.
Another risk: The state could agree to sell it to the county -- but for a lot more than the county is willing or able to pay.
But state and county officials say they'll work out the snafu with no real impact on the Mounds.
The Genesee County Parks Commission acquired the former gravel pit on Mt. Morris Road back in the 1970s, eventually converting it into a popular 450-acre ORV park.
"The Mounds is indispensible to the state's ORV community at this point in time," said Lapeer County resident Jim Mazzola, a member of the state ORV land use committee and the Great Lakes Four-Wheel Drive Association.
"It is literally the only legal place in southeast Michigan for thousands of ORV users in the metropolitan Detroit area who use it as a playground.
"This is it. There is nothing else unless you drive hours and hours away. And as gas prices get worse, it's becoming more and more of a strategic place for this form of outdoor recreation."
The odd revelation about real estate turned up in February during a state Department of Natural Resources review of the state's public land holdings in Genesee County.
The property was on a list of parcels recommended for sale as part of the DNR's ongoing land consolidation strategy begun in 2003.
That was a surprise to county parks officials, who believed they'd owned the land for the past 15 years. in fact, some of it had been fenced and planted with trees, and a house on one parcel was long ago torn down near the park entrance.
The situation has even puzzled DNR officials.
"We've seen some strange things over the course of this land consolidation and this is certainly one of them. It has been an interesting process, that's for sure," said DNR public lands specialist Scott Whitcomb.
Here's what apparently happened: Back in 1991, the Parks Commission sought a DNR grant to buy some buffer land around the Mounds to allay concerns of the impact of ORVs on the ecoystem and nearby neighborhoods.
In 1993, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved the $95,000 purchase of 50.3 acres up near the northeast corner of Frances and Vassar roads and a 1.5-acre homesite on Mt. Morris Road next to the Mounds' entrance.
The land was supposed to be transferred to the Genesee County Parks Commission solely for public recreation, with the land to and revert back to the state if that public use ever ended.
Parks officials realized in 2000 that the land had never been deeded over as planned, and asked the state to take steps to sign off on it. State legislation was passed in 2002 to approve the transfer for $1.
And that's where the hiccup happened.
"It all comes down to one little word in the legislation that arranged for the transfer in the first place - instead of 'will' transfer, it said 'may' transfer," explained parks Director Amy McMillan. "It's sort of like all of those times when you were a kid and asked 'can' I do something instead of 'may' I do something."
"In other words, the DNR has permission under the law to convey the property to Genesee County but we are not required to," explained Kerry Wieber, a DNR forest land administrator.
"This means that our director would need to approve of the transfer, which would take place following the approval. According to our records, the director has never reviewed this transaction and we do not believe that it has taken place."
The result: despite the law approving it, the state still owns the land.
Another potential wrench in the works: state law mandates that no land can be sold during the land consolidation strategy for less than fair market value.
No one is actually worried. Last week, the DNR's Land Exchange Review Committee formally asked the DNR director to approve the transfer as originally intended.
But nothing's a done deal until it's done, said all concerned.
"All we can say is that's our recommendation and it will be on the DNR director's agenda to take action (in April)," said Whitcomb. "A lot of the pieces are in place but obviously something derailed it in the past and we still don't know exactly what that was."
The county, meanwhile, remains optimistic.
"The Department of Natural Resources staff have been very helpful, not just in resolving this issue, but in supporting the Mounds ORV Area with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants over the years," said McMillan.
"We are confident that what essentially amounts to a clerical error will be quickly resolved with the final transfer of the property from the state to county parks."
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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:50 PM   #2
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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:56 PM   #3
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I don't see the mounds closing. 50 acres is not much when your talking 450 acres.
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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:57 PM   #4
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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:58 PM   #5
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Sounds to me like it is pretty much worked out, and the mounds won't close. And according to the article it was only one tenth of the land in question anyway, so where the "mounds might close" comes from is confusing to me.
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