Brower Park opens today; other county parks to open May 4

Mecosta County’s Brower Park, Merrill-Gorrel Lake, Paris Park and School Section Lake Veteran’s Park are opening within the next week. Brower Park is opening today, Friday, April 27, and the other parks open on Friday, May 4. (Courtesy photos)

PARIS — Improvements made in the off-season to the four Mecosta County Parks are wrapping up just in time for the 2018 season to begin.

The new season begins today, Friday, April 28, when the gates will open for use at Brower Park in Morley. Paris Park, Merrill-Gorrel Park and School Section Lake Veteran’s Park will open on Friday, May 4.

“We’re hoping to have all the major projects at the parks wrapped up in time and done by the time the gates open,” Mecosta County Parks Superintendent Jeff Abel said, adding camping at Tubbs Lake, Haymarsh and Davis Bridge Park already are open. “Winter sort of extended a little bit longer this year and the weather hasn’t been the best.”

As the season begins, Abel said improvements made to the parks throughout the off-season will help improve the quality of experience for visitors.

The new pavilion and art barn is one of the many improvements made at Brower Park during the off-season. The pavilion can hold 150 people, and Mecosta County Parks Superintendent Jeff Abel said can be used as an arts and crafts area for children, as well as a place to host family reunions.

“It’s our busy time of the year right now,” he said. “We’re wrapping up everything we can so everyone can come out and enjoy their time at the parks.”

Improvements made to the parks include:

• A new $75,000 building, which includes a pavilion and art barn to provide a spot for arts and crafts was completed at Brower Park. The pavilion can serve as a location for park events, community activities and family reunions.

• Increased parking at Brower Park for boaters and water enthusiasts;

• Renovations to the store at School Section Lake;

• Addition of eight single-stall showers at School Section Lake;

• Addition of septic capabilities at 69 sites at School Section Lake; and

• Electrical improvements made at Paris Park, School Section Lake and Brower Park.

One major change from 2017 includes the Parks Commission taking over managing the store at School Section Lake.

“We hope to provide a larger array of offerings at this store,” Abel said.

One major challenge ahead for 2018 includes a lower water level on the Muskegon River at Brower Park as construction is happening downriver on Hardy Dam, he said.

“We’ve submitted an application for a permit to extend our boat launches so they are more accessible to the river,” he said. “We’re trying to have a proactive remedy in place.”

One procedural change for 2018 includes the purchase of an annual boat permit for those who will be mooring their watercraft at the parks for any length of time, Abel said.

“It’s a good way to make sure we know who is mooring their boats, in case there are any issues and we don’t have space available for those who are actually staying at the park,” he said, noting in the past there has been some users who have tried to bend the rules a little bit.

For the first time in several years, Abel said Brower Park will allow pets.

Mecosta County’s Paris Park will open on Friday, May 4. Expectations for the season include high numbers of campers staying at the park this year. There also are many events planned throughout the season that are open to residents of the county.

“It’s a major change there,” he said. “It leaves School Section as our only pet-free park.”

Looking ahead to the park season, Abel said projections are very positive.

“Day-use passes at our parks are really dependent upon the weather,” he said. “On the business side of the outlook with camping, we are looking very good. We’ve been setting records for three years in a row and look forward to setting another one this year.”

While camping is a big draw to the county parks, Abel points out the parks system provides more than campsites.

“Everyone assumes we’re just camping, but we’re more than a campground,” he said. “We’re here for everyone to use. We have beaches for people to swim, people can play volleyball here, host family reunions. Every county resident can come here without having to camp.”

Abel said special events at the parks like the Community Open House — June 9-10 — are open to county residents, even if they are not staying at the parks.

“The Community Open House is open to anyone,” he said. “We coordinate that with the Department of Natural Resources’ free fishing weekend, so people have a chance to enjoy everything the parks have to offer.”

Abel said other special events taking place at the parks are announced on the Mecosta County Parks website, mecostacountyparks.com, its Facebook page, and Facebook pages for the individual parks.

A daily vehicle pass for any of the Mecosta County parks is $6; annual permits are $25.

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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