Park design goes deep
Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A cobblestone wall meanders along the riverbank in Freeland Festival Park, its pillars awaiting the globes that will illuminate a waterside walkway.

Beyond the wall, a dock zig-zags to water's edge. It features an 8-foot-wide deck that overlooks a sluggish bend in the Tittabawassee River.

Soon, workers will finish an $875,000 facelift for this two-acre park, giving the riverside retreat in downtown Freeland a more accessible waterfront -- now navigable by wheelchair -- and parkgoers more protection against dioxin contamination in the soil.

"This is only going to enhance the park," said Rick Hayes, a member of the township's Board of Trustees and chairman of the Park Committee.

By the end of this month, officials will have created one-fifth of a mile of walking trails, planted 425 trees and shrubs and built a dock that will stretch over two football fields in length.

Dow Chemical Co. is footing the bill as part of its dioxin remediation efforts along the Tittabawassee River.

Behind the cobblestone, asphalt and decking is a design that goes deeper than decoration.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has called on Dow to insulate parkgoers from dioxin -- an industrial contaminant released into the river historically from the company's Midland plant.

The company has erected a wall to keep residents from roaming the riverbank and provided a dock that still will allow access to the river.

"It looks nice -- we're trying to be natural -- but we're also trying to say, 'Hey, don't walk down here,' " said Brian Kischnick, manager of Tittabawassee Township.

"(The wall is) not going to keep you out, but we don't want to create the Great Wall of China, either."

Officials also plan to blanket the park with several inches of clean topsoil and to pour a new asphalt trail system.

What makes this project somewhat uncommon is the type of material used for the dock. Instead of wood, contractors are using recycled plastic.

Mike Pierson, owner of the Minden-based Pierson Piling Inc., said the planks are stronger and longer-lasting than wood. Although three times as expensive, he's using it on his own deck.

"You'll probably get 50 years with this stuff, and maybe longer," he said.

Michael J. Rybicki, an engineer for Wilcox Professional Services, 5859 Sherman in Saginaw, said the project is on schedule and on budget. He is shooting for completion by Saturday, Oct. 1. v

Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer at the Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga. . The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The source organization's web site link is listed to the right of the article, visit often for other news in our area. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.