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Posted on Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

$1.2 million upgrade to Ypsilanti Township's Lakeside Park aims to make Ford Lake a rowing hub

By Tom Perkins


Brush will be cleared from the west side of Lakeside Park and a boathouse, docks and trails will be installed.

Tom Perkins | For

A $1.25 million upgrade of Ypsilanti Township’s Lakeside Park and area around Ford Lake could be completed late this summer.

Among the improvements are a boathouse that will house the Eastern Michigan University and Saline High School rowing teams; an extension of the trail network that will connect it to regional trails; a new pavilion; fishing docks and lookouts over Ford Lake.

The project is a partnership between EMU, Saline High School, Ypsilanti Township, the State of Michigan and Washtenaw County and is an effort to pull thousands of more visitors to the area annually.

The improvements will be funded with a $500,000 grant from the Michigan State Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, $450,000 from EMU, $250,000 from the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission and $50,0000 raised by the Saline rowing team.

“This is a win-win situation for all properties involved and a big enhancement for the larger community,” said Art Serafinski, director of the Ypsilanti Township Recreation Department.

He said he is hopeful to make final tweaks to the plans in the coming days and have construction completed by Aug. 31.

The centerpiece of the project is a $320,000 boathouse that could attract thousands of visitors to the area annually. The idea to build one at Lakeside was floated in 2001 by the EMU women’s crew team, but took years to germinate and pull together all the funding with multiple partners, said Brad Holdren, EMU's rowing coach.

The 5,600-square-foot boathouse will include public bathrooms, a meeting area and space to store Saline and EMU’s shells.

Holdren said rowing has spiked in popularity in recent years.

"If you were to research around the country, anywhere where a boathouse is built it gets filled to capacity in a number of years and people have to start talking expansion," he said.

Locally, EMU, the University of Michigan, Concordia College, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Ann Arbor Huron, Saline and Northville all have rowing teams. When a recent rowing tournament in Indianapolis was canceled due to flooding, Holdren said the EMU and U-M teams were able to organize the event last minute on Ford Lake.


Some of the brush separating Lakeside Park from the shoreline will be cleared and scenic lookouts installed.

Tom Perkins | For

"Ford Lake is a fantastic training lake," he said. "The size is nice, it has good depth, not a lot of debris and not an overwhelming amount of power boats. The flatter the water, the better."

Holdren said he envisions the lake hosting five to six races annually that could draw between 2,000 and 10,000 visitors per event.

"We would be filing up local restaurants and hotels," he said.

Aside from serving as a home base for the crew squads, the boathouse will be utilized for public rowing lessons, training and the development of an area club team. Holdren said rowing lessons would be available for all skill sets and ages, and it would be run by EMU rowing members through the Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Department.

In addition to the boathouse, asphalt trails will be constructed between South Grove Road near Interstate 94 and Rawsonville Road. There will also be more trails installed in the 21-acre Lakeside Park with an overlook in the northeast corner on Ford Lake.

They will serve as arteries off the Border to Border Trail once it’s completed in Ypsilanti Township.

Plans call for fishing docks and a new 900-square-foot pavilion with tables and grills that can be rented or used for other activities.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the news desk at


Frustrated in A2

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

It's a big lake and I hope they can get along with the power boat and jet ski folks. I know that's not a concern on the Huron river where I've seen Pioneer and Huron row.

Dog Guy

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 12:48 a.m.

About 25 years ago, our family watched the Lady Boilermakers cross the finish line by Gallup Park while the local eight were rounding the buoy near Geddes Dam. After a while, we saw a finely coiffed and manicured crew of young ladies from Oakland County who wore shirts declaring "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you look." Rowing can be a spectator sport.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

Bad choice, Ford Lake is a dangerous lake.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

a2umgirl is right. Skyline rows out of Concordia's campus, as well as Washtenaw Rowing Center, which does middle school Learn to Row and summer programs for middle school and high school rowing. The site at Concordia is a beautiful spot with lots of space and great water, and Concordia is looking to start a team in the near future. So in addition to the Ford Lake site, we're moving towards having another rowing hub right here in Ann Arbor as well!


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:46 p.m.

Tom, you have made a mistake. Concordia College does not have a rowing team. Skyline High School rows out of the facility at Concordia. By the way, this morning, Skyline received a gold medal at the Scholastic Nationals in Camden, New Jersey.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:35 p.m.

I'm a rowing coach and have seen the sport really grow in the area in recent years. Ann Arbor is very fortunate to have high school rowing - all three Ann Arbor high schools have excellent teams. Last year we started Washtenaw Rowing Center (located on Concordia University's campus), which offers Learn to Row classes for middle school kids who want to row as well. Rowing really does lend itself to imparting the kinds of lessons we hope kids learn from athletics, so it's been great to be able to open up the sport to middle school students so they don't have to wait until high school to get involved.


Sun, May 26, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

Thanks for the information! My middle schooler was just talking about wanting to do crew in high school. I'm heading to the website right now!


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

also, are they considering some type of boat rental facility at that location? That would be AWESOME!!


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

Tom, Can you please report on what will happen to the current contract that EMU and Saline school crew teams have with the Lake Shore apartments to use their dock and lake access to practice?


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

So there is suppose to be a trail around Ford Lake? Correct? Then if property owners who own the property that go to Ford Lake are all for this? I see a lot of problems with owners having their BBQ trampled on by some yo yo who is just simply walking around the perimeter of the lake. Going to be interesting to see this one. Would love to see this park connect with the one over on Factory Street. But don't expect property owners to be all that happy about it.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:24 p.m.

The Park Commission approved this upgrade last year in a public meeting. I'm sure residents with questions or thoughts were welcomed to address such concerns the during public comments period, at that time. If there are additional concerns, the next Public Ypsilanti Township Park Commission meeting on Monday, June 3th at 6:30PM.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

I happen to live on Textile not far from there. I look forward to this. Just wish something could be done about the run down old trailer park across the street from Lakeside Park and the party store on the corner of Textile and Bridge road. Otherwise, this area is a hidden gem.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

Can we remove Argo Dam, then?


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Ann Arbor practices crew there not Saline or EMU that is 18 miles away from Argo Dam


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

I'm so happy to hear this! My kids would love the chance to llearn to row, and we will definitely use the new bike trails as well. We already like to bike the circuit around Ford Lake but it's always been a little scary taking Bridge Rd between Grove and Textile because there isn't much shoulder. Great news!


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

Tom, I think you have an extra zero on the amount contributed by the Saline rowing team.

no flamers!

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

Awesome! Love it! There is something about seeing crew boats on a lake that is very nice.

Linda Peck

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

Row boats and sail boats definitely upgrade Ford Lake. I love this project.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Then we can all sing, row row your boat gently down Ford Lake! Merrily merrily life is but a dream. If things go well that is.