TEXAS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Work continues on a new nature preserve set to open in Kalamazoo County, expanding public access to greenspace near Portage.
Kalamazoo County Parks Director David Rachowicz confirmed the Arthur E. & Mildred H. Woollam Nature Preserve is on track to open next spring. It is the site of the former Rota-Kiwan Boy Scout Camp off of Texas Drive and 8th Street, southwest of the Al Sabo Land Preserve. The 212-acre property was purchased in 2021 for $2 million.
The Parks Department gave its final presentation to the Board of Commissioners earlier this month, which adopted the plan. Rachowicz said his team has spent time figuring out what to do with the property’s 67 structures — which to keep and which to raze. That demolition has delayed the opening date.
“The bidding environment is a little challenging right now, trying to get work lined up and get it completed. It can be a little bit of a challenge. … We’re making steady progress,” Rachowicz told News 8. “That really is the lynchpin. We can open the trails and open certain parts of the park and have public access. But we have got to get some of these buildings down. We want to make sure that its safe for everyone who comes on the site.”
The preserve is expected to open with a set of trails and access to Bass Lake next spring, followed by another round of amenities.
“We are also going to have some group picnic pavilions. We are going to have a large playground available for families. That will be sort of the first wave,” he said. “And later will be some of the indoor programming areas, the cabins, the camp areas and an indoor pavilion.”
The preserve will eventually offer seasonal tent campsites that local groups can rent for overnight accommodations.
As part of the planning process, the Parks Department surveyed people around the county for what type of accommodations they would like in a new park. Bike and horse trails were two things that drew some interest. The new preserve will not have trails for horseback riding, but there will be accommodations for cyclists.
“Once we get the property open, we plan to work with the city of Kalamazoo and really figure out how to connect this property with Al Sabo and eventually connect those mountain bike facilities. Biking will be a part of the property,” Rachowicz said.
Admission to the Arthur E. & Mildred H. Woollam Nature Preserve will be $5 per vehicle, like all Kalamazoo County Parks. Annual passes for all county parks cost $30 and $25 for seniors.
“We sell thousands of those (each year). That money is what will go back into the property to pay for the operation and the upkeep of the property,” Rachowicz said.