CANNON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to apply for a grant to purchase land surrounding the Cannonsburg ski hill.
The county previously applied for a $7.5 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to purchase Cannonsburg Recreation and Ski Area outright. That grant request was denied in December.
Kent County is now eyeing 160 acres that surround the ski area, located in Cannon Township. That area is used for things like mountain biking, hiking and running, according to the county. It is close to Townsend Park, Pickerel Lake Park and the James and Shirley Balk Family Park.
Board of Commissioners Chair Stan Stek told News 8 the original grant request was denied by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund because of the ski area. He hopes that narrowing the request will give them a better chance of approval.
“This is for the area surrounding the ski hill, not for the ski hill, although we’re keeping that option open and studying that further,” County Administrator Alan Vanderberg explained during a Finance and Physical Resources Committee Tuesday.
The 160 acres is estimated to cost around $3.2 million, according to county documents. The new grant request will ask for around $2.2 million, while the remaining $960,000 is expected to be covered by funds from the county, local agencies, community groups and philanthropy.
If the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund approves the grant, the county will likely find out in December of 2023. The grant would be awarded in April of 2024.
The county can’t negotiate with the landowner — who also owns the ski hill — unless the grant is approved, Vanderberg explained.
“There have been enough discussions with the property owner to know that he is passionate about keeping this land for public use long into the future,” he said.
Stek told News 8 the county has had “open and receptive talks” with the landowner. The county wants to preserve the area as park land, he said.
“From a conservation standpoint, I think it makes a ton of sense,” Commissioner Stephen Wooden, who represents District 18, said during the committee meeting. “Especially given the fact that we are acquiring the land around the ski hill — and we don’t know the future of our relationship to the ski hill — but I see this as our opportunity to make sure that whatever happens there, its use is preserved.”