JANUARY 18, 2006

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ECU professor proposes new national park


Dr. Gregory Plumb (right), chair of East Central University’s cartography and geography department, shows faculty member Dr. Mark Micozzi details of his proposal to create the first national recreation area in Michigan. Plumb, a native of Linden, Mich., developed a plan for a 4,000-acre park that would link 17 lakes in two counties after becoming concerned about the impact of increased development on the area’s natural environment and rural scenery.

An East Central University professor has created quite a stir in Michigan with his proposal to create that state’s first national recreation area, a 4,000-acre park that would link 17 lakes in two counties.

Dr. Gregory Plumb, chair of ECU’s cartography and geography department, has been interviewed by three Michigan newspapers and a television station about his plan that would create the Linden Mills National Recreation Area.

“Two summers ago I went to visit family back home,” said Plumb, a native of Linden, Mich., who has taught at ECU since 1999. “I noticed a lot of residential and commercial development occurring and became concerned about its impact on the natural environment and rural scenery.”

As he returned to Oklahoma, he started brainstorming about tying together the area’s natural resources and cultural history with outdoor activities.

He worked out a proposal that includes a 21-mile canoe and kayak loop, a visitor center in the historic Linden Mill building, a nature center to emphasize the glaciated and other natural features of the park, a conservation center, a series of trails to be built and maintained by forming a Youth Conservation Corps, and tent campsites on islands within the lakes.

The recreation area, with an entrance in downtown Linden, would blend private and public property and require the purchase of five to 10 square miles of land.

Linden is 60 miles northwest of Detroit.

Plumb said the development of the area also would bring jobs and improve the local economies through new private campgrounds, additional restaurants and other tourism-related businesses.

When Plumb returned to Linden last July, he had to revise his plan after discovering new private developments already had begun or been approved on land next to two of the lakes.

“I spoke with Linden’s mayor and city manager about the concept and they were extremely enthusiastic. So I proceeded to conduct a field study, making notes on maps and shooting photographs,” he said.

He later wrote a document advocating the creation of the park and participated in a conference call with a U.S. representative who serves on the Congressional National Parks Committee. The two senators from Michigan also are expressing interest in the park concept.

“It may take three to five years or more to get this accomplished, but it’s starting to take off,” Plumb said. “They are also discussing the plan in public meetings at the city and township government levels.”

Gaining grassroots support and securing funding sources are the next steps, he added.

Plumb hopes the proposed plan can preserve the area’s unspoiled waterways, wetlands and wildlife, as well as its colorful barns and summer lake houses in rural areas.

The proposed area could become a Michigan Heritage Water Trail and state or local conservation area if the national recreation designation does not work out, he said. The important thing, he added, is to hold the land that’s needed before it disappears amid record development.

Contact: Jill Frye, ECU news media coordinator, 580.310.5650