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New state park in Flint

Conceptual drawing of possible riverfront feature in new Flint state park showing a beach area with a walkway and kayakers on the river.

New state park in Flint

A new state park is coming to Flint, and it will energize the riverfront, create more diverse recreation opportunities and bring economic benefits to the city. 

While many of the park units are already open to the public, enhancements will be ongoing through 2026 when construction is expected to finish.

The approximately 230-acre state park, which will be located along a 3-mile stretch of the Flint River and a section of Swartz Creek (a tributary of the Flint River), will be Michigan’s 104th state park and Genesee County’s first. It will bring together local existing parks and natural areas, creating an outdoor experience of five park units and connector trails.

Visitors will have nonmotorized access throughout the park and easy access to surrounding neighborhoods, universities, community businesses and the state-managed Iron Belle Trail.

This monumental project includes the removal of the remnants of two dams and addition of six newly constructed riffles (or in-water water control structures), as well as the addition of new pedestrian bridges, play equipment, lighting, pavilions and benches, restrooms, parking areas and public art installations. Improvements along the Flint River are another important aspect of this project. Once completed, this work will restore contiguous river passage that has been absent for more than a century, including opening an impressive 25 miles of waterways for fish passage and providing new opportunities for fishing, kayaking, canoeing and other water-based recreation.


Under an agreement with the DNR, Genesee County Parks will be responsible for the state park's ongoing maintenance and operation.

The footprint

The new state park stretches along the scenic banks of both the Flint River and Swartz Creek.

The park's layout resembles a Y-shape – sized at approximately 3 miles east to west and more than 1.5 miles north to south – offering ample space for exploration and recreation.

Open map as a PDF
Icon for youth and groups depicted with white outline of larger and smaller person on blue cirlce

Partnerships key to success, operations

Imagine a state park seamlessly connected to surrounding neighborhoods, universities, and the Iron Belle Trail – that's our vision becoming a reality! This wouldn't be possible without a strong partnership with Genesee County Parks, the City of Flint and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Their collaboration has been instrumental in moving this project forward.

grants

Funding model

Up to $30.2 million in federal relief funding was proposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and approved by the Michigan Legislature in March 2022 for the development of a new state park in Flint. The funds were made available as part of $273 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that was part of a $4.8 billion infrastructure package laid out in Whitmer’s Building Michigan Together Plan.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation provided a critical $18 million investment, which was then matched by $23 million in state ARPA funds. This remarkable collaboration created a sustainable $41 million endowment with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, ensuring the state park's long-term operation and maintenance.

parks

Free park entry

Explore for free! This innovative state park, the first in Michigan to be fully funded by an endowment, eliminates the need for a Recreation Passport. Enjoy the beauty of nature at your own pace, all thanks to this sustainable funding model.

About the five park units

  • Location: Between Grand Traverse Street and Chevrolet Avenue along the banks of the Flint River.

    History: Once a bustling industrial site known as "Chevy in the Hole," Chevy Commons is now a 67-acre park unit located on the Flint River just a few blocks from downtown Flint. The site, which was established in the 1930s as one of General Motors’ four major production facilities in Flint, once featured 17 buildings and, at its peak, 8,000 workers. After plant closings and building demolition started in the 1990s, most of the site was paved with asphalt to minimize the movement of residual contamination.

    A Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund Grant facilitated the city of Flint's acquisition of the land, which was then transferred to the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission for development into the beautiful park it is today. You'll now find a peaceful escape along the river with a network of nonmotorized trails winding through low-maintenance native landscaping.

    What’s to come: The new state park plan includes the addition of a new signature play garden on the east end of Chevy Commons where the Swartz Creek drains into the Flint River (with Atwood Stadium in the background), new connections between the adjacent neighborhoods and other nearby institutions, and more low-maintenance plantings and ecologically beneficial installations. Public input sessions for the play garden will be announced soon.

    Genesee County deeded this park unit to the Michigan DNR as part of the new state park.

    a pathway through a field of low-lying plantings

  • Location: Along the Flint River between Harrison and Grand Traverse streets.

    History: Completed in early 1980s as part of a flood control project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the existing Riverbank Park was designed by renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. The complex design scheme created a series of six separate block parks that included an amphitheater, a grand fountain and the Archimedes’ screw that drew water from the river into the park’s system of canals, fountains and waterfalls. This intricate design created long-term challenges, including concerns related to public safety and maintenance.

    What’s to come: The new state park pIan includes an improved waterfront at Riverbank Park, transformed by enhanced physical and visual access to the river. Plans include new access points to the Flint River, constructing accessible pathways and installing a new lighting network along all six blocks. Additional work includes restoring the fountains in the Grand Fountain and Waterwall blocks and upgrading the amphitheater and public restrooms.

    The City of Flint has leased this property to the State of Michigan for purposes of creating a state park.

    walkway along river with murals

  • Location: Along the banks of the Flint River between Nolen Drive and Ballenger Highway.

    History: Formerly Mott Park Golf Course, Mott Park Recreation Area was reinvented by the adjacent neighborhood after the golf course closed in 2010. The 72-acre park includes a disc golf course, improved kayak access to the Flint River and a renovated clubhouse.

    What’s to come: The plan includes a connector trail to Chevy Commons. This new section of trail is still being developed.

    The City of Flint has leased this property to the State of Michigan for purposes of creating a state park. The Mott Park Recreation Association has been improving and maintaining the park for more than a decade and currently has an agreement with the city of Flint to operate the clubhouse. This agreement will remain valid, and the Mott Park Recreation Association will continue to operate the clubhouse.

    people playing disc golf in open park space

  • Location: East of Hammerberg Road and north of I-69 on the banks of the Swartz Creek.

    History: Long known as one of Flint’s unique nature areas, the 39-acre property features a natural-surface trail that hugs the river.

    What’s to come: The new state park plan includes the extension of a connector trail between Happy Hollow and Chevy Commons via the Grand Traverse Greenway Trail, as well as upgrades to the existing nonmotorized pathway, road and natural surface trail.

    This park unit has been transferred from a private owner to the State of Michigan for purposes of creating a state park.

    View of river bend surrounded by trees

  • Location: Located on the bank of the Flint River just downstream of Hamilton Avenue Bridge at James P. Cole Boulevard.

    History: The 7-acre park features a boating access site, picnic tables and open space. It’s historically been underutilized and its amenities are outdated and in disrepair.

    What’s to come: The new state park plan includes construction of a new pavilion and public toilets, improving the boating access site and providing accessible river access. Additionally, the existing sidewalk on the east side of James P. Cole Boulevard will be transformed into a new trail that will run along the west side of the Flint River to Riverbank Park.

    The City of Flint has leased this property to the State of Michigan for purposes of creating a state park.

    bird's-eye view of park and boating access site and river

  • Flint River restoration

    The Flint River will undergo a major transformation. The project will remove the remaining Hamilton and Fabri dam structures and replace them with natural-looking riffles (or clusters of boulders along the river’s edge) in six key locations. These riffles mimic rapids and will control water levels without harming the environment or causing floods nearby. Once completed, the work will restore contiguous access to the Flint River that has been absent for more than a century. This work will boost fish passage and paddling routes.

    Originally built in 1920 for the logging industry, the dams have been a threat to public safety in recent years and classified as “high hazard critical dams” by the State of Michigan. In 2018, the “superstructure” of the Hamilton Dam was removed.

    Other updates

    New landscaping, nonmotorized connector trails, lighting, sight lines and safety features will be integrated throughout the five park units.

    bird's-eye view of dam in Flint River

Construction schedule

The following dates are estimates and based on information that we have available at this time. Additional construction phases will be added at a later date.

What Unit Start date Anticipated completion
Mobilization for riffles 1 and 2 Riverbank Park Unit June 10, 2024 June 21, 2024
Fabri Dam removal and riffle 1 construction Riverbank Park Unit July 24, 2024 Sept. 5, 2024
Riffle 2 construction Riverbank Park Unit Aug. 24, 2024 Sept. 16, 2024

Riffle 3 construction

Riverbank Park Unit July 1, 2024 Oct. 31, 2024
Riffle 4 construction Riverbank Park Unit July 22, 2025 March 4, 2025
Riffle 5 and 6 construction Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park July 1, 2025 Sept. 29, 2025
Updated 6/17/2024

More information

Public input has been and will be a critical component of the planning process. For more information, contact Andrew Cole, urban liaison for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, at ColeA3@Michigan.gov.

Associated documents: