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Chevy Commons in Flint will become Michigan’s newest state park

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Chevy Commons

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other leaders announced plans Wednesday to transform Chevy Commons in Flint into Michigan's 104th state park.

FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Flint is getting its first state park.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials announced Wednesday that the former Chevy Commons site along the Flint River between Chevrolet Avenue and Grand Traverse Street will be transformed into Michigan’s 104th state park.

The site had been home to a sprawling 60-acre auto manufacturing complex known as Chevy in the Hole before the buildings were demolished. Flint leaders have been working to transform the site into recreational use for several years.

Whitmer proposed a $26.2 million investment Wednesday to develop recreation options at Chevy Commons, including a potential amphitheater and a canoe/kayak launch. The park will expand to connect University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering University, the Flint Farmers’ Market, the Flint Cultural Center Campus and the Iron Belle Trail.

“This new park in Flint is a multi-generational investment in the community that will support small businesses, create jobs, and give people a space to enjoy with friends and family,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Genesee County is the only one of Michigan’s 83 counties without any state-managed public land. A blue ribbon report from 2012 about the Michigan State Parks and recreation area system recommended the state identify and develop a signature park in Flint.

Plans for the park remain in early stages and a timeline for the project has not been announced. Planners intend to engage the community and Flint residents during the planning process about what they want to see in the new park. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources would manage and maintain the site like all other state parks and recreation areas.

“Repurposing this land for outdoor recreational space will enhance residents’ health and quality of life while giving families in Flint an opportunity to enjoy nature,” said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley. “A state park in Flint is a beacon of light and will have vast environmental, economic, and social impacts through the transformation of key land within the city.”

Much of the funding would come from the $250 million fund Whitmer proposed to improve and maintain Michigan’s existing state park system using COVID-19 relief money. The Michigan Legislature has to approve the park spending before the Chevy Commons plans move forward.

Chevy Commons auto manufacturing use started in the early 1900s, when Flint’s William Durant started building motor cars on the property. His company -- along with Buick, Chevrolet and others he bought -- became General Motors.

Over time, 17 manufacturing and assembly buildings on the site became known as Chevy in the Hole. At its peak, 8,000 workers were employed there.

The United Auto Workers Sitdown Strike of 1937 happened on the site. Chevrolet designed the Corvette in Flint and its prototype was built at Chevy Commons in 1953.

Following a decades-long auto industry decline, the last Chevy in the Hole factories had closed by the 1990s and demolition of the buildings continued through 2004.

As General Motors went through bankruptcy, the city of Flint obtained ownership of the property in 2013. Kettering University is using 22 acres of the site as an automotive technology proving ground.

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