A reclamation project aims to improve and restore the Island Lake State Recreation Area.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is proceeding with the project now that a mineral lease has been signed with Spring Mill Reclamation, LLC. The project site involves a 540-acre former gravel mine in the state park, south of the Spring Mill Pond in Green Oak Township. The site consists of a large, open area scattered with old spoil piles and mining debris.

Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said the 10-year lease will facilitate the restoration of the site’s native grassland habitat that will benefit grassland-dependent songbirds and other wildlife species. The project includes the removal of mining debris, sand and gravel to make way for the ultimate restoration of a mix of hilly and flat terrain, primarily planted for native prairie. Olson says the restoration project has been on the horizon since 2014 when they began looking into creative ways to fund the cleanup and enhancement at the rec area.

As part of the transaction, the DNR also will acquire a gift of an approximately 155-acre land parcel that will expand the footprint of the Pinckney Recreation Area in Washtenaw County. The property – known as the Cunningham tract – is located on M-52 in Lyndon Township, north of Chelsea. That land will be used exclusively for the expansion and enhancement of outdoor recreation opportunities for park visitors. Both the reclamation project and new parcel of public land were made possible by the non-metallic minerals lease.

Under the lease, it is anticipated that Spring Mill Reclamation, LLC will mine nearly 10 million tons of aggregate from the Island Lake site. In turn, the DNR is expected to receive royalty payments approaching $10 million – funds that will be deposited into the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund for use in creating and expanding future outdoor recreation options within the state.

The lease will enable the DNR to reclaim a significant part of Island Lake State Recreation Area that once was a mining site and restore it to healthy grassland habitat that will attract a variety of wildlife and expand outdoor recreation opportunities.

The possibility of a reclamation project initially was discussed at a July 2014 public meeting in Green Oak Township, and the mining permit was approved by the township at another public meeting in December 2015. After a request-for-proposal process, Spring Mill Reclamation, LLC received the lease. Photo: DNR - Island Lake Rec Area, former mining site. (JM)