WHITEHALL TWP. – A plan for Whitehall District Schools to take over operations of the Michigan Heritage Park at Hilt’s Landing may be moving ahead faster than expected.
Last May the school district announced it was exploring the idea of taking over the lease for the park from the Lakeshore Museum Center which has an agreement with Whitehall Township, the property owner of the 19-acre park as part of the larger Hilt’s Landing property (8637 N. Durham Rd.
In the fall of 2018, the Lakeshore Museum Center announced it decided to close the Michigan’s Heritage Park at Hilt’s Landing after just four years of operation. The park was used as a living history facility which provided hands-on experience for visitors to explore 10,000 years of Michigan’s history. The park includes a museum building and welcome center, a farmhouse, and several reproductions of several historical structures which depicts Michigan’s history.
The school district can use the facility as a historical and environmental education facility.
Whitehall District Schools Board Trustee Doug Ogden, reported at the board’s August 19 meeting that, in July, the district received a Letter of Intent to pick up the lease for the 19 acres with Whitehall Township.
“The (exploratory) committee met last week to brainstorm how to use the facilities,” Ogden reported at the board meeting.
Ogden suggested the district sign the lease which would allow it to get the keys to the facility and begin marketing its use to other community groups.
The board trustee said the district had planned to begin using the facilities for the 2020-2021 school year, but signing the lease now would allow groups to begin using it this summer.
“There is nothing lost if we find we don’t use it,” he added.
Part of an agreement for the school district to take over operations is that an endowment fund with the Community Foundation for Muskegon County would provide up to $50,000 annually to maintain the facilities.
Earlier Whitehall District Schools Superintendent Dr. Jerry McDowell said the district can use the park for historical and outdoor education as well as possibly working with other partners for its use, such as other school districts, the scouts, art organizations for festivals, and historical groups who may want to use it for pow wows and Civil War reenactments.
The Lakeshore Museum Center has shuttered the use of Michigan’s Heritage Park, but is maintaining it.
Ogden said the exploratory committee will next meet Friday, Sept. 20, at 2 p.m.