Flint Township turns down grant to purchase Pirate’s Park

FLINT TWP. — The future of Pirate’s Park remains uncertain after Flint Township officials decided not to pursue a revitalization plan for the once popular entertainment venue.

Following recommendations from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the Flint Township Board of Trustees turned down a $1.5 million state grant to purchase Pirate’s Park on 4175 Miller Road. The township had applied for the land acquisition grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund last year but opted to withdraw from the grant process due to budgetary and maintenance concerns.

If it had been approved, the grant would have supplied the township with funds to buy the 48-acre property from owner John McCullough and the estates of Hod Morton and Bobby Katz. However, the township would have had to supply matching funds.

Additionally, the township would have had to pay $427,000 in Phase 1 operation/ rehabilitation costs, clean-up expenses and appraisal costs to be compliant with the grant, according to Flint Township Economic Enhancement Director Tracey Tucker.

Several township board members described opting out of the grant as a “hard pill to swallow” but said that the costs to rehabilitate or repurpose Pirate’s Park are simply too high at this time.

“It’s a shame because I think Flint Township needs a draw here,” said Trustee Barb Vert. “But there is no reason to wait, and we should move forward with the (DDA) recommendation.”

Prior to the opt out decision, the Flint Township DDA hired Wade-Trim to conduct a feasibility study of Pirate’s Park and completed environmental studies and title searches on the property. In May 2019, Flint Township also conducted an online survey to see if residents would support the formation of a community park or a recreation area on the Pirate’s Park property.

Supervisor Karyn Miller said that while Pirate’s Park could be a great site for a community park with trails, it would also be too expensive for the township to develop and maintain.

“I could see us complying with the state to use it as a natural area…but to even get it there, we’re looking at close to half a million dollars,” she said. “We’re also struggling to fund the police department to its fullest capacity, and we would be putting a strain on them to patrol this park.”

In its heyday, Pirate’s Park was a go-to summer hub for families and kids, featuring a water park, paddle boats, go-carts, batting cages, putt-putt golf and a towering four-story water slide known as the Typhoon.

Pirate’s Park, which opened in 1991, partially closed around a decade ago and completely shut down operations about six years ago. Although it has sat vacant for several years, the park’s buildings are useable and most of the infrastructure is still intact.