From vacant parking lot to nature trail

By Allie Keenan, staff reporter.

SAGINAW – The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy is in the process of building a trail network where a vacant Saginaw Arts and Science Academy parking lot sits.

The vacant parking lot is made up of broken concrete, garbage and pesky vegetation. The invasive plants are bothersome, and the parking lot has been dilapidated for years.

The short trail will be located at 1920 North Niagara Street, which is across the street from SASA.

Zachary Branigan, executive director of the conservancy, explains that the revival of Saginaw is playing a large role in this decision.

“Downtown Saginaw played a part in this, considering the renaissance of downtown. The benefits would be directed toward the SASA community, downtown workers and residence, as well as businesses, such as the Bancroft and Old Town. It will be in their backyard,” says Branigan.

When asked what the difference of this project from other projects were, Branigan says, “We’ve spent 15 to 20 years working on more remote locations and areas. Within the last few years we’ve wanted to move toward more urban projects that isn’t a car drive to nature,” says Branigan.

Branigan explains that the new Delta College campus, located at 300 East Genesee Avenue, comes at a great time and is a neat tie-in to the project.

“When students will flow into campus, looking for a place to relax in the outdoors, this project will be very beneficial. For anyone who is new to downtown Saginaw, they can quickly become affiliated with the location. It’s a nice outreach,” says Branigan.

Branigan discloses that the city of Saginaw wants to build a trail loop running along the riverfront, like Bay City has demonstrated.

The project has started to take shape by taking down a chain-link fence; the path will be resurfaced and feature multiple plants known to the area.

“Before, you could not even see the river due to all of the vegetation, and now that we have cleaned it all up, it is visible from miles [away],” says Branigan.

Branigan explains that the property is owned by the Saginaw Board of Education, along with the City of Saginaw and Saginaw Future Inc. controlling the economic development and licensing.

With the location and licensing established, the SBLC asked to help with the labor and finding sponsors for some of the project’s costs, which is an estimated $200,000  including labor, according to Branigan. The funding support came from the Dow Corning Foundation on behalf of Hemlock Semiconductor with additional support from the Alice E. Turner Memorial Trust, the Nickless Foundation, the Wickson-Link Memorial Foundation, the McNally Family Foundation and the Jury Foundation.

General funding support to O.U.R. Saginaw is provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation and the Morley Family Foundation.

With many businesses located around the project, the trail is predicted to see a positive reaction of how many people visit daily.

Branigan shares the importance of this project, detailing the reduction of blight in cities, habitat restoration and access that does not require a car.

This project can be used as an open door into future investments throughout the city. Branigan explains, “Potential investors may look at the nature preserve and it may encourage economic investments.”

The trail will be named in dedication to Janet H. Nash as the Janet H. Nash Riverfront Preserve.

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy encourages the public to follow them on social media for volunteer days and daily information. Donations are always appreciated and can be gifted through their website.

For more information on the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy visit or call (989) 891-9986.


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