An ambitious plan to restore water to the Paint Creek mill race and turn the mill into a historic attraction has been presented to the Oakland Township Board of Trustees.
Water stopped flowing to the 1836 mill race after the township allowed the Clinton River Watershed Council to remove a dam for ecological reasons. Residents say that as a result, the Goodison area lost a prime amenity that is rooted in its history.
The township asked the civil engineering firm Wade Trim to come up with a plan to restore water to the mill race. Landscape architect Dave Anthony told the board Dec. 11 restoration will depend on how much water can be diverted from the creek back to the mill race. Any modifications to the creek will have to be approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
One idea, Anthony said, is to create a two-stage channel, including a smaller inner channel to convey a smaller water flow. Sediment in the mill race would be dredged and the banks reshaped.
He also suggested creating a new ripple upstream. “The mill race is quit flat and it’s for quite a distance. And the more gradient we have, the more we can create a babbling brook, even in those low-flow conditions.”
Wade Trim engineer Jason Kenyon estimated construction costs at $285,000-$300,000, including plantings and sediment removal. He said it’s early in the process to be more specific. “Most certainly as we get into refining the design … project costs could be lower,” he said. The CRWC has promised to seek grants in connection with the work.
Gerry Mancour, who owned the mill from 1977-1997, said the water control system would have to be restored and maintained in order to restore the mill pond and get the mill back in operation. Jan Olson, who lives along the mill race, presented options for using the mill for education, tourism, festivals and the like.
“The mill creates a lot of potential for us,” she said. “Very few communities have a working water wheel that connects to a mill race. … If we make the mill a destination, maybe we could make Goodison a destination … (and) strengthen our local economy.”
The township’s draft Goodison Sub Area Plan identifies Goodison, which was settled in 1825, as an area that should be enhanced to become the township’s focal point and gathering place. The plan calls for the creation of a Paint Creek Historic District including the mill and mill race.
The board voted unanimously to direct Wade Trim to develop a quote on the scope of work needed to restore the historic water flow. The board also voted unanimously to have Mancour develop a quote for the work necessary to get the mill wheel back in operation.
“It’s very important to the township to restore the mill race and, ultimately, the mill, I think,” township supervisor Terry Gonser said.