July 9 2014 12:00 AM

Crego Park reopens after contamination closed it for over 25 years


A new tentacle branching off the Lansing River Trail near Aurelius Road leads travelers into Lansing’s largest park — and one recently reopened after being closed for decades due to contamination.

Welcome back to Crego Park, 220 acres northeast of the Aurelius and Mt. Hope Avenue intersection named after Ralph Crego, Lansing’s longest-serving mayor, from 1943 to 1960. For over 25 years, the park was closed to the public due to contamination from the John Bean Co., which tested firefighting equipment and agricultural chemical sprayers on site. About one-third of the property was shown to be contaminated with PCBs, lead and zinc. The state closed the park in 1986. The contamination is gone and a grand re-opening is in the works.

“Quite frankly, it’s a jewel,” said Lansing Parks Director Brett Kaschinske. And being surrounded by two cemeteries, Fenner Nature Center and Sycamore Creek driving range: “You’re talking about a massive area of parkland over there.”

By 2011, former Lansing Parks Director Murdoch Jemerson had made the possibility of reopening Crego a reality. That year, the city was awarded $500,000 from the state to go toward reopening the park. The city committed $250,000 in matching funds for capital improvements. Jemerson had envisioned a “passive park” there, requiring low maintenance and offering “quiet” water sports like fishing, canoeing and kayaking. And that’s what has happened. The public can now access the 15- acre Fidelity Lake (from dawn till dusk, and no swimming), which includes a handicap-accessible canoe/kayak launch and a dock to get at newly stocked fish species. A short walk from the River Trail reveals a Michigan State University Emerald Ash Borer laboratory of sorts, with purple boxes dotting the tree line to distract the invasive species from ash trees.

Rick Kibbey, president of the Lansing Parks Board, said the area has always been an expansive home for wildlife like blue heron, deer and a variety of birds.

“It’s not just an edge or a sliver of a park — it’s a great big hunk of a park,” Kibbey said. “It’s just another piece of recreational opportunity, plus it’s just kind of an interesting place to walk around in,” Kibbey said.