Off-Road Worthy: Attorneys helped pave the way for new Holly Oaks ORV Park

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

When a long-awaited off-road vehicle park opens this fall in Oakland County, two area attorneys should take a special bow for the important roles they played in shaping the project adjacent to the Mt. Holly Ski Resort off I-75.

Jerry Fisher, the former longtime chair of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, and Bob Kostin, a current member of the panel and perhaps the number one proponent of the park, can take justifiable pride in helping turn an idea into something truly road worthy for ORV enthusiasts.

“The DNR has been trying for 20 years to establish an ORV facility in Oakland County,” Fisher said of Holly Oaks ORV Park, which is expected to open September 17. “This was the product of a lot of hard work and cooperation. There have been numerous challenges regarding location, cost, and logistics, but fortunately all those have been overcome through a team effort, involving Oakland County and state DNR park officials. Ron Olson, chief of Parks for the DNR, and his staff were great to work with. Also, OCPR administration and staff worked very diligently. When it opens, it should be a terrific addition to the network of parks that the county offers and also will provide a unique resource that the DNR has wanted for some time.”

Kostin, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission for nearly a decade, is an avid rider of ORVs and has been the “chief cheerleader” for this park for years, according to Fisher.

“Bob knows more about ORVs than practically all of us combined, and really was instrumental in making the park happen,” Fisher said. “He deserves a ton of credit.”

Founder of a Clarkston law firm that bears his name, Kostin was part of a three-member Oakland County sub-committee that first met with state officials six years ago to discuss the possibility of a joint venture involving Oakland County and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He was joined on that sub-committee by Fisher and Ron Fowkes, a member of the County Road Commission.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity to partner with the DNR on a project that facilitates their goals and ours as well,” said Kostin. “Even better, it carries the promise of a park that will make money for the DNR and us, and that money will stay in the park to fund maintenance and continued improvements.”

According to the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission website, the state has long wanted to enhance its Statewide Trail ORV Plan by creating an “opportunity for legal, public off-road vehicle recreation in Southeastern Michigan.”

Fittingly, Oakland County was chosen “as a prime area to develop a park because it has the highest percent of licensed ORVs in the state, and the county didn’t offer legal public riding areas at the time.”

Several years ago, the DNR was awarded a $2.9 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to purchase property in Oakland County for an ORV park.

Originally, said former Parks and Rec Chairman Fisher, officials were focused on buying property near Oxford for the park, but nearby residents objected to the plan, calling it “disruptive to their daily lives.”

Next, officials turned their attention to the possible purchase of the current site next to Mt. Holly and located in Groveland and Holly townships. In 2017, the DNR purchased the 235-acre parcel.

The land was owned by Steve Stolaruk, a Rochester Hills resident and entrepreneur who died in 2018 at age 91. An area philanthropist, Stolaruk reportedly helped carve and sculpt some of the pathways in the park before his passing, saving the state and county considerable construction expense, according to Fisher.

“It was an attractive site because of its close proximity to I-75, a north-south artery where riders would be able to come from all around the area as well as Canada and Ohio,” said Fisher. “It also was seen as ideal because it didn’t border any housing development and was across from a county campground.”

According to the Oakland County Parks and Rec website, “on April 2, 2019, Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved a 20-year operating agreement (with a 10-year additional option) with the DNR.
Under the agreement, OCPR will operate the ORV Park . . . in collaboration with the DNR. The park will be a collaboration between the DNR Parks and Recreation Division and the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission.”

The park, consisting of former and active sand and gravel mines, is located off I-75 (at Grange Hall) and Dixie Highway across from Groveland Oaks County Park and Campground. The park will be open to all types of ORVs, including full-size vehicles, side-by-sides, all-terrain vehicles or ATVs, and motorcycles. In the winter months, snowmobiling also might be part of the offerings.

The intent is for the park to be self-supporting, according to county officials. There will be a daily entry fee (approximately $15 per vehicle) and an ORV license and trail permit will be required. The projected operating budget for the first year is approximately $663,000, county officials indicated.

“The park will utilize parking, a sales area, and restrooms at Mt. Holly Ski and Snowboard Resort,” according to the county website. “Access to the ORV Park will take place from the Mt. Holly parking lot. Winter access will be off Shields Road.”

Approximately 113 acres are expected to be open this fall with additional acres coming on board as gravel mining is completed on the remaining property. The full 235 acres is expected to be operational by 2023.

When the ribbon-cutting ceremony is held this fall for the Holly Oaks ORV Park, expect both Fisher and Kostin to be among those in attendance, beaming proudly at another jewel in the county’s park system.

“It will be unique to our park system and serve as a wonderful example of inter-governmental cooperation,” said Fisher. “For that we should all be proud.”

Kostin echoed the comments, predicting that the Holly Oaks Park will quickly gain an international reputation as a “go-to place” for ORV owners.

“With Canada nearby, this park has enormous potential to appeal to an audience far beyond Southeastern Michigan,” Kostin said. “It’s going to be a spectacular park when fully developed and operational.”



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