Park History

1912 - Grand Traverse County takes ownership of the Fairgrounds property from Howard and Isabelle Whiting.

Photo of Twin Lakes Gilbert Lodge in the 1940s1941 - Judge Parm Gilbert donates 73 acres of land to Grand Traverse County, to become known as Twin Lakes Park, for use as a 4-H club and youth camp site.  The property includes Gilbert Lodge, built shortly after WWII, and frontage on both North and South Twin Lakes. Additional land was donated in subsequent years to bring the total park acreage to 175

1969 - County Board of Supervisors votes to provide space in the Grand Traverse Civic Center for the Paul Easling Memorial Swimming Pool building to be operated by the Easling Memorial Fund

1969 - County acquires the Boardman and Sabin dams from Consumers Power for $1. These dam sites would eventually form part of what will be known at the Natural Education Reserve

1970 - County officially establishes the Civic Center and begins application process for federal and state funds for development of the property

1970 - Easling Pool opens to the public

1973 - Easling Memorial Fund and pool ceases operation and the pool building is presented to the County

1973Paul Easling - Grants are received from the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation ($300,000), along with matching funds from the Traverse Area Development Fund, and US Department of the Interior ($150,000) to begin conversion of the Fairgrounds into the Civic Center. Funding will be used during the coming years for construction of sport courts, parking lot, entrance drives, picnic shelter, restroom facilities, seven ball fields, and lighting and irrigation for two of the fields.

1973 - The Northwestern Michigan Fair ceases operation at the current Civic Center site and moves to it's present location on Blair Townhall Road

1974 - Easling Pool reopens under County ownership and management with an annual contribution from the City of Traverse City

1974 - Dendrinos Family organizes a fundraising campaign to finance the construction of many of the Civic Center's sports field facilities

1975 - The island known as Marion Island is saved from development and purchased by the Nature Conservancy. Purchase of the island was made possible through the generous support of Eugene and Sayde Power and a grant from the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. The Nature Conservancy placed a conservation easement on the property and gifted the island to Grand Traverse County. Commemorating this gift, Marion Island's name was officially changed to Power Island by resolution in 1986

1976 - The Natural Education Reserve is formally dedicated as a reserve on July 4

1977 - County Board of Commissioners established the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Commission, pursuant to state law, Act 261 of the Public Acts of 1965, as amended

197Bubble8 - The Amphitheater at Civic Center is constructed

1981 - Twin Lakes Dormitory is constructed. The structure is capable of housing 140

1983 - A covered ice rink, nicknamed "The Bubble", is added to the South end of Civic Center Park

1985 - Sabin and Boardman Dams returned to service after more than 20 years of dormancy. A portion of the earnings from the power generated by these dams is subsequently used to pay off the County's half share of the revenue bonds sold to create Howe Arena

Howe Arena Grand Opening1989 - Howe Arena opens to the public. The arena was constructed using a combination of revenue bonds and private funds. Grants and donations were provided by many, including Centre ICE, Oleson Foundation and Rotary Charities. The arena's namesake, Gordie Howe, presides over the opening.

1990 - Beitner Park and Medalie parks are transferred from the Grand Traverse County Road Commission to the Grand Traverse County Parks Commission

1991 - Forty acres of property, now known as Bartlett Park and the VASA Trailhead, was deeded to the County. This property serves as the trailhead for the VASA 5k, 10k, and 25 k loop trails and the 3k Meadows Trail

1993 - The Natural Education Reserve expands with the acquisition of 25 additional acres through a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant

1994 - County completes purchase of 37 acres known as the Birmley Property at Birmley and Keystone Roads. The County and TBAYS enter into an agreement to use and manage the property.

1996 - Keystone Soccer Complex is formed with the initial acquisition of 80 acres of property from the Harrington Family

1996 - Kids Kove playground is built at Civic Center Park. The playgroVASA ribbon cuttingund funding was provided completely through donations from the local community

2000 - Fifteen acres of the Meyer Property added to the Natural Education Reserve

2001 - Skate Park at Civic Center opens to the public. Total cost for construction is $428,700

2002 - County completes the purchase of the Meyer Property with the assistance of a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to continue the buildout of the Keystone Soccer Complex

2002 - Maple Bay Park and Natural Area is acquired through a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant. Total purchase is $9,212,054, of which $6,816,920 was paid through the grant. 

2004 - Boardman and Sabin Dams are decommissioned for the final time. Discussion begins on the possibility of dam removal along the Boardman River

Civic Center 22006 - Twin Lakes beach area undergoes a complete renovation to include accessible walkways and access points to the beach and playground. A new playground structure is installed along with this project.

2008 - Boardman River Nature Center at the Natural Education Reserve opens to the public

2016 - Norte Youth Cycling calls the Civic Center home and begins use of the South building, revitalizing that end of the park

2017 - Campbell Family Playground at Civic Center opens to the public. This playground replaces the aged Kids Kove play structure.

2017 - Boardman Dam is removed

2018 - Sabin Dam is removed and is the last step in the largest dam removal project in Michigan history

2021 Amphitheater (with Tent)2019 - Amphitheater at Civic Center Park is upgraded to improve ADA accessibility and allow installation of a saddle-span tent covering the structure. Following the improvements Parallel 45 Theater begins hosting outdoor productions at the park

2019 -  Two miles of skills loop trails for mountain and BMX bikes opens at Bartlett Park

2021 - The Meyer Property becomes the site of the Great Lakes Incubator Farm. this project will create an opportunity for students to learn the farming trade using sustainable practices

2022 - Construction begins on the Birmley Property to expand the Keystone Soccer Complex