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Janet H. Nash Preserve

The corner of Genesse and Niagara was everything a neglected, vacant lot should be.

Covered in crumbling cement, garbage, and broken glass, the weeds and brush, a rusty, six-foot-high chainlink fence and a stretch of shattered and broken light posts competed over decades to block a view of the river.

It was a notorious eyesore in a high-traffic area of Saginaw and remained untouched...until 2015.

“Saginaw Future had identified that lot as an opportunity to put in the first section of rail-trail on that side of the river,” says Zachary Branigan, the Executive Director of the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy “and I approached them and asked ‘What are your going to do with the rest of the land?’”

That question was a seed beginning a two-year-long process. The conservancy teamed up with partners such as Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy, @SaginawFuture, and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail Committee. Funding for the project was secured by the Dow Corning Foundation, the Alice E. Turner Memorial Trust, the Allen E. and Marie A. Nickless Memorial Foundation, the Wickson-Link Memorial Foundation, the William McNally Family Foundation and the Jury Foundation.

Along with the funding, Branigan also estimates that around $100,000 worth of in-kind services were offered by local contractors and excavators wanting to support the project.

“It started with a design. We had Spicer do the site planning for the site and got our permits - that took about a year and everything was ready to go, says Branigan. “From there, it's a matter of just starting to dig a hole. We discovered, once we started tearing up the parking lot, there was another parking lot underneath it.”

After removing nearly 6,00 cubic-feet of materials, more than 200 invasive trees, that rusty chainlink fence and those broken, shattered light posts, the cement was the rail trail was poured and seeds were planted to bloom the following year.

Along with new life, the lot also gained a new name - the Janet H. Nash Preserve, named after a former principal of SASA.

“It does everything from providing access to people that might not otherwise have it to also helping with economic development in the downtown or in Old Town,” he says, “because you now have this high-quality experience where you can go and sit on the river and look over downtown and sit amongst flowers and have your lunc. You have students at SASA and biology students using and art students using the space. There’s economic development with people looking to rent stuff out, downtown residents, and the 20,000 people a day going up and down in Genesee that now don't have to look at an eyesore.”