Lake Norcentra Park Initiative Connects RC Students with Nature

By Lacy Schirmacher
Shield Staff

            As students at Rochester College we are blessed to have such immediate access to nature. Lake Norcentra, the Clinton River and several hiking trails make up our backyard. The Lake Norcentra Park Initiative will now allow us to share our backyard with the community and serve as a connection between the college and downtown Rochester. “We're not building a building; we're creating a community gathering place,” Brad Irwin, park project leader and Rochester College alumnus said.

Future Plans for Lake Norcentra Park

            In the next ten years, the 14-acre area will be transformed into an oasis consisting of an amphitheater, refreshment garden, kayak launch and more. Lake Norcentra Park will be a place where the community can not only enjoy nature, but also learn about the environment with hands-on activities and give back with many different volunteer opportunities. It will be “a place for people of all ages to enjoy learning, living and serving together,” Irwin said.

Lake Norcentra Park a Setting for RC Students to Create Memories

            Lake Norcentra Park will be an area for Rochester College students to unwind, connect with nature and to make memories that will last a lifetime. The area has always held a special place in the heart of Brad Irwin. “I went to school here in the mid-1990s and the "nature spaces" on campus became sacred spaces to me,” Irwin said.

            “College is a magical season of life and it deserves places that are worthy of that magic. I want generations of Rochester students to make some of their best memories and form some of their best friendships in the setting of Lake Norcentra Park,” Irwin said.

Lake Norcentra and Clinton River Area Important to Michigan History

            Lake Norcentra, the Clinton River and the surrounding area has been an important part of Michigan’s history since it first became a state. A plan to connect Lake Michigan to Lake St. Clair would have created a canal passing through what is now the Rochester College campus. The area has also been used as a sand and gravel pit and farmland for many years before it became a college campus in the late 1950s. A land so rich in history deserves a future just as rich. Lake Norcentra Park will be an important part of the college and community for many generations to come.

The Ideas for Lake Norcentra Park Already Becoming a Reality

            Although current students of Rochester College will no longer be students when the project is finished, many of them will be able to say they contributed their time and efforts to help make it happen. Students and community members are already working together in the beginning phases of this project. As of July 7, 2016, 634 volunteer hours had already been logged for the year. Several food trucks have begun to make an appearance on the property as well as a Yates Cider Mill pop-up location. Change is happening quickly, and ideas are becoming a reality.