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'Nothing to worry about': Kent County, Cannonsburg clear the air about possible purchase

Kent County Board of Commissioners approved resolution that could lead to county's purchase of property
Cannonsburg Ski Area
Posted at 3:53 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 18:09:47-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Cannonsburg Ski Area is a staple of the West Michigan Community. Whether it's skiing, mountain biking or ziplining, you can find something to do there all year long.

That's why it was understandable some people were worried when news broke that Kent County was interested in buying the ski hill. However, the county administrator and the ski area's marketing director spoke with FOX 17 Friday to clear the air.

“I’ve said before, this is like the journey of a thousand miles (that) begins with one step," said Al Vanderberg, the Kent County administrator.

That first step came Thursday morning when Kent County's Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution that might lead to the county purchasing the Cannonsburg Ski Area.

READ MORE: Kent County takes first steps to purchase Cannonsburg Ski Area

“It is just the very beginning," said Vanderberg. "It isn’t a sure thing; it isn’t a done deal; it hasn’t even been negotiated. We do think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the county and its residents.”

Cannonsburg's Marketing Director Danielle Musto said there has not been any agreement to sell the 275-acre property at this point. Although, conversations, while informal, have begun.

The question now becomes — how would that impact the ski area? Is the future of that iconic recreation spot in jeopardy?

“I can assure West Michigan, and the people of Michigan, Cannonsburg Ski Area is not going anywhere," Musto told FOX 17.

The county doesn't want that to happen either. Vanderberg said the goal isn't to run a business but rather to preserve.

“Kent County is the second-fastest growing county in the state by percentage, and the fastest-growing by number, and one of the fastest-growing in the nation," he said. "We have an opportunity today to take actions for the benefit of future Kent County residents. In the future we won’t have those options anymore.”

Residents seem to be on board. At least, that's the case for Seth Mason, who's lived right next to the hill for 17 years, hiking there four days a week and teaching ski lessons on weekends.

“I think it would be fantastic," said Mason. "I think that you’d have a resource for hiking and biking and skiing that more and more people would enjoy.”

Vanderberg said early estimates show the purchase might cost $10 million, based on conversations with real estate professionals. The Kent County Parks Department has already asked the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) to cover 75% of that, with the rest coming from local agencies, nonprofit donations and Kent County’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act.

Vanderberg said this is a two-year process, which is still in its early stages, but the big takeaway here is:

“Cannonsburg Ski Area is not going out of business," Musto made clear. "I can assure everyone. I’ve seen the comments. We love the ski area. We love being the local ski hill for West Michigan.”

The idea of purchasing land to meet future park needs of residents is really nothing new for Kent County. They've purchased 688 acres of land since 2009 to accommodate for rapid growth.

As far as this project goes, it likely won't be until December when the county will hear back about its grant request. After that happens, negotiations can begin before a final decision in March.

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