How does a small community with a very limited budget go about preserving and repurposing a historic landmark?
Volunteers, volunteers and more volunteers.
That’s what’s needed in the Village of Leonard as the community prepares for another season of work on its old mill.
A work day has been scheduled for Saturday, April 23 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Village President Mike McDonald is hoping plenty of folks will roll up their sleeves and pitch in.
“We have a lot of clean up to do as well as teardown, so I’m hoping for 20 to 25 (people). More would be even better,” he said. “Mostly, we just need hands and willing helpers to move material into the dumpsters and clean up the area.”
Located at E. Elmwood and W. Division streets, adjacent to the Polly Ann Trail, the old mill was constructed in the late 1800s and ceased operations in 2004. Community efforts to save it began in 2010.
Leonard purchased the mill and the 0.28-acre parcel it sits on in May 2014 using a mix of municipal funds and grant money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).
The plan is to someday turn the site into the Leonard Mill Park, complete with restroom facilities, bicycle racks and fix-it stations, picnic area, benches, landscaping and drinking fountains.
Two significant steps forward in the preservation process occurred last year.
One, the unattractive and structurally unsound front portion of the mill, which used to house the beanery that closed in 1913, was finally demolished.
Two, the mill was topped with a brand new corrugated metal roof to protect it from the elements and help prevent further decay.
“Our next goal is to do foundation repairs on the east side,” McDonald said. “That will be the next major project.”
“Whether we can do that this year will depend entirely on how much money we’re able to raise,” he noted. “At this point, I don’t think we have enough, but we’ll be applying for grants as we usually do and hoping for the best.”
Leonard’s leadership and citizens plan to continue plugging away until the old mill finds new life as a public amenity.
“In my opinion, we’re doing as well as could be expected given that we’re relying on volunteers and donations,” McDonald said. “I think we’ve done real well so far given the size and scope of what we’re facing.”
To learn more about the preservation/park project, visit www.leonardmill.com.