Flint author Connor Coyne is conducting research for his latest writing project — a Flint-based mystery. This morning he explored "the confusing maze of estuaries at the upstream mouth of Thread Lake" with his friend, the graphic designer Sam Perkins-Harbin, and came back with this report:
I've been curious about this area for years. On Google Maps, it looks completely overgrown and wild, like the woods surrounding the Pierce Golf Course or the Happy Hollow Nature Area, but there are also some curious signs of a human touch; particularly what looks like the grid of residential neighborhood streets of a bygone era. I was also curious because local historians have not been able to enlighten me as to what this area was all about. The amusement park was situated further west of the area, and it is not connected to McKinley Park or the Thread Lake Dam. Much of it is also inaccessible and choked with undergrowth, which is part of the reason it took me so much time to actually go and check out.
Sam and I explored two areas. First, we followed a service drive south from Lippincott Blvd. and came upon a creepy-looking area of small mounds. It was just after dawn, and since I've got an overly-fertile imagination, I was imagining something like this:
A scene from The Killing, season 3, episode 3.
More likely, this was dirt moved and dumped from sites as they were developed along Dort Highway a quarter mile to the east. And this would have happened decades ago because trees were covering everything. While there were signs of dumping, it wasn't anything extensive or recent. For anyone curious about whether or not we saw squatters, there weren't any signs of anyone living in this part of the woods anytime recently.
We managed to break through to the gridded area, which I've been curious about for many years. It seems that the simplest explanation — which is still intriguing — is most likely the correct one: this had been intended as an extension of the residential neighborhood to the south, and was abandoned. The neighborhood in question is far more recent than most in the city, and follows a suburban layout. This is consistent with the size and density of the trees in the gridded area. It does not appear to have ever been paved; perhaps graveled though. At the easternmost extent, a wide, narrow, deep pit has been dug (clearly by machines), which could have been the beginnings of a foundation or an attempt to link up with the city sewers, but this is the only other sign of serious development. I had wondered if the project was suspended due to high water tables (the whole area is very swampy) or if Flint's declining housing values simply made it a poor investment. At any rate, it has thoroughly gone to seed.