Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 16, 2013

Kalkaska to develop parks, trails and natural resources

KALKASKA — Kalkaska County is circulating a new strategy for enhancing its park and recreational opportunities, a step many consider crucial for sparking economic growth in the county.

For six months, the county’s Parks and Recreation Committee toiled on the new recreation plan to help guide the development of the county’s parks, trails and other natural resources. The committee surveyed more than 300 citizens and held public meetings before they wrote the plan.

Some ideas contained in the new report include:

n A commitment to linking multiple recreational trails and developing new trail systems, motorized and non-motorized. The plan suggests creating a Kalkaska Trails Task Force to help with the endeavor.

n Increase awareness and usage of county-wide parks and recreational opportunities through public relations, new media, signage and print materials.

n Explore the possibility of a community endowment to help fund recreational opportunities.

Mark Randolph, convener of the Parks and Recreation Committee, said adopting the plan is important for the county’s economy.

“The takeaway from all this for me is there is a realization among many citizens here that recreation in Kalkaska County is a key to our economic development,” said Randolph. “It comes up repeatedly in comments (from citizens.)”

Jeff Sieting, Kalkaska village president, said there’s also ongoing discussions about building a skate park for kids near the Cherry Street School. He wants to see more attention paid to marketing the county’s current parks and outdoor properties, such as the Rugg Pond area.

“We have dozens and dozens of areas around here that are so beautiful and picturesque,” said Sieting. “What we want is tourists to come and enjoy what we have.”

Sarah Lucas, a planner at the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, said the county Board of Commissioners will soon consider adopting the plan. Adoption will assist the county in applying for recreation grant funding from the state.

A draft of the plan is now available for public review at the Kalkaska Library, the county administrative office and online. The online version can be downloaded from the Council of Governments website, www.nwm.org.

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