Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

April 7, 2013

Editorial: Details must come first for Trust Fund projects

Traverse City has been pretty tight-fisted with the Brown Bridge Trust Fund since it was established in 1978, and that’s the reason it now sits at a very healthy $13.2 million.

Even in a day of trillion-dollar national deficits that’s a lot of money, particularly for a city of less than 15,000 people.The trust fund comes from oil and gas wells at the municipally owned Brown Bridge Quiet Area. Royalties from the 1,300-acre property are deposited every year into the trust fund, and interest income is transferred into the city’s general fund.

The city has only tapped the trust fund twice — in 1987 to purchase property on West Bay owned by the C&O Railroad to create what is now West End Beach, and in 1994 to buy additional property near the Brown Bridge Quiet Area. It takes a 60 percent majority of city voters to approve withdrawals.

The city commission is looking at another withdrawal now with two projects in mind — upgrading municipal parks, including West End beach again, or to boost restoration efforts at the Brown Bridge Dam area.

It could easily be argued that both projects could use the money. The city has 34 parks in all, with Clinch Park, right on West Bay, the crown jewel.

Clinch is undergoing a $3 million face lift right now that will include a splash pool for kids, a new bathhouse and a new concession stand and more.

Lauren Vaughn, parks and recreation superintendent, said there’s a need for upgrades to several neighborhood parks, including West End.

“We desperately need (an upgrade) with the West End Beach bathroom building,” he said. “It definitely needs replacing or serious upgrading.

That’s not all. “We want to do some more with our neighborhood parks like Clancy Park, Indian Woods and Ashton,” he said. “There needs to be an upgrading to some of the play equipment or other portions of the parks.”

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