CIVIC CENTER

The Grand Traverse County Civic Center.

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Parks Director Kristine Erickson’s voice is all business — until she says this: “It’s time for the people to re-claim their park!”

Erickson is talking about the 45-acre Traverse City Civic Center, and her words unfurl with energy and excitement.

A new survey to gauge community input on the future of the recreation area is posted online for “the people” to do just that.

“This all started with the north end of the property, which faces Front Street, and how people driving by don’t even know what it is unless they’re familiar with the area,” she said Monday.

Better signage will change that, she said, as will new landscaping and more accessible walkways.

The Civic Center is a treasure, Erickson added, a community collection of outdoor gems. There’s the walking track, the ball fields, a Native American Marker Tree, the Easling Pool and the Howe Arena, for starters.

One million visitors a year walk their dog, slide into home, ride a skateboard down a ramp, check out a bike from Norte’s bike library or watch a Parallel 45 Theatre-produced play at the outdoor amphitheater.

The public space isn’t without design challenges, however.

“There’s a stretch of asphalt going to nowhere, a random dirt two-track, and you can tell that all the projects, while wonderful, were undertaken independently,” Erickson said.

It could be more accessible to those with mobility concerns, too, she said.

A plan is needed to meld all that wonderfulness together, to improve what’s there and to decide how to manage the park for the future.

That’s where the public comes in.

Grand Traverse County Parks & Recreation is seeking public input on the best possible physical layout of the park, including its recreational facilities, foot and vehicle traffic and future design.

A 14-question community survey is posted online.

Visit http://gtciviccentersiteplan.org/index.html to participate, it should take about 10 minutes to complete, Erickson said, and the results will be used to develop a master plan for the busy recreational site.

The survey is part of the public engagement portion of a $34,050 contract with Beckett & Raeder, an Ann Arbor-based landscape architecture, planning, engineering and environmental firm with a local branch office hired to help with the master plan.

“We’re really looking for what people want to see at the park, five to 10 years out,” said Carrie Klingelsmith, a project professional with Beckett & Raeder. “How we can bring the park to a cohesiveness and just have a flow between all the different user groups.”

Klingelsmith said safety concerns between vehicle and pedestrian traffic will also be addressed in any future plan.

A grant from Rotary Charities paid $10,000 of the contract, with $5,000 added from the Parks & Recreation budget and remaining funds from temporary easement monies or a pending grant, Erickson said.

“Even if we don’t have the funds to do everything we’d like right away, when there’s a blueprint for the future we can work on one project per year and have everything compliment everything else,” Erickson said.

The survey will be posted until May 15, though may be extended if more time is needed to gather input, she said.