TRAVERSE CITY — A community-wide survey to help prioritize improvements to Civic Center Park could begin as early as next week, depending on what Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation commissioners decide.

What took seed as an issue with parking at the county-owned Civic Center shifted to landscaping the northwest corner of the park, then blossomed to encompass a potential redesign of the entire north end of the property.

Commissioners on Thursday could vote to approve a timeline for the planning process, including the community survey and input meetings with partners, user groups and the community — they voted May 9 to include the public in the prioritization process.

The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Governmental Center commission chambers.

There are so many activities that go on at the Civic Center that complete community involvement is needed — they have to be careful not to listen to just one entity when making decisions, said Commissioner John Roth.

“We want complete harmony between the residents and what’s going on in the park and the ways to get in and out of the park,” said Commissioner Shirley Zerafa. “They need to be secure about that.”

Consultants on April 18 presented broad concepts for proposed short- and long-term improvements, including reconfiguring existing parking areas; adding a Front Street entrance to the park; possible additions to the Civic Center building; landscaping around the Native American Marker Tree; installing a Norte traffic garden and pump track (a bicycle track circuit of rollers, banked turns and features); and more.

There’s also the issue of landscaping the transition between Civic Center Park and the Rite Aid development, said Roth. The county and developer worked together to reduce the steepness of the slope between the two properties for safety, he said.

Once that was done, the developer gave the county money to do landscaping, Roth said. That coincided with Consumers Energy tree-cutting — something for which the county also received money.

There are some projects that could move forward sooner rather than later, such as the Native American Marker Tree, said Kris Erickson, county Parks and Recreation director. But for larger projects — such as parking issues and gateways to the park — public input would be sought, she said.

The overall goal of having community input is to develop a new master plan for Civic Center Park so the park can be updated to better serve the needs of its users, Erickson said.

“We’ll have to see how this unfolds,” she said. “It’ll be a journey we can’t put a timetable on (right now).”

When deciding what projects to pursue, it comes down to if there’s money already available for these or if more would need to be gathered through a millage or other means, Zerafa said. If money is available, go ahead — if not, don’t, she said.

“Until I hear who’s paying for it, I can’t say how I’d vote,” Zerafa said.

No pot in county parks

TRAVERSE CITY — A rule forbidding the use of marijuana in county parks is up for debate at the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

The rule would prohibit intentionally smoking, ingesting, consuming or otherwise using marijuana, cannabis or liquids or solids containing any type of tetrahydrocannabinol — the primary chemical in marijuana — on county park property.

A violation is a misdemeanor that can earn a fine of up to $100, plus the costs of prosecution, and/or 90 days in the Grand Traverse County Jail.

“It’s something we really want to deter,” said Commissioner John Roth. “(Parks) are for fun and families and that’s the way it needs to stay.”

Michigan voters in November cast ballots to legalize marijuana. The Traverse City Commission on May 20 banned consumption or smoking of marijuana in city parks and all designated beach areas.