A view of the bay is worth something.
Maybe not half workers’ pay — but it definitely has value. The county’s seniors recognize the value of that bay view and want to hold onto it — that’s why a grassroots fundraising effort to replace the old Traverse City Senior Center building at 801 E. Front St. began nearly two decades ago.
The building needs a major update. But the waterfront site is worth preserving for the enjoyment of current and future seniors.
It’s time for the county and the city to stop pointing fingers at who’s to blame for the disintegration of the effort to pass a millage to fund a new building last year. It’s time to start focusing on how to bring a new senior center to fruition.
The Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network, which runs senior center activities funded by a county-wide millage, and the city, which owns the property in Traverse City, have cooperated for decades to provide county residents with services and recreational opportunities. It’s sad to see the rift between two governments inflict wounds on our seniors.
County officials have floated the idea of building a new Traverse City Senior Center on LaFranier Road, south of town. Some seniors want the center to remain where it is, on the waterfront in the city. They’re not happy with the idea of a senior center farther from downtown, far from the beach.
A Grand Traverse County ad hoc committee currently is gathering information it will use to decide where its senior services programs will be based. That may or may not be at the current waterfront site.
Everyone acknowledges there are problems — parking, for example — to overcome at the current property. But many seniors correctly contend a bigger parking lot is a flimsy tradeoff for a beachfront location.
We suspect most county residents would agree. That’s why waterfront homes cost so much: Everyone wants to be on the water. Most Grand Traverse County seniors can’t afford a beach house. The city and county should work together to allow seniors, regardless of their socio-economic status, to enjoy a water view — for perhaps an hour a week — as part of their retirement plan.
The county network provides programming for seniors at locations in Interlochen, Kingsley and Fife Lake. But the Traverse City center is the program’s centerpiece because so many seniors live nearby — and because it offers that view of the bay.
The senior center is home to social programs, learning programs, wellness services, exercise classes, dancing, card games and more. While partaking of those services, seniors can gaze out of the blue waters of the bay.
County voters repeatedly have approved millage to support the center and its programming. They recognize that seniors’ lifetimes of toil has earned them the right to relax — and to enjoy the view.
Seniors deserve a little piece of the shore to call their own, a little enclave where they can go if they don’t want to compete with the summer hubbub of younger folks. Some seniors revel in the atmosphere of a typical summer beach, but some don’t. In winter, the bayside facility offers seniors a glimpse of the bay while they’re attending a watercolor class, taking line dancing lessons or playing shuffleboard.
It doesn’t really matter why plans for a new building at the current site — plans that had been discussed for more than two decades — fell into disarray. What matters is putting the plan back together so the county’s seniors can get on with the business of viewing the bay.
City and county officials should work together to do what’s right for the county’s seniors, who deserve a slice of waterfront to call their own.