By Sue Moore
Raising $2.7 million in donations is a huge stretch for Vicksburg’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA). No other capital campaign in Vicksburg has ever attempted to raise that much money, according to Kathleen Hoyle, DDA director.
Can it be done in the short time frame she and the board have to match potential grants applied for from the state of Michigan? Hoyle is confident it can be done, because in her two years at the helm, she has seen the tremendous commitment of Vicksburg area citizens. “Our residents in the greater Vicksburg area show great pride in their community and the quality of life it represents,” she said.
“This small village isn’t dying, because the citizens, business people, school personnel and manufacturers are not going to let that happen, and thus this campaign is the result,” Hoyle said. “The volunteers who are heading up the capital campaign come from all walks of life in and around the village. Plus we have even more dedicated volunteers who are fanning out to solicit the much needed dollars. I’m sure we will reach our goal by the time the state lets us know that the grant is successful.”
The projects total an estimated $7.3 million to build another stretch of the trail through the village, widen the sidewalks downtown, beautify the area with planters, seating and upgrade parking lots with striping, lighting, and shrubbery. “The results of this campaign will not only benefit the Vicksburg area. We see this as having a strong economic impact in the entire south county area,” Hoyle said.
Hoyle and the DDA board, along with Village Manager Ken Schippers and Village President Bill Adams, have spent all year planning the trail course and obtaining letters of endorsement for easements from landowners. The major portion of the grant dollars for the trail would come from the Department of Transportation (MDOT) with a smaller amount requested from the Department of Natural Resources. Hoyle has been in constant contact with the decision makers in Lansing and believes that the DDA stands a really good chance of being approved some time in November. If that happens according to plan, the timeline for having the matching funds in hand must be before the end of the year. That’s the reason for the big push for the capital campaign in September and October, she said.
Hoyle and Adams went knocking on doors in August to set up campaign committees. Their persuasiveness convinced the following citizens to take an active role in the campaign: Ted Vliek, Historical Society president, and Kristina Powers Aubry, past president of the Historical Society as co-chairs. Their campaign cabinet consists of Ron Smith, family division; Bill Adams, foundation division, Steve McCowen, special gifts division; Gary Hallam, business division; Steve Goss, vendor division; and Mary Ruple, community division. Their base of support includes over 80 volunteers to raise funds.
If the grants are awarded, there is a lot of preliminary work to be done with permits needed from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which would be good for one year and a half. The trail itself would be 10 feet wide, with an asphalt base. A trailhead is planned where people can park cars, get maps, or sit and rest. Bathroom facilities are in the plan to be built on Historical Society property, just east of the current trail.
If all goes well, some construction could start in fall of 2016, with the major portion of the trail to be completed in 2017, Hoyle says. After that, she expects to go full steam ahead with the downtown renovations.