By Sue Moore
Three distinct plans for growth in Schoolcraft were presented by Jorden Parker of Wightman & Associates to approximately 30 people who attended the second in a series of Reroute workshops. He presented representative ideas of areas where growth could occur and asked the audience for feedback on what they liked or didn’t want to see in the village’s future.
The first idea presented looked at pedestrian traffic getting across N. Grand Street and suggested an overpass on U.S. 131. The intention is to make Burch Park on the west side of the village more accessible to foot traffic.
The recently closed Early Elementary building on Cass Street featured prominently in the second plan presented. It included a walking trail along the railroad with an eventual link to future trails linking to Three Rivers and Portage. It could also become part of a new commercial district on East Cass Street, Parker said.
The third plan featured some “out of the box” thinking, Parker told the group. It envisioned low-budget housing in open fields between Cass and Clay Streets, east of N. Grand Street. It also had a trailhead facility, event park, and dense housing that did not necessarily need village sewer service, as they envisioned use of septic service instead.
Kelly Bergland, who moved to Schoolcraft two years ago, via Los Angeles, although she was born in Vicksburg, commented on the third option: “If you build it, will people come? Will the housing sit vacant because there isn’t much to offer in the downtown?” She lives near Burch Park and was pleased to see the emphasis on the park in the first plan.
Mae Pfost, a lifelong resident of Schoolcraft and planning commission member, felt that Schoolcraft needs a major draw. “There is no place for people to stay and nothing much to do when they get here. The major corridor needs a sewer which comes before growth as a destination point,” she said.
A table of young people attending with their mother was concerned about safety issues. They liked the trailhead possibility. They proposed a simple idea to inform drivers about the village by putting signs with information about the community at the south side rail crossing. With many trains stopping traffic on U.S. 131, car occupants could read and learn about Schoolcraft.
Nearly everyone wanted a plan to slow traffic down on the 131/N. Grand Street corridor and felt the overpass had some possibilities. Right now, the village residential area is set apart by the heavy traffic on the major highway.
“This is where the process gets more difficult,” Parker said in closing. “These are just representative projects we are using to tell a vision through the plans presented. We are looking for consensus to start building the vision for the future. The challenge is how can we implement the vision.
“We will take the feedback we’ve heard here tonight, compile it in a booklet for the stakeholders to review. There will be one final open house this summer for the public. This is where the real change begins. We hope there is a buy-in and people are inspired to see real change.”
Wightman’s work was funded in part by a grant from the Vicksburg Foundation and the Village of Schoolcraft.