By Linda Lane
Schoolcraft’s Village Council, Downtown Development Authority and Planning Commission in a mid-March joint meeting reviewed a draft of a Parks and Recreation Plan, a conceptual plan for the US-131 corridor and a Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Two consultants from Wightman & Associates, Jorden Parker and Ben Baker, were in attendance to review the plans.
The Village’s 2018 Master Plan is currently under public review. Changes cannot be made to it until the public has been had time to give feedback. With an overall 20-year plan, the Village is required to update the Master Plan every five years to allow for necessary changes.
The three primary goals of the Parks and Recreation Plan include development of an accessible trail linking Portage on the north and Three Rivers to the south and perhaps east to Vicksburg, partnering with Schoolcraft Community Schools to acquire school property for the trail and assessment of the Birch Park facility to make improvements to turn it into a destination park. The recreation plan will outline improvements on a 1-5-year action timeline, with cost estimates for the improvements.
Possible changes that were discussed for the recreation plan included installing a rest room facility in Birch Park and possibly a splash pad, developing a new park, and establishing a non-motorized trail for running, walking and biking. While trails are expensive to develop, a series of possible funding sources were discussed, including the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, federal matching fund grants, trust fund grants, and other resources. It was noted that linking trails together greatly increases the possibilities of funding a new trail system. Maintenance and upkeep is typically left to the municipality developing the improvements and a plan needs to be in place for grants. The Village Council is seeking public comments and will compile results from a public survey of residents.
“It’s important to show the community what we can financially afford to do in improvements and changes,” President Keith Gunnett said. “We don’t want to develop a plan that doesn’t have funding to implement it.”
Changes to the US 131 corridor plan included possibly adding a median for “traffic calming”, improving crosswalks, and adding plantings on Eliza to slow vehicles. There was some discussion regarding developing a “commercial district” along Cass Street, allowing turn lanes left and right onto Cass, and adding a “downtown gateway” which welcomes visitors to Schoolcraft and provides a pedestrian-friendly environment. The concept would provide dual frontage to the commercial district on the Hayward Street side, allowing shared parking and possibly outdoor dining.
“I think it’s important to set some goals that we can accomplish quickly, and continue working on the others that cost more money,” said Trustee Mike Rochholtz.
“The elephant in the room is the sewer issue,” said one resident who asked to not be quoted. With 48 percent of village residents retired, the funding for building a new sewer system has long been a discussion topic. It was noted that the village is unable to attract restaurants or any craft breweries without installing a sewer system. Wes Schmitt, planning commission member, noted there is discussion of South County area governmental leaders working with state and federal representatives to show how significant grant funding can boost and attract businesses, accomplish environmental goals, and overall be a blessing for the entire area.
“If a new sewer system is installed and the roads are ripped up, it offers a great opportunity to implement several goals at the same time, like a walking or bike path along the roadway,” suggested Jorden Parker. “If you have a plan in place, it’s possible to incorporate several goals at the same time.”
The Schoolcraft Village Council includes the president, Gunnett, and trustees Russell Barnes, Todd Carlin, Kathy Mastenbrook, Rochholz, John Stodola and Sy Spears.
The Planning Commission includes Chairperson Mae Pfost, Vice-Chairperson Sue Hendriksma, Secretary Josh Rozeboom, and members Jennifer Doorn, Kirk Bergland, Schmitt and Gunnett.