Old Mission Point Park on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Old Mission Point Park | Jane Boursaw Photo
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The Peninsula Township Parks Committee has been hard at work creating a plan for the township parks, and they’d like to know what you think. To that end, they’re hosting two open houses – both will be identical, so you’re welcome to attend either one:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 22, 4 – 7 p.m., First Congregational Church, 6105 Center Road
  • Wednesday, Feb. 23, 4 – 7 p.m., Peninsula Township Hall, 13235 Center Road

UPDATE: As the Tuesday Open House was canceled due to weather, the next Open House will be on Wednesday, March 2, 4 – 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 6105 Center Road.

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Also, a citizens group independent of the Township is being formed to work on park projects. If you’d like to be involved, contact Parks Committee member Mary Beth Milliken, (231) 590-5880, or email [email protected].

If you cannot attend either of the open houses, feel free to participate by clicking here and taking the parks priorities survey at the Participate Old Mission website.

Aging Parks and Universally Accessible Trails

Of the 18,000 acres of land in Peninsula Township, about 1200 acres are parkland or preserved historical sites. And of those 1200 acres, the Township owns or manages 833 acres of that land.

It’s clear that parks, trails and recreational areas are important to Peninsula Township residents. Based on the 2019 survey:

  • More than 80 percent of residents agree that local policies should stay focused on maintaining the rural, recreational and undeveloped character of Peninsula Township; 71 percent of respondents want to keep as much of the rural character and historic landscape as possible.
  • Nearly 80 percent of residents support the development of a non-motorized trail system that connects the park facilities with bike paths or trails (a committee has been meeting to work on this).

However, as noted in the Township’s Winter 2022 newsletter, the park facilities are aging and in need of attention, even as usage has increased in recent years. A few examples:

  • Bowers Harbor Park is heavily used for family and group activities, but the courts and playground equipment are in need of major upgrades (new non-Township-funded pickleball courts are in the works; more on that coming up).
  • Kelley Park in Old Mission is now the only Township-managed boat launch on the Peninsula, but construction has yet to begin. (The launches at Bowers Harbor and East Bay fall under the DNR.)
  • Universally accessible (UA) trails are needed so that mobility-impaired citizens can enjoy the parks. The Bowers Harbor Park addition (south of the current park), Mission Point Lighthouse and Pelizzari Natural Area are good candidates for this.

If you’d like to see a UA trail, visit the Pyatt Lake Nature Preserve (take Pyatt Road off Neahtawanta Road over at Bowers Harbor) and check out the recent upgrades, made possible in 2020 through the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

Here are a few photos from last year (including a gratuitous photo of my nephew-pup Sam at one of the lookouts).

Universally accessible trail at Pyatt Lake: The Bill Carls Nature Preserve | Jane Boursaw Photo
Universally accessible trail at Pyatt Lake: The Bill Carls Nature Preserve | Jane Boursaw Photo
Universally accessible trail at Pyatt Lake: The Bill Carls Nature Preserve | Jane Boursaw Photo
Universally accessible trail at Pyatt Lake: The Bill Carls Nature Preserve | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sam Johnson, Jane's nephew-pup at the Pyatt Lake: Bill Carls Nature Preserve overlook | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sam Johnson, Jane’s nephew-pup at Pyatt Lake: The Bill Carls Nature Preserve overlook | Jane Boursaw Photo

Other areas of concern include historic properties in need of crucial structural care (adhering to strict historical standards can be expensive), restroom upgrades in several locations, and a possible expansion of Pelizzari Natural Area.

How to Fund and Maintain the Parks

But the big question is how to go about funding and maintaining the parks and projects. In the Spring of 2021, the Township Board and Parks Committee contracted with the nonprofit planning organization LIAA (Land Information Access Association) to help develop a feasible operating and maintenance budget for township parks.

Some of the key takeaways of the LIAA collaboration:

  • Explore alternative sources of funding to support basic park operations and provide leverage to attract outside funding for larger maintenance and capital improvement projects at the parks.
  • Bring on additional staff to manage the parks’ growing needs.
  • Seek public input to help identify and prioritize projects and determine which funding sources to pursue.

The Township Board and Parks Committee would love to hear from you. Should the Township pursue alternate sources of funding? What should the top priorities be for the parks? What parks do you spend most of your time in?

Click here to view the full LIAA study, and attend one of the upcoming open houses to voice your thoughts.

Old Mission Point Park on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Old Mission Point Park | Jane Boursaw Photo

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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