HARBERT – Members of the Chikaming Township Park Board met with project consultant Tom Hackley at Harbert Community Park on June 5 during a special meeting to share thoughts and ideas on a new Five-Year Plan.

Hackley, a former chairman of the Planning Commission, asked if the main goals of a new plan would generally closely echo those of the current plan in place, and the consensus of the members was that they would be similar, but perhaps prioritizing them in a different order.

Hackley said that in responses he received from questionnaires filled out by Park Board members, the word “community” was frequently mentioned.

In a question on their hopes for the future of the parks system, among the answers  listed were: keep responding to community needs, continued controlled growth of the parks system, more use of the preserves, more activities at Harbert Community Park, and an expanded Cherry Beach.

Hoped for future accomplishments included encouraging more usage of the parks and preserves by residents and visitors; more outreach; educational opportunities; expanded grant writing; and providing more easily accessible access to information.

During the meeting several members mentioned that on their “wish lists” would be budgetary enhancement that would allow for the hiring of a full-time professional parks manager who would oversee the workings, best practices and maintenance of the many properties the Park Board has stewardship over, including two new parcels in Lakeside that are no under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Lakeside Association, as well as the hoped for acquisition of the Reed Beidler Trust property that would greatly expand Cherry Beach.

“We’ve been successful and we’ve grown, and now we have all these pieces of property, and I think it’s time that we look at having a parks manager on the payroll,” member Janet Schrader commented.

Schrader also mentioned that the Park Board was always willing to listen to the voices of the members of the community pertaining to what they’d like to see happen, such as the mountain bike trail developed at the Park & Preserve that was a project spearheaded by her husband Kirk and done entirely by hard working and enthusiastic volunteers.

“We also put aside a section of the Park & Preserve as a community garden Planting Field because people let us know that was something they’d like to see as an element of that parcel, and that’s been very popular and a great success,” she added.

Another theme mentioned was to continue and prioritize efforts to make recreational opportunities in Chikaming accessible to all, especially focusing on those with physical challenges. It was noted that the new walkway planned as part of the project to make upgrades to Harbert Community Park would be fully ADA compliant.

There was also a consensus to agree with member Arthur Anderson’s comment that community education on subjects such as plastics and other debris accumulating on the beaches, and recycling.

“I think we could have kiosks containing different educational materials on display at our properties, and then perhaps rotate them around each month,” Anderson suggested.

Hackley said that he felt a good idea when the new Five-Year Plan is approved and implemented would be to review it each year moving forward to better ascertain whether or not desired accomplishments are being achieved and goals are being met.

“Things tend to change, and you have to be able to stay flexible while you’re keeping your eyes on the prize,” Hackley said. “I think a regular review and updating of the plan would be a good thing.”

Hackley said that he expected Five-Year Plan subcommittee members Anderson, Deborah Hall-Kayler and Joseph Reed to meet more frequently this summer as steps move forward to compose the document that will be their guideline for the coming years.

“Also, we will make questionnaires available to the members of our community so the Park Board can review their input and find ways to try to implement what they’d like to see happen in the future,” Hackley said.

As of now the timeline remains the same, and the expectation is to have a document ready for review in October.

Overall the main theme of the Park Board remains the three words that head the “Celebrate Chikaming” materials: “Experience, Explore, Enjoy.”

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