HARBERT – Members of the Chikaming Township Park Board during their Aug. 26 meeting discussed the results of a survey conducted by consultant Tom Hackley who is helping formulate a new Five-Year Plan that is anticipated to be completed this fall.
Hackley began his presentation by saying that 184 surveys were completed; about half on behalf of households, and the other half by individuals, with the vast majority of respondents (over 70 percent) residing in Chikaming Township over three months per year .
He went on to say that 76 percent of respondents cited Lake Michigan, beaches and the dunes as their primary reasons for living in the township; while 56 percent cited the woods, ravines and wetlands.
Also, 66 percent of those responding said they had retired in Chikaming or planned on doing so.
The top three outdoor activities ranked by respondents were: beach-combing or walking; hiking and nature walks; and swimming in Lake Michigan.
The top four activities and events respondents listed as most appealing to them were: Music in the Park; movies in the park; the annual Plant and Bake Sale at Harbert Community Park conducted by the River Valley Garden Club:; and nature education.
“We had 59 percent of respondents indicate that they would be likely or very likely to attend educational on nature and the environment if they were made available,” Hackley stated.
The top three items named on the “wish list” for facilities they would most like to see made available in the future were: more safe biking and walking trails; a public swimming pool; and an open-air music venue/bandshell.
Harbert Community Park ranked fourth in the list of parks and preserves that were most often visited, and it followed Warren Dunes, Warren Woods, and Lakeside Park.
The top three reasons listed for visiting Harbert Community Park were: for a rest or lunch break; to spend time at the children’s playground; and to visit the Dog Park.
The top three area beaches cited were: Warren Dunes, Cherry Beach, and Weko Beach in Bridgman.
“There were 75 percent of the respondents who said they felt additional property acquired under the stewardship of the Park Board should be set aside for preservation, and 46 percent said they should be dedicated to active recreation opportunities,” Hackley said.
“A majority favored raising money via a bond issue (74 percent), tax deductible donations (73 percent), or an earmarked property tax increase (59 percent).,” he continued. Also, 39 percent said they’d be willing to spend $100 per year; 28 percent said $50 annually; 16 percent $200 per year; 10 percent $250; and 8 percent $150 per year.
Hackley said that he felt collaboration with other important conservation-minded organizations that have presences in the township; such as Chikaming Open Lands and The Prairie Club, would be a good way for the Park Board to stretch the budgetary constraints they may have.
The Park Board has scheduled a special workshop meeting on the Five Year Plan on Monday, Sept. 16, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
In other business, following discussion on the subject there was a unanimous vote of approval on a motion to install a direct-wired dedicated security phone at Cherry Beach that would enable quick contact with a dispatcher in an area where cell phone reception can be sporadic.
The cost for installation by AT&T is estimated to be $350 with an additional $55 per month service fee, plus tax.
Also on the agenda, chairperson Deborah Hall-Kayler announced that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) had approved the low bid of $75,962 by Payjay, Inc. to make improvements at Harbert Community Park that will include the construction of an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant walkway and a fishing/viewing platform at the pond there.
That project is scheduled to begin after Labor Day.
Secretary Jill Underhill was complemented and thanked for the work she did in heading the effort to have a fountain installed in the pond.
There was further discussion about the development of an 18-hole disc golf course at the Park & Preserve, and a motion to allow the Park Board to seek grants for the project with the help of grant writer Dave Stevenson was approved.
The estimated cost of the project is $25,000.
Finally, there was a reminder that the deadline for people to make donation pledges for the Cherry Beach Project is Sept. 30.
The goal is to for pledges to reach at least 40 percent of the $4,125,000 asking price for the Reid Beidler Trust property that borders Cherry Beach to the south.
This will be the second application process for a MDNR Trust Fund Grant that would provide the bulk of funding to acquire the lakefront property that would greatly expand the current popular Cherry Beach.