Setting its sights on a site

Ishpeming city manager authorized to investigate spots for proposed park

ISHPEMING — Ishpeming is one step closer to providing a safe place for its youth to engage in outdoor activities such as skateboarding, biking and ice skating in a centralized location in the city.

The Ishpeming City Council unanimously approved a motion directing the city manager, Mark Slown, to investigate a potential property purchase on behalf of the Skate Park Committee for use as a central downtown multi-use park.

“I would like your permission to conduct the discussion and investigation with the property owners,” Slown said, “with the understanding that any purchase would be a subsequent action by the council.”

The scope of the project, which up until recently has been referred to as a skate park, has broadened to include biking and ice skating in addition to other outdoor activities, Councilman Justin Koski said.

Koski, a member of the sub-committee charged with creating a list of possible sites for the new park, said he and other committee members have shied away from the narrow definition of the proposed facility.

“It is more than a skate park,” Koski said. “It’s going to have several uses, it’s not just a vacant plot of land used for skateboarding and skateboarding only.”

Slown said the committee had selected several properties for consideration, but it has set it is most interested in a 160-foot vacant lot on First Street.

“Adjacent to that is another parcel that has a building on it that might also become part of the facility,” Slown said “Part of the discussion of multi-use was going to be a skating rink and that building down there could be an excellent warming shack and have some bathrooms in it.”

Another location being considered is near Lake Bancroft Park, but Slown said committee members feel strongly that the facility should be located downtown.

“I think the consensus of the group was that doing something with vacant land or underutilized land in the downtown would be the best bang for our community in terms of helping to revitalize the downtown,” Slown said. “And also make a facility that is accessible to the maximum amount of people because of the location.”

The project would not be funded by the city, Slown said. Funds for the facility would be raised using a variety of means including private donations, crowd funding and grants.

“The main point of that is, I don’t think that I as the city manager would recommend that we go out and spend a lot of money to either buy land or build this park, because the city’s money is very, very limited. Having said that I do think there is a way to raise money,” Slown said.

Slown said if the committee can raise that $50,000 locally, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will provide $50,000 in matching funds for the project.

Koski said the multi-use recreation park could have a significant impact on the downtown area by providing a central gathering point for youth and families, which is why the project has the support of local organizations like the Ishpeming Lions Club and Partridge Creek Farm.

“In my opinion, this kind of park in the downtown — at no cost to the city — would be a key, simple revitalization mechanism that we can get something nice and new downtown with private investment to attract other local businesses.” Koski said.

The committee hopes to unveil a concept for the proposed park, which is being provided at no charge by recreation equipment provider Penchura, LLC, in the next few weeks.

“We will be able to show council and city residents that the park is a lot more than a skate park, it’s actually going to become an ice skating rink in the winter. Plus we can turn it into an open space and have a farmers market in the summer, which will also provide us some additional potential funding,” Koski said.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.