MARQUETTE - The former Heartwood Forestland property will likely be at the heart of a discussion about the possible formation of a regional recreation authority that would include the city of Marquette, as well as Marquette and Chocolay townships.
The 2,400-acre property, purchased by the city for $5 million in March of 2005, is a key recreational asset that needs to be protected, according to Marquette Township Planner Jason McCarthy.
McCarthy also serves as chairman of an ad hoc committee made up of representatives from the three municipalities and dedicated to gauging the feasibility of creating an authority.
The best option, in McCarthy's opinion, would be to first create an authority to manage the Heartwood land, and to possibly consider expanding control to other recreation assets in the future.
"We did our data mining and we looked at the three communities' recreational plans, surveys and just our general idea of what we believe would be successful moving forward," he said. "We kind of narrowed that down to what we believe is the low-hanging fruit, which is the Heartwood Forest property. Everybody kind of feels the same about that property and that is to preserve that in perpetuity for the enjoyment of everyone."
In fact, some elected officials have expressed aversion to including too many recreational assets in the purview of an authority.
"Our representatives between Chocolay and Marquette townships, we've been given direction that, basically it wouldn't be supported to include everything," McCarthy said. "But everybody is on board for the Heartwood Forest property being preserved and formalizing and recognizing and validating the trails that have been established out there in some kind of formal way."
In addition to gathering public input - a meeting is scheduled for Monday evening - the ad hoc committee will be overseeing a formal feasibility study by the nonprofit Land Information Access Association.
The study, McCarthy said, should show how an authority can be established "for the Heartwood Forest property and adjacent trails kind of utilizing the Iron Ore Heritage Trail as really the backbone of a trail network that would be connected through several communities."
The study should result in a formalized plan, which the committee hopes to present to the governing boards of each municipality near the end of the year.
The ultimate goal for this process, McCarthy said, is "to be able to certainly compensate the city for the investment that they made and accomplish the goal ... to preserve that property for the enjoyment of all, forever. We kind of see an opportunity and a mechanism to make that happen."
Monday's meeting of the ad hoc committee is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Marquette Township Hall on Commerce Drive. McCarthy said the group is hoping to hear ideas and concerns from the public, and said he is particularly interested in hearing from people involved in the establishment or maintenance of some of the area's existing trail networks.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org