Input to recreational committee needed to chart course

Three local governments will begin taking the next steps tonight toward the official establishment of a multi-jurisdictional recreation authority.

Roughly a year after being appointed to the group, the six members of a recreation authority ad hoc committee have decided to undertake a feasibility study to determine how the city of Marquette, Marquette Township and Chocolay Township can team up to create a regional recreation authority.

Marquette Township Planner Jason McCarthy said the group – comprised of two representatives from each municipality – is hoping to limit the scope of an initial authority to the former Heartwood Forestland.

For years, the 2,400-acre Heartwood property has been the elephant in the room, when it comes to regional land management discussions. As we have stated in the past, we are in support of any plan that guarantees that at least the majority of the property will be utilized for recreation in perpetuity. Likewise, we are in support of finally making a decision on the property, which the city purchased in March of 2005 for $5 million.

Representatives from Marquette Township have said in the past that they may require an ownership stake in the Heartwood land – more than 500 acres of which sits within township boundaries – prior to joining an official authority.

The goal, according to McCarthy, who also serves as the chairman of the ad hoc committee, is to establish an authority to control the land and utilize and maintain a network of trails, some of which would serve as connections to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

Tonight’s meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Marquette Township Hall and intended as an opinion-gathering session, may go a long way toward steering the direction of a future authority.

We urge the community, from the city as well as the two townships, to give their input tonight.

Further, we hope this study will provide viable options showing how leaders from three municipalities can preserve a key recreational asset for decades, while still protecting their own self-interest.