Finding Heartwood middle ground key to issue resolution

Beloved trails or more money in the city coffers? It’s a tough decision.

But as with many difficult decisions, a middle ground can — and should — be found.

The Marquette City Commission is grappling with the issue of developing parcels in the Heartwood Forestland where parts of the popular Noquemanon Trail Network are found.

Part of the city’s master plan, and the plan of the Heartwood Forestland Ad Hoc Committee, is to pursue the sale and development of specific parts of the property.

The city is looking at the expected 2019 closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant, which brings in lots of money in tax revenue. For instance, City Manager Mike Angeli said that at the plant’s 2013 peak, $1.6 million in annual tax revenue went to the general fund.

To complicate matters, the city owes $2.6 million on the Heartwood Forestland purchase.

However, the NTN is treasured by many outdoor recreation enthusiasts who are concerned about its future. In fact, those worries were expressed at Monday’s City Commission meeting.

Special concern was expressed over Parcel 35, an approximate 20-acre piece of land adjacent to the south NTN trailhead. NTN President Cary Gottlieb said he sent a letter to the city in which he asked that Parcel 35 be taken off the market.

Although she wants to ensure partnership plays a part in the issue, Commissioner Sarah Reynolds even said she would be OK with taking Parcel 35 “off the table.”

What’s fortunate so far is that apparently two developers who recently have shown interest in Heartwood property seem willing to work with the NTN.

So it appears that what’s really important here is the city and NTN working closely together to ensure the beauty and integrity of the Heartwood trails, but also being financially prudent and bringing money to the city.

As Mayor Dave Campana said, property tax revenue brings in $10 million annually to the general fund. That money goes toward services for police, fire, water, sewer and streets.

Another possibility is that the NTN purchases the parcels.

Whatever happens, we encourage the city and NTN continue discussions on how best to balance a treasured part of the city’s natural landscape with financial responsibility.