Not long ago, riding a bike from Traverse City to Suttons Bay or Acme meant braving state highway traffic or riding two-lane roads that were hardly bicycle-friendly. It was not for the faint of heart.
Today, of course, the TART Trail system a major recreational draw and cyclists by the hundreds ride the region’s trails to work or to shop or just for the fun of it. Non-motorized trails are branching out all over the region and it’s hard to remember a time when there wasn’t a system of trails.
Trails are just some of the region’s outstanding recreational assets. There are beaches and parks and places to sit on a bench and read a book or just get out and walk. People across the region take their recreational amenities for granted and can’t imagine a time when they weren’t there.
Kalkaska County may be next. For months now the county’s Parks and Recreation Committee has worked on a recreation plan that would include development of the county’s parks, trails and other natural resources. The plan could include making a commitment to linking multiple recreational trails and developing new motorized and non-motorized trails.
The committee also wants to make residents more aware of what they already have by publicizing the county’s parks and recreation amenities. The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments has said it will help the county apply for recreation grant funding from the state.
Mark Randolph of the Parks and Recreation Committee said many people think recreation can be a key to economic development in the village of Kalkaska and the county. A look at other towns across the region supports the idea that having things to do and places to go is important for young people looking for small-town living with bigger-town amenities. Skateboard parks, wi-fi connections, bike trails, parks for disc golf and places to gather are among the things people in their 20s and 30s expect.
Investing in recreational options like those is inexpensive and can pay off over decades.
Kalkaska village President Jeff Sieting said he wants to see more attention paid to marketing existing parks and outdoor properties, such as the Rugg Pond area. “We have dozens and dozens of areas around here that are so beautiful and picturesque,” he said.
And someplace for locals to enjoy.
The village and the county have been working hard on economic development ideas, and this is another element. Building up downtown is great, but quality of life outside the business district matters, too.