The Mason City Council invites residents to comment on the five-year community recreation plan during their March 17 meeting.
Designing a plan is a helpful tool, but it’s also a requirement by the state of Michigan in order to be eligible to receive grants from state funding. “Our plan’s been expired for a couple years so we’re kind of getting back on track,” said David Haywood, the zoning and development director for Mason. There is no time limit for the plan, but the motivation for redrafting it every five years is the grant money. Martin Colburn, the city administrator, said since they accomplished most of their goals in the last plan it was time to rewrite it.
The recreation plan is designed to maintain, improve and expand the recreational facilities within the community. “Most of the issues come out of a public input process,” said Haywood. In January, two workshops were held at City Hall, offering residents a chance to share their concerns about the future recreational needs for Mason. “We asked them three questions: what are you proud of, what are your sorries, and how can we fill in the gaps,” said Dennis O’Brien, superintendent of the Mason cemetery, parks and forestry division.
In 2000, the last time they drafted a five-year plan, a surprisingly large portion of the youth community approached the Council, said Haywood. “They filled the council chambers and they had a petition list of well over 100 youth who wanted a skate park,” he said. So, this year, the Council approached them. They sent out surveys to the high school asking the students’ opinions on what recreational activities are most valued in Mason, what should be improved and what else they would like to see available.
After receiving feedback from both adults and youths, the Council decided that some of the major issues that the plan should focus on are extending the Riverwalk Trail, improving Mason’s baseball fields and possibly installing security cameras on the ball field and park premises. “And then it tapers off into a lot of other little things,” Haywood said.
The Riverwalk Trail is the number one interest for the recreation plan. It currently runs through the south half of the city, along the Sycamore Creek. And the city has already received funding from a private donor to extend it north so it runs through the entire city. “What we would like to do is extend it around the eastern loop of the city,” said Haywood. This would link all the schools and parks on the east side of the city to the trail, along with the county park and the fair grounds. “We’ve had to go through a lot of bureaucratic steps with the Department of Environmental Quality, but it’s now been approved by the state, and we should go to construction this summer,” said Colburn.
The project is estimated to cost just over $1 million. The grant is not finalized yet, but, according to Haywood, the city will request between 25 to 50 percent of that from state funds. “Just because we’re eligible for funds, doesn’t mean we’ll get it,” said Haywood. And for the rest they will look to other funding sources such as private donors and organizations.
And although the youth community was pleased eight years ago when the skate park was built, their desires may not be met as readily this time. Their main areas of interest were a movie theater and more soccer fields. However, a movie theater is not necessarily a recreational facility and additional soccer fields are viewed as a challenge. “A lot of it is subject to whether or not we can get grants and funding sources,” said Colburn. Ultimately, timing and available funding will determine how the plan is executed.
“But we’re going to look at a few of the other issues that have come up,” said O’Brien. One issue is to protect investments so that future funds will not be needed for as many improvements due to vandalism. Installing security cameras in some of the parks would help solve that. Haywood said the Council has thought about it before but has not finalized the decision. “But when the community says it’s one of their top priorities, then maybe we will pursue that a little more.” In addition to this, the police department has requested surveillance at the skate park so they can police it without having to be there. “We’re all in favor of it because there has been a lot of malicious activity there,” said Jann Lifsey, the police chief’s secretary.
These are just a few of the issues covered in the draft, though. The complete recreation plan is available for public viewing at City Hall as well as the Mason Public Library. Not many people come in to look at the plan, however, according to Karen Oswald, one of the library clerks. There’s a lot of opportunities for the public to find out about the recreation plan, said Colburn. And it’s really important for them to voice their opinion if there’s something they want to see done, he said.