L’Anse plan outlines future recreation improvements

L’ANSE – The 2008-2013 L’Anse Recreation Plan led to a variety of recreational improvements in Baraga County, and, with the help of a regional planner, three local entities approved a new five-year plan Monday to further expand recreational opportunities.

L’Anse Township, the Village of L’Anse and L’Anse Area Schools collaborated with Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region Planner Jerald Wuorenmaa to draft the new plan, which is a required document to allow entities to apply for Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grants.

A joint public hearing was held at 5:45 p.m. Monday, and each board and council met separately immediately after to unanimously approve the plan, which now enters implementation mode.

“This was a rewarding recreation plan to work on,” said Wuorenmaa, who noted the plan must be submitted to the DNR by March 1 to ensure grant eligibility. “There was a great level of interest from the village, township and school district. A committee of seven, with at least two members from each entity in each of our meetings, brought a lot of good input regarding current projects, renewed goals and objectives, and planned future projects.

“… This is an example of the kind of shared service efforts currently being promoted by the state. Although plans for more than one jurisdiction involve extra work, the total amount of work is much less than what it would take to develop three separate plans. Part of WUPPDR’s value as a regional planning organization is to bring together these different units to use resources as efficiently as possible in this era of dwindling funds.”

One of the biggest projects on both the previous and new recreation plan is the L’Anse Area Schools Village Park athletic complex, which has already received $440,000 in Trust Fund money (the grant application was written by WUPPDR). The current phase of the project, which is expected to cost $935,000 in all (including local contribution), is projected to be completed this calendar year, though an exact date is yet to be determined.

“The project is moving along smoothly and a significant amount of work has been completed,” LAS Superintendent Ray Pasquali said. “We’re extremely grateful to the volunteers who have used their own equipment, spent thousands of hours and have made a huge impact on our school and community.”

“… It was great to bring together various groups to create a unified plan, and credit to Jerry for doing his homework and making a major effort.”

The LAS Village Park, not to be confused with the L’Anse Waterfront Park, will include a new football field, a football/soccer practice field, a track, tennis courts, two baseball fields, an archery range, an improved 2.1-mile trail system and several parking lots.

The trail in particular has already been used extensively by joggers, walkers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers; and trail expansion is one of the overriding themes of the plan as a whole. The L’Anse cross country team will also use the Village Park trail for practice, and the Purple Hornets may be able to host meets at the complex.

“The major item not completed at this point is the facility that would house the concessions, locker rooms and showers,” Pasquali said. “As a result, discussions are ongoing concerning addressing that last major issue.”

The building, lighting and other final project components may cost an additional $650,000, according to the new recreation plan.

Another DNR grant may be an option, and additional grants may be sought as well for signage. Students in the districts have helped with volunteer efforts, including the high school industrial woods class working on a gazebo.

“The school has been very successful with (the recreation plan) for the area adjacent to the C.J. Sullivan Elementary School. … We’re a part of that,” L’Anse Township Clerk Brian Jentoft said. “… In developing this plan, L’Anse Township has not gone ahead on any grant-type projects like that because the township did not want to impede the school.”

In the five-year action plan for capital improvements, as outlined in the 31-page finalized recreation plan, the township will work with the village on an enclosed waterfront gazebo with a dock at the township park, along with playground upgrades, a disc golf course (by 2015), more non-motorized trail development (most work by 2016) and major improvements to the baseball field in 2017.

“Recreation plan adoption went very smoothly,” Jentoft said.

The village, in addition to collaborating on the aforementioned school and township projects, will work toward a long-term village marina master plan, which has started with $12,500 in DNR Waterways grant funding to conduct an environmental study.

By 2014 the village wants to acquire and store additional trail maintenance tools; by 2016 it will explore $40,000 in funding for an outdoor skating rink and $300,000 for a splash park; by 2018 it hopes to secure $500,000 in DNR and other funding for a community/youth center.

“We’re at the starting point (on the marina project),” L’Anse Village Manager Bob LaFave said. “Hopefully these other things happen, too, but if they don’t then we’ll put them on the next recreation plan.”

The full 2013-2018 L’Anse Recreation Plan – which includes a detailed community description, a recreation inventory, history of DNR grant funding, description of the planning process, goals and objectives, the action plan and potential funding sources – can be found at