Calumet’s five-year rec plan discussed at meeting

CALUMET – Community members were able to weigh in on Calumet Township’s five-year recreation plan during a public hearing at the Board of Trustees meeting Friday. Questions about the purpose of the plan and the plan itself were posed, along with concerns about some included items.

“One of the most commonly asked questions is what is a rec plan for? Well, here it is. It’s simply a vehicle to get grants,” said Bill Olson, grant writer at U.P. Engineers & Architects. “A rec plan is nothing more than that. It’s a written document that the state looks at to say ‘these folks have thought about their recreation priorities and yes, we’re going to give them public funds in the form of a grant.'”

While the plan includes many of the same ongoing projects as the last five-year recreation plan currently on file with the Department of Natural Resources, it also lists some future projects and long-term “wish list” items. One project the township is planning to undertake is the purchase and renovation of the train depot located on Ninth St. and Oak St. in Calumet.

“We’ve had our eye on that depot for years and years. We all know that the depot is owned by a private party and recently – I would say in the last four or five months – we finally got a letter from the private owner stating that if we’re interested in the depot he has set a price on the depot,” said Paul Lehto, board supervisor.

The township has included the acquisition of the depot in their five-year plan, but several community members -particularly those with adjacent properties -came to the hearing to share concerns and questions about the project. Most concerns centered around increased snowmobile and ATV traffic to the area, which is next to the Hancock/Calumet Trail, and what is planned for the open lot adjacent to the depot which will be included in the acquisition. Although no plan is in place for the ultimate purpose of the building once it is acquired, Olsen assured community members they would continually have opportunities to give feedback over the course of the project.

“There are two parts of the depot – the acquisition and the development. So when a township decides to apply for acquisition money, that’s one application. There will be more public participation for that application,” he said. “You can’t do acquisition and development in the same application. So let’s say they acquire the depot and then they want to fix it up. That’s a separate acquisition and another public hearing so every step of the way the public has knowledge of what is going on and the opportunity to input their opinions.”

Also included in the plan is Douglass Houghton Falls. Unlike the depot, the owner of the falls has not approached the township about buying the land and the land is not currently for sale. However, it is included in the plan as a wish list item for funding if the land becomes available. The land was included in Houghton County’s recreation plan and will be in Calumet Township’s plan as well, but has not been included in any prior plans.

“I wish we could say the owner said he’s ready to sell. I can’t say that – we don’t know. We don’t have a price, we don’t know if he wants to sell it or will sell it,” Olsen said.

The plan also includes projects involving the ski trails, Coliseum, Calumet Lake and more. The recreation plan is not meant to be all-inclusive or contain every detail of each planned project but rather to outline the major projects the township has planned for the next five years. Amendments can be made to the plan if new projects arise during the five-year period.

“If something’s in the rec plan do we have to do it? Nope. If something’s not in there, does that mean we can’t do it? Nope. You can do it. It only means to receive public funding you have to have it in the plan, but during that five-year period of the plan we can amend the plan. So if someone comes forward in two years with a great idea and we want to do that, we’ll just have another public hearing to amend the plan and put it in there,” Olsen said.

The plan will be updated by February 10 and available on-line at Community members can comment before the next board meeting on January 31 by calling the township office at 337-2410, e-mailing or writing into the office at 25880 Red Jacket Rd., Calumet, MI 49913.

“The plan speaks of the greater community good for recreation opportunities. That’s what it’s focused on. It’s a written statement for the greater public good and if the community reads that and says ‘that is not in the community’s best interest,’ that’s what these public hearings are designed for,” Olsen said. “And I didn’t hear the community saying that today, I heard some individual interests.”