By Benjamin Gohs
Boyne City Manager Michael Cain presented the Boyne City Commission with a proposal that would designate Boyne City a “Trail Town.”
During the commission’s Nov. 12 meeting, Cain told commissioners that the Boyne City Main Street Board and the Boyne City Parks and Recreation Board have both supported the effort for Boyne City to become a Trail Town, a program which is somewhat similar to the Boyne City Main Street Program in its mission to improve the area economically.
“This program, in some respects, is very similar to the Main Street Program. It uses the same four main approaches: organization, design, promotion and … publicity,” Cain said. “It uses the same concept to spur economic development based on trails.”
Cain said, with Boyne City looking at trails being designed for the east and west of the city, how they can be made to best serve the community beforehand.
“There is no cost to the city for this,” Cain said.
In a Nov. 12 memo from Boyne City Main Street Program Manager Hugh Conklin to the Boyne City Commission, Conklin explained the desire for, and usefulness of, moving toward the Trail Town model from a presentation given to city officials and residents by Harry Burkholder, a community planner for the Land Information Access Association (LIAA).
“A ‘Trail Town,’ according to information from LIAA, ‘Is a community in which local officials have used their trail system as the focal point of a tourism-centered strategy for economic development and local revitalization.’ In his presentation, Mr. Burkholder stressed the point that Trail Town efforts are not limited to any type of trail and include non-motorized, snowmobile, lake and river, and four-wheel trails,” Conklin stated in his memo. “LIAA has received grant funds from the Charlevoix County Community Foundation and the Frye Foundation to develop a Trail Town Master Plan for two communities within Charlevoix County and they are offering their services to Boyne City. These services would include providing, at no cost to the city, professional planning assistance and technical support for developing a useful, appropriate, and well-supported Trail Town Master Plan for Boyne city.”
The LIAA would also provide the following:
Project planning and management
On-site facilitation services and educational assistance
Research and analyses and map productions
Development and drafting of the plan
“With the pending construction of the Boyne City to Charlevoix trail, and the development of (a) trail from Boyne City to Boyne Falls, the community is in an ideal position to capitalize on all the opportunities available by becoming a ‘Trail Town,’” Conklin stated. “Although the details still need to be finalized, the general time-line is to start the project before the end of the year and have it be guided by a committee consisting of representatives from city staff, the parks and recreation committee, Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, local trail groups and interested members of the public. The goal would be to have the plan completed and ready for consideration by late spring or early summer.”
Cain said the Trail Town Master Plan could be another mechanism for economic development in Boyne City.
Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne said he sees it as a great economic booster to Boyne with zero cost.
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord said he has already heard comments from citizens who told him Boyne is already doing the things proposed in the Trail Town model—with some asking why this needs to be done.
“And I agree,” Gaylord said. “With all due respect to this group and their presentation, in my opinion, like I’ve said with other ventures, we don’t need a stamp from Trail Towns or in a brochure to show off what we have. We do have trails that are in and around the city already”
Gaylord said he was perplexed and asked if Boyne City was preventing people from coming into Boyne City over Lake Charlevoix, and said he was unsure what becoming a Trail Town would do for Boyne City.
“I’m just not comfortable having a third party stamp saying, ‘Yup, up until now, you didn’t really count for anything but now you do,’” Gaylord said. “I’m not saying that you can’t look at them for ideas … but to say we’re jumping on-board and joining together with this organization I’m not very comfortable with.”
Gaylord said the local people are already doing a great job with local trails.
“Using this group as a reference … or ideas, that’s fine, but to have the city officially sign on to be a Trail Town, I can’t endorse it,” he said.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom asked how much latitude the city would have in developing a master plan concerning trails.
Cain said Trail Town would simply help Boyne City develop its own master plan concerning trails. He also said the development of a master plan concerning trails could allow the city to apply for grants it could not otherwise apply for.
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann said the Trail Town group would not be giving Boyne City a seal of approval but instead would aid the city in developing its plan.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer said he was in full support of the proposal.
“I respectfully disagree, Derek; we’re not preventing anybody from using our trails … no, it’s not prevention, it’s promotion—we’re promoting people,” Neidhamer said. “If we can have their expertise to develop our plan and implement our plan to promote everything that we have trail-wise—for example, we just implemented new signage at Avalanche (Park) and that’s going to be an asset—so lets, in the same theory, let’s have signage, promotion, web sites, whatever we can do to promote people coming to Boyne City.”
He added, “It’s just a free opportunity to get free expert advice to help us develop our assets.”
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said he is in full support of the proposal.
“Not to sound Pollyannish or anything but we don’t know where our next grant is coming from,” he said, adding that having shovel-ready projects were far more likely to win grants.
Grunch said by utilizing existing expertise, the city can avoid many of the pitfalls of navigating a new process without help.
Neidhamer said signage on the trails pointing people to the downtown area could be helpful in directing potential shoppers into town.
Gaylord reaffirmed his position that existing efforts to plan for and utilize trails properly were sufficient. He also questioned the statement that the master plan would be Boyne City’s and not Trail Town’s.
“We were told that it’s our master plan but in the agenda—I’m going to read the wording—it says, ‘Consideration to support recommendation of the parks and recreation committee and the main street board for the city to become a ‘Trail Town’ and to authorize the city manager to execute the required documents for engaging the professional services of the Land Information Access Association … and development of the ‘Trail Town Master Plan,’” Gaylord said. “That does not say ‘Consideration to assist Boyne City with their recreational master plan.’”
Grunch communicated that it was merely a matter of semantics and that the language could be altered, adding, “I think we’re wasting our time if we go any further with this discussion.”
Cain said the master plan would be community-driven and that any confusing language could be changed.
The Boyne City Commission voted 4-1 to go forward with the proposal. Gaylord was the lone “no” vote.
Now the city is looking for interested people to serve on a committee to develop a “Trail Town” master plan for Boyne City.
According to the city, applications of interest to serve on the “Trail Town” committee are due by noon on Monday Nov. 25 and are available at Boyne City Hall and a printable copy is posted on the city’s website cityofboynecity.com under “Forms – Permits & Applications.”
The committee will begin work in Early December and meet at least once a month until the plan is completed.