Hickory Set To Expand By 76 Acres, More Local Park News
By Beth Milligan | Dec. 3, 2021
Visitors to Hickory Meadows and Hickory Hills Ski Area could soon have 76 more acres of property to explore near those two sites after the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board this week recommended granting $467,600 to the City of Traverse City and Garfield Township Joint Recreational Authority to purchase the adjacent Clarence Kroupa Property, to be renamed Hickory Forest Natural Area. The new property could open to the public for hiking and other recreational uses by late 2022. In other local park news, the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation business development team will discuss several park proposals at their 5:30pm meeting Tuesday, including making amphitheater improvements and adding scooter and e-bike rentals and sales at the Civic Center, considering livery vendors for Medalie Park, and reviewing potential projects at the Natural Education Reserve and Twin Lakes Park.
Hickory Forest Natural Area
The City of Traverse City and Garfield Township Joint Recreational Authority is on track to purchase 76 acres of property next to Hickory Hills that will become a new public natural area.
The property, long owned by local conservationist Clarence Kroupa, consists primarily of mesic northern forest dominated by maple and beech trees, hilly terrain, and abundant spring wildflowers. Following Kroupa’s passing, his children agreed to preserve the property and worked with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) to line up interim buyers to hold the site until the Rec Authority could secure funds to purchase it. This week, that gambit paid off, with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommending providing $467,600 in state funds to purchase the site. The Rec Authority will provide a $200,600 match – funding made possible by voters approving a fall 2020 millage renewal request from the Rec Authority.
The purchase will protect “one of the largest forested parcels within the region’s urban core,” according to GTRLC, and provide over 300 acres of connected recreational property between Hickory Forest, Hickory Hills, and Hickory Meadows. “It’s just super exciting we can start planning for it to be a reality,” says Rec Authority Executive Director Matt Cowall. “It took more than two years from when we started working with the family and then lined up all these crazy dominoes, with a millage request and then the pandemic and a general election and creating a five-year recreation plan so we would be eligible for the grant. It’s been a process, but it’s worth it. It’s a big victory for parklands.”
The property was ranked as the fifth highest priority project in a list of 22 statewide acquisition projects recommended this week by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board to receive funding, with a total of $22.2 million planned to be distributed. Another $23.2 million in funding is recommended for 95 park development projects throughout the state, including $300,000 for Grass River Natural Area river access improvements in Antrim County and $300,000 for Platte River hatchery accessibility and education enhancements in Benzie County. The board’s recommendations next go to the state legislature and then the governor for approval – a process that usually confirms the board’s recommendations, but can take several months to finalize. From there, the Rec Authority will need to work with the state on finalizing the property purchase and title transfer, meaning it would likely be fall or late 2022 before the new Hickory Forest Natural Area opens to the public.
In the meantime, the Rec Authority will be busy preparing for the park’s opening. The board is expected to reopen discussions with the City of Traverse City and Garfield Township in January on creating a “holistic” plan for providing wayfinding signage and trail connectivity between Hickory Forest Natural Area, Hickory Hills, and Hickory Meadows. “When you’re introducing new acreage, you need to make sure it makes sense for users and that it’s transparent when you’re passing across the property lines,” Cowall says. The Rec Authority has preliminary ideas on where hiking and cross-country ski trails can go on the new site, but will go through a public input process in 2022 to gather feedback from residents. “The topography is steep in some areas, but other parts are amenable to trails,” Cowall says. “It's a beautiful property, but when you're working with steep slopes and trails, you have to think through carefully where everything is going to go.”
GT County Parks & Recreation Business Development Team
Grand Traverse County’s Parks and Recreation business development team will meet Tuesday at 5:30pm at Twin Lakes Park’s Gilbert Lodge to discuss several proposed parks projects.
Two agenda items for the meeting are related to improvements at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. Bayfront Scooters has been in talks with Parks and Recreation since last year about the possibility of opening a retail, repair, and rental shop for scooters and e-bikes next to the Civic Center skate park. According to a proposal from business partners Charlie Lakritz and Shaun Quinn, Bayfront Scooters would move its store from the Arcade on Front Street in downtown Traverse City to the Civic Center on the south side of the skate park, using a combination of existing park infrastructure, a mobile pre-fab building, and a trailer to provide services for skate park users and e-bike rentals for the Civic Center and TART Trail. The business would also have pre-packaged food and drinks for sale.
Bayfront Scooters would pay either a fee or percentage of gross revenues for the right to operate on the site. Parks and Recreation Chair Alisa Korn says that while several details still need to be worked out, the store could not only provide amenities to park users but increase safety at the skate park by having more eyes on the site and foot traffic nearby. “We are always really interested in the idea of having more people there and having better security,” she says. Bayfront Scooters reiterated that goal in the company's proposal. “Our goal is to work with kids and put together ambassadors that come from within the skating community,” the owners wrote. “We would like to provide ‘intro to’ options that would encourage new users of the park, along with easing some fears that some parents feel about allowing their children to be there. We will also encourage kids to volunteer to keep their space clean and safe by providing Bayfront Bucks…to use toward purchase of items and/or services that we provide.”
Also related to the Civic Center, Parallel 45 Theatre is seeking to split costs with Parks and Recreation to make numerous upgrades to the amphitheater area where the theater company hosts its outdoor summer productions. Those include expanding the on-site storage facility, installing permanent fencing around the amphitheater, connecting to the park’s irrigation system to provide a dedicated water source for the amphitheater, adding more electrical infrastructure at the site, and installing security cameras. Cost estimates haven’t yet been provided for all those projects, which Parallel 45 hopes to complete before the summer 2022 season. Korn says the business development team would likely work with the organization over several months to refine cost estimates and get input from facilities management before making a recommendation to the Parks and Recreation Commission on how to proceed.
Also on Tuesday’s meeting agenda: Three companies will compete for the right to provide livery services at Medalie Park, a contract that could become significantly more lucrative with the planned completion of the Boardman Lake Trail loop next year and the designation of Medalie Park as a trailhead. The River Outfitters, the current vendor in the park, has submitted a bid to continue operations there, but must compete against bids from Kayak, Bike and Brew and Paddle TC. Korn says the business development team will use a scoring rubric to rate the bids and make a recommendation to the commission on which company to select.
Tuesday’s meeting will also include discussion about a proposal from the Grand Traverse Conservation District to build a new 200-foot pedestrian bridge over Sabin Pond and form a complete trail loop around the Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve and connect to a new incubator farm planned at the historic Meyer Property on Keystone Road. Finally, YouthWork Industries will give a presentation on a proposal to seek a long-term lease – and offer expanded educational programming – at Twin Lakes Park. The organization has expressed concerns that discussions about Long Lake Township taking over ownership of Twin Lakes Park from the county could jeopardize those plans. Korn says that the full Parks and Recreation commission will discuss Long Lake’s proposal at their December 16 meeting, but notes that since talks are still preliminary, no action will likely be taken immediately and that YouthWork’s contracted presence at the park wouldn’t be jeopardized. “We always honor our commitments with our partners,” she says.Comment