Improvements Planned For Victoria Creek Park, Civic Center South
By Beth Milligan | April 9, 2018
Two area parks could get major upgrades if community crowdfunding campaigns – an increasingly popular fundraising tool in cash-strapped communities – prove successful.
A planning committee of Cedar residents is working with Solon Township and Leelanau County officials for a major overhaul of Victoria Creek Park. The marina and village park along Victoria Creek – also known as Cedar River – is a primary local access point for boaters to Lake Leelanau and provides recreational facilities including softball diamonds and tennis, basketball, and pickleball courts. But the facilities are in need of significant upgrades, and residents hope to turn the park into a community jewel by making numerous improvements and expanding universal access.
The approximately $800,000 project (design pictured) calls for constructing a universally accessible kayak launch on the river, doubling the size of the marina, improving the park’s boat launch, and installing interpretative trails along the creek. A new children’s playground, gazebo, and picnic facilities will be added to the property. Boat and vehicle parking improvements are planned, and the bridge over the river will be refurbished and lifted two feet, according to committee chairman Ray Pleva. That will allow kayaks and canoes to go upstream, and will also allow a fish habitat to be constructed under the bridge.
Pleva has been involved with parks projects at Victoria Creek Park since 1983, when the township first dredged the river and installed a bridge over its waters. He says committee members have taken the time to reach out to numerous groups – ranging from the Cedar Chamber of Commerce to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to neighborhood residents – to ensure a park overhaul will meet the long-term needs of the community.
“This time we’re going to build it right and listen to everyone we can,” he says. “If there’s a better or new idea, we want to hear it. We want to make the Cedar River Marina one of the sharpest marinas in northern Michigan.”
The township has preliminary engineering plans completed for the project and hopes to break ground in spring 2019. In order to meet that timeline, the planning committee has launched a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $75,000 from the community. That seed money will allow committee members to apply for grants that have matching fund requirements, Pleva says. The committee hopes to raise $400,000 by Labor Day, working to raise the remaining funds over the next year.
“The way it looks right now, by fall of 2019, 90 percent of this whole thing could be completed,” Pleva says. The Chamber has pledged $5,000 annually to the project for five years, and committee members plan to approach grant-providing entities like the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Band, and the Oleson and Art and Mary Schmuckal foundations for additional support.
Grand Traverse County residents are also looking to their fellow community members for support in raising funds to install a new 18-hole disc golf course at Kingsley’s Civic Center South. The course would be the second one at the park and once constructed, would be free and public. President Marc Hamlin of the North Woods Disc Chuckers, a recreational group spearheading the project, says the property’s existing course is robustly used and is at peak capacity during tournaments.
“This would double our capacity,” he says. “For the most part, it’s going to be similar (to the first course), but we’ll make it a little longer and tougher. We can fit 72 people on the first course during tournaments, and right now we’re always selling out. (Park officials) have said it’s probably one of their most popular activities there.”
The North Woods Disc Chuckers need to raise $10,000 through their GoFundMe campaign to construct the course, which would be enough to cover the installation of 18 tees/baskets and course signage, terrain preparation, and maintenance. Hamlin says one of the benefits of disc golf is that it requires few disruptions to the natural landscape: mostly branch trimmings and minimal foliage removal. The sport is also accessible to all ages and abilities and has a low cost of entry – discs typically sell for $8-$15. The course should take under two weeks to construct and could go in as soon as July or August provided fundraising is successful, says Hamlin. Eight days into its crowdfunding campaign, North Woods Disc Chuckers is nearly one-third of the way toward its goal, with $3,115 donated.
Hamlin is also working with others on a new course at Traverse City’s Hickory Hills park and says the addition of both courses could be a recreational tourism draw for the area. “It’s going to make the whole Traverse City region a destination area for disc golf,” he says. “When you start putting together a lot of quality courses, people will be more willing to drive 50, 100, 200 miles to play disc golf.”