The Lakes to Land Priority Sharing Meeting held on June 27 at the Pleasant Valley Community Center in Arcadia was, in a word, fantastic. The whole idea of finally getting together to share our communities’ values with each other was the stirring heart of the very Initiative, and having the opportunity to present the Lakes to Land process with a host of elected and appointed officials breathed fresh excitement into the endeavor. But let’s talk about the important stuff first: the marvelous food.
I’m only kind of kidding there. Leadership Team member Sharron May, who also runs The May Farm in Crystal Lake Township, calls herself a “local food nut” and swung into action to save us all from the tummy-grumbling of a meeting scheduled over the dinner hour. A magnificent farmers’ market veggie platter, Mediterranean-style local pizza, and sublime chocolate-dipped strawberries were all locally sourced, highlighting the breadth and bounty of agricultural offerings in the region. And this is where the “important stuff” comes in: as we listened to communities express their desire to protect and promote agriculture as a vitally important part of their economy and way of life, the tangible and extremely delicious evidence of its benefits were in our very hands and bellies at that moment. Cornstarch plates, cups, napkins, and utensils made for a nearly-zero-waste event (ONE plastic bag made its lonely way to the landfill).
About 60 people attended the event, including leadership team members, trustees, planning commissioners, and a few interested citizens. Tim Ervin of the Manistee Alliance for Economic Success introduced a new grant awarded to the Initiative by the Michigan Department of Treasury for implementation. He explained that the grant was written to target support for zoning and the development of an Agriculture Innovation District, and that the implementation committees that would be formed to address those two topics would have access to the funds. John Iacoangeli of Beckett & Raeder, Inc. discussed the history of the initiative, its purpose and inception, its progress to date, and the format of the ten master plans currently nearing completion. Tamara Buswinka of BRI reviewed the sixty-nine priorities submitted for the meeting, first grouped by contributing municipality and then consolidated into ten themes (agriculture, communications, economic development, etc.; each assigned a corresponding letter) in order to indicate potential alliances. Attendees were given a hard copy of the aggregated priority list to keep, and a sticker vote revealed the most immediate support for trail system development, infrastructure, and economic development.
|Trail Systems: Land and Water||31|
|Infrastructure: Expand and Improve||29|
|Special Regulations / Zoning||25|
|Reduce Blight and Nuisances||23|
|Recreation: Expand Opportunities and Improve Facilities||19|
|M-22 Scenic Highway||9|
Each participant was also given a card with all ten of the priorities listed. They were asked to provide their names, contact information, and their top three choices of topics on which they would like to work. Based on that selection, they convened with other interested attendees for a 20-30 minute discussion about that issue and to identify contacts for a future committee.
Leadership team co-chair Monica Schultz unveiled the “Convention of Communities” scheduled for Saturday, September 14 at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, describing its purpose and encouraging participation, and the meeting concluded with remarks from co-chair Brad Hopwood.