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February 19, 2014

Utica approves five-year Parks and Rec master plan

By Sarah Wojcik
C & G Staff Writer

UTICA — On Feb. 11, the Utica City Council unanimously approved a five-year master plan for the Parks and Recreation Department that will guide the city through 2018.

A driving force to update the plan is that the state only disperses parks and recreation grants to municipalities with an active, approved five-year plan, and the city’s last plan was updated in 2007, according to Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Director Stephen Cassin.

For the past year, the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development worked with city officials, organizations and residents to draft the plan.  

“The plan is basically a snapshot of where the community is today,” said Jeff Schroeder, the county program manager for community and planning and mapping services.

The updated plan includes a comprehensive community profile, an updated administrative structure, a detailed inventory of parks, new goals and objectives, and an action plan for investments and improvements.

The county held two public input workshops, including a visionary meeting at Eppler Junior High School in October, which officials said brought a decent turnout, including members from senior housing and young families.

“We got a lot of feedback through a series of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (exercises),” said senior planner John Paul Rea. “We gleaned a tremendous amount of information about programs and activities.”

Some of the public’s ideas incorporated into the plan include expanding amenities in existing parks (Memorial, Grant and Heritage parks), enhancing the recreational area near River Bends Park, connecting the Macomb Orchard Trail through Utica and recreational suggestions for the land east of M-53.

“This is a requirement for us to proceed on with any grants or anything, so that’s one of the major reasons we had to update this. We applaud you for helping us out with this. You did a great job,” said Mayor Pro Tem Russell Barthelmeh to county officials at the Feb. 11 meeting.

The next step is for the Parks and Recreation Department to adopt the plan Feb. 23 and submit it to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources by March 1, Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said.

The plan’s approved version is available on Utica’s website at www.cityofutica.org.

Hard copies also are available for review at Utica City Hall and the Utica Public Library, located at 7550 and 7530 Auburn Road, respectively.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at swojcik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.