Goals, Objectives, and Action Plan Priorities
Goal 1: Benzie County will have an active County Recreation Commission that promotes recreational and cultural opportunities for citizens, seasonal residents, and transient visitors.
• Maintain the Parks and Recreation Commission as established by the County Commission.
• Complete periodic updates of the County Recreational and Cultural Plan.
• Involve the citizens in recreational and cultural planning so that a wide variety of recreational needs are met.
• Work with State and Federal agencies to provide input on public lands management planning on behalf of County residents.
• Promote recreation and culture as a contributor to the improvement of quality of life and economic welfare.
• Increase County participation in coordination, management, and guidance of all recreational and cultural activities, particularly in the areas of initial placement.
• Identify facility deficiencies throughout the County and work with communities to develop projects to meet those needs.
• The Benzie County Board of Commissioners will see value in the role of the Parks and Recreation Commission and allocate an appropriate working budget.
Action Plan Priority:
• Integrate Cultural Facilities and Activities into Recreational Planning
Integrate cultural planning (history, arts, and libraries) as a part of the total recreation picture in Benzie County. Cultural opportunities are essential to a community’s overall quality of life, whereby they enrich lives, strengthen communities, stimulate economic growth, enhance education, and, in general, ensure lives are more active, productive, inspired, and enjoyable. The value to Benzie County citizens is evidenced by the enthusiasm exhibited for the arts, history, and libraries and level of participation in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. The area is rich with cultural organizations, facilities, schools, historical sites, and a mixture of many cultural heritages. The Parks and Recreation Commission recognizes the logic and benefit of integrating “cultural tourism” with “recreational tourism” in developing and promoting Benzie County as a destination point in Michigan.
Goal 2: Benzie County will consolidate all County owned recreational and cultural opportunities under the Parks and Recreation Commission.
• Work cooperatively with the Betsie Valley Trail Management Council to structure management levels within Benzie County government for the entire trail system in Benzie County, including existing and proposed connector links.
• Include a representative from all units of local government within Benzie County that have a rail-trail in their jurisdiction in the management of the trail system.
• Work cooperatively with the Friends of the Point Betsie Lighthouse to structure management levels under the Parks and Recreation Commission.
• Obtain funding for and hire a County Parks Manager.
• Actively manage Railroad Point for recreational access, environmental education and resource stewardship in accordance with the conservation easement held by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.
Action Plan Priorities:
• Coordinate Recreational Activities and Programming
Coordinated recreational activities and programming are vital to an improved quality of life for Benzie County citizens. Therefore, it is a priority for the Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission. Support staff, including a Parks Manager, and collaborations with area organizations and individuals will be sought. This will encourage the community to become more involved with the Parks and Recreation Commission and each other to provide increased cultural and recreational programs and projects in the County.
NOTE: i.e. City, Villages, Townships, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, National Park Service, Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension, Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra, Benzie County Players, Benzie Community Chorus, Benzie Community Band, Legacy Art Park, Crystal Lake Art Center, Mills Community House, Congregational Summer Assembly, Benzie Area Historical Museum, Garden Theater, etc. Also, nearby Interlochen Arts Academy, Dennos Museum, Ramsdell Theater, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and other neighbors.
• Consolidate Management of County Owned Properties
The Parks and Recreation Commission sees both the rail-trails (linear parks) and the Point Betsie Lighthouse and grounds as significant recreational resources held by the County and should be directly involved in their management.
NOTE: COUNTY AND REGIONAL PARKS, Act 261 of 1965
AN ACT to authorize the creation and to prescribe the powers and duties of county and regional parks and recreation commissions; and to prescribe the powers and duties of county boards of commissioners with respect to county and regional parks and recreation commissions.
46.351 County parks and recreation commission; creation; membership; terms; vacancy; commission as county agency; rules and regulations; compensation.
46.362 County and regional commissions; control and management of property
Sec. 12. A county or regional commission shall have the custody control and management of all real and personal property acquired by the county or a regional commission for public parks, preserves, parkways, playgrounds, recreational centers, wildlife areas, lands reserved for flood conditions for impounding:
46.358 County and regional commissions; acquisition of property
Sec. 8. A county commission may acquire in the name of the county and a regional commission may acquire in its name by gift, purchase, lease, agreement, or otherwise, in fee or with conditions, suitable real property, within the county or region, or contiguous with or adjacent thereto, for public parks, preserves, parkways, playgrounds, recreation centers, wildlife areas, lands reserved for flood conditions for impounding runoff water, and other conservation purposes. In acquiring or accepting land, due consideration shall be given to its scenic, historic, archaeologic, recreational, or other special features.
• Completion of the Elberta Beach to Beach Trail Section
Work with the Village of Elberta, The Betsie Valley Trailway Management council, and the Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail to complete the Beach to Beach Trail Segment.
• Parking for Visitors to the Point Betsie Lighthouse
Work with the Benzie County Road Commission and the Friends of the Point Betsie Lighthouse non-profit group to satisfy the parking needs at the lighthouse and conduct an engineering and right of way study for improvements to the roadend.
• Thompsonville to Interlochen Trail Connection The State Trailway Plan calls for looping, interconnection, and connecting communities with trails. The Thompsonville-Interlochen Rail Trail connection is currently being studied by an ad hoc stakeholder group with the support of the Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission, the Betsie Valley Trailway Management Council, and the Traverse Area Rail Trail, Inc. The group has established that the initiative is both a local and State goal. The State Trailways Division of the MDNR has successfully obtained two major Natural Resources Trust Fund grants to purchase portions of the former Pere Marquette Railroad Corridor from private property owners from Kaleva north to within two miles of Thompsonville, and is working cooperatively with the Benzie-Manistee Snowbirds (snowmobile organization) on another segment. The only known obstacle is finding willing sellers for the 4-5 miles of remaining rail corridor not currently under State ownership in Manistee and Benzie Counties. Alternative routes may be necessary and easier to acquire.
• Northwest Michigan Regional Non-Motorized Transportation Plan and Investment Strategy 2008
The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments developed the plan for the 13 counties of Emmet, Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, along with Osceola, Lake, and Mason in northwest, lower Michigan. The Michigan Department of Transportation commissioned the plan and will use it to prioritize funding projects for the future. The guiding vision of this project is to connect existing trails, offering residents and visitors more opportunities for non-motorized transportation, and to enjoy more of the region’s natural resources. Benzie County Priority Routes:
1. Thompsonville to Bendon to Traverse City, 2. Honor to Betsie Valley Trail,
3. Complete route around Crystal Lake, 4. Complete route around Platte Lake.
• Archive Parks and Recreation Records and Project Files
Not having the necessary support staff, the Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commissioners need to gather and organize all historical records and pertinent documents and place in the custody of the Benzie County Clerk.
Goal 3: Benzie County will increase access to all public lands and waters.
• Increase access to public lands for citizens and visitors.
• Increase access to all public waterways in Benzie County for swimming, fishing, and boating, including all appropriate types of watercraft i.e. motorized and/or non-motorized.
• Encourage the acquisition of lands for water access on lakes, rivers, and streams.
• The Benzie County Planning Commission and local jurisdictions will refine comprehensive plans for each jurisdiction that establishes appropriate locations for access sites.
• The Benzie County Planning Commission, the Recreation Commission, the Road Commission, the Department of Natural Resources and local jurisdictions will develop adequate public launch sites with off-street parking, buffered from adjacent properties.
• Preserve water access through road-ends.
• The Benzie County Recreation Commission will partner with local interest groups to develop educational programs for persons who fish and boat regarding safety, invasive species control, shoreline and near-shore habitat protection, and private property rights.
Action Plan Priorities:
• Access to Public Waters
Access to various water activities is a major concern to Benzie County residents and visitors. Public access is not sufficient and there are often conflicts between riparian's and the general public. Many access sites are not improved to provide off-road parking and paved launch ramps. Given that water access is important to various recreational activities that are attractive to both Benzie County citizens and visitors it has remained a top priority for more than a decade. The Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission will work collaboratively with the National Park Service, MDNR, the Benzie County Road Commission, Townships, City of Frankfort, and Villages to preserve public access at road-ends and to provide improved public boating access to water bodies.
• MDNR Crystal Lake Public Boating Access Site
The Public Trust Doctrine in Michigan declares, “The Department of Natural Resources is the caretaker of our natural resources, charged by the legislature with the duties of acquiring, conserving, and developing for public use, the natural resources of the State, including access to water.” The resolution that formed the Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission declares, “Whereas the recreation and water resources section of the Master Plan will be impacted by future events that will require a government structure for adequate response” and “That its purpose will be that of implementing the goals and objectives relating to recreation and water resources in Benzie County.” Therefore, we, the Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission, continue to stand firmly in support of the planned and permitted MDNR public access site on the south shore of Crystal Lake, and resoundingly believe the Courts should approve construction to proceed as soon as possible for the safety and welfare of our citizens.
• Comprehensive State Statute Re: Access to Public Waters
The Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission affirms the public’s legal right and desire to fish, boat, and sail on Michigan’s inland lakes and reemphasizes the legality and importance of access to lakes and streams if all citizens are to enjoy those public resources. After enduring years of costly delays and litigation over a single access site in the County, the Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission recognizes the need and supports a comprehensive state statute or constitutional amendment that clearly and firmly establishes for all time the public’s right of access to our inland lakes and streams.
• Access to Public Lands
The Parks and Recreation Commission will advocate and provide for continued and appropriate access to public lands for the use of county residents and visitors alike. Public lands remain invaluable to both residents and visitors for recreational activities ranging from a hike or leisurely drive, to use for hunting and fishing, to an even more active ride down a trail on a horse or snowmobile. Access must be maintained and/or gained to many public lands, also, to lakes and streams via roads and trails owned by the County Road Commission, GTRLC, the Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park Service.
Goal 4: The Benzie County shoreline of Lake Michigan will provide recreational opportunities for all Benzie County citizens and visitors.
• Recognize the Lake Michigan shoreline as an open space that can be used by all citizens and preserved for public use.
• Provide Lake Michigan access sites at regular intervals along the County shoreline.
• Provide sufficient parking and other related facilities at access sites.
• Maintain Lake Michigan beaches in excellent condition.
Action Plan Priority:
• Lake Michigan Drive Road-end Access Improvement
The Platte Bay fishery is a world-class fishery without a viable launch facility. The project is for the complete reconstruction of the existing access site on Lake Michigan Drive at the mouth of the Platte River on Platte Bay. The current ramp is made of old bomber mat that is now rusted out and breaking up with unsafe jagged protrusions. The Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission, the Benzie County Road Commission, Lake Township, the National Park Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the State Waterways Commission (grant funding), and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (grant funding) all understand the launch facility is in very poor repair and the need for the reconstruction project is both important and immediate. There are serious concerns about boater safety that this project will solve, and we look forward to seeing those anglers that no longer fish Platte Bay return.
Goal 5: Benzie County will expand recreational and cultural offerings for persons with disabilities.
• Promote recreational opportunities for particular population groups such as the elderly; physically, mentally, socially or economically handicapped; youth and others that require special attention.
• Increase access for persons with disabilities to all waterways through accessible boat ramps and docks.
Action Plan Priority:
• Expand Recreational Opportunities to Include Persons with Disabilities
Coordinate with the Trailway Management Council and the Department of Natural Resources to pave the Betsie Valley Trail from Beulah to Mollineaux Road. This will allow safe use by disabled citizens and visitors, and discourage pedestrian traffic on the narrow roadway adjacent to the trail.
Goal 6: Benzie County will have a wide variety of indoor and outdoor recreational and cultural opportunities for citizens, including school-age children, seasonal residents, and transient visitors.
• The County Recreational and Cultural Plan is periodically updated to meet the needs of citizens and to upgrade or obtain parks, recreational, and cultural facilities not provided by schools.
• Encourage the development of additional year-round, indoor and outdoor recreational and cultural facilities that correct deficiencies in the County’s inventory of facilities.
• Develop County recreation properties for appropriate recreational and cultural uses.
• Encourage rehabilitation of historic structures for public recreational and cultural uses.
• Meet the recreational needs of residents in communities throughout the County who enjoy parks, playgrounds, ice rinks, tennis courts, basketball courts, skate parks, and ball fields in sufficient numbers at various sites throughout the County.
• Encourage innovative approaches and techniques to meet local recreational and cultural programs and facility needs.
• Encourage the private sector to develop facilities that will complement public uses.
• Promote access to trails, parks, and public lands for non-motorized uses such as walking, hiking, biking, roller-blading, skateboarding, and cross-country skiing.
• Increase lands for hunting.
• Encourage access to snowmobile trails and list roadways and/or trails open for ORV use.
• Recognize school-supplied recreation as a key component of the total County recreation system.
• Benzie County communities work in conjunction with the schools to provide access to schools for recreational and cultural opportunities and encourage the school system to “open their doors” to community organizations to better utilize meeting rooms, auditoriums and theaters, gymnasiums and locker rooms, and other outdoor recreational facilities.
• Strengthen and provide educational outreach in Benzie County by encouraging community based educational opportunities by groups such as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 4H, and other university and extracurricular programs.
• Promote public safety through good planning and programs in Benzie County in collaboration with schools, clubs, and other organized efforts.
• Assist libraries desiring a countywide library system in Benzie County.
• Support the development of scenic roadways that are integrated with other recreational uses. Action Plan Priorities:
• Preservation of Natural Resources
Benzie County’s landscape has a north-woods character. It is a unique combination of forests, wetlands, orchards, fields, hills, valleys, dunes, high bluffs, beaches, and clear lakes and streams. Benzie County citizens and officials believe this character is so important to the economy of the County and well being of its citizens that they made open space and natural resource preservation a major goal of the Benzie County 2020 Master Plan. Without a serious effort by government and individual citizens, Benzie County’s north woods landscape character will be compromised.
• M-22 Scenic Heritage Route and Bikeways
The M-22 scenic corridor project is a priority of the Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission. This corridor is a designated Great Lakes Circle Tour Route and primary north-south scenic corridor located in western Benzie County adjacent to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Platte Lakes, Crystal Lake, and Lake Michigan that links north and south parts of Benzie County to Frankfort. It crosses the Platte River and traverses the resort areas of Crystal Lake and scenic rural pastoral landscapes with many tree-lined roads and spectacular viewsheds. In Leelanau County, our neighbor to the north, M-22 is now a designated Scenic Heritage Route and scheduled for work within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for a separate non-motorized pathway developed by the NPS. In addition, Leelanau County’s Parks and Recreation Plan calls for development of bikeways along the M-22 corridor to connect with Benzie County.
• Forestry Management Plan Projects and Railroad Point Enhancements
As stewards of Benzie County park lands, sustainable forestry will be utilized to maintain: recreational access, species and habitat diversity, forest age class diversity and health in consultation with a licensed forester. Timber management at Railroad Point Natural Area will be in accordance with the timber management plan approved by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy that holds the conservation easement. Forest management activity at Railroad Point Natural Area will be conducted with the consent of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.
Goal 7: Benzie County will continue to have numerous opportunities for hunting and fishing.
• Encourage open space and natural habitat preservation on private lands by private landowners.
• Develop a program for public or conservation organization purchase of open space and other wildlife habitat lands or easements, as well as improved opportunities for public access to water.
• Develop an education program for owners of open space or wildlife habitat on the benefits of property donation or conservation easement and seek donations of properties on the list of desired recreation sites.
• Preserve the use of State and Federal lands for hunting and fishing.
• Develop educational programs for persons who hunt, fish, and boat regarding safety, invasive species control, shoreline and near-shore habitat protection and private property rights. Action Plan Priority: (See Goal 8)
Goal 8: Benzie County will increase access to information regarding recreational and cultural opportunities in the county, and will promote Benzie County as one of Michigan’s valued recreational and cultural destinations.
• Create a Parks and Recreation web page as part of the Benzie County Government web site.
• Work with the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce, the Benzie County Tourist and Visitors Bureau, the Cultural Organizations Collaborative, the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, etc. to link their web sites with the new Parks and Recreation page.
Action Plan Priority:
• Create a Parks and Recreation Web Page
Include the recreational and cultural inventories from the 2009 Master Plan on the web site to educate people about the existing recreational and cultural entities in Benzie County. Also, provide links on the web page to existing informational web sites for maps showing hiking trails, equestrian trails, snowmobile trails, hunting land, conservancy land, etc.
Goal 9: Recreational properties in Benzie County will be good neighbors with other land uses.
• Locate recreational uses so as to minimize conflict with adjacent landowners and the environment while maximizing the benefit of the site.
• Buffer, whenever possible, recreational uses from conflicting land uses with setbacks and/or vegetation.
• Encourage the development of recreation/resort complexes only under planned unit development procedures. Action Plan Priorities: (See Goal 10)
Goal 10: Benzie County anticipates future recreational and cultural needs and will act on opportunities for the acquisition and development of recreational and cultural facilities, sites, open spaces, and programs.
• Benzie County will encourage the development of recreational uses in locations attractive to citizens and tourists.
• Identify priority sites to purchase for recreational purposes.
• Acquisition of land should be prioritized to address the most popular recreational activities as identified from public input, including walking/hiking, swimming, fishing, canoe/kayaking, and wildlife viewing.
• Link recreational land acquisitions with other natural resource protection priorities including the M-22 and Betsie Valley Trail scenic corridors, inland lake access, rare or endangered habitats and species, scenic vistas, cultural resources, and State-designated environmental areas such as Critical Dunes, Natural Rivers, and State Game areas.
• Collaborate with public and private partners, including the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, to fund the purchase and maintenance of recreational properties and market these recreational opportunities to the public.
• Develop an education program for owners of potential recreational properties on the benefits of property donation and seek donations of properties on the list of desired recreational sites.
• Encourage the utilization, for recreational uses, of lands that have soil types that are less conducive to “developed” uses, i.e. agriculture, residential, commercial, or industrial.
• Promote recreational uses that do not infringe upon the visual or ecological quality of open spaces, forests, hills, bluffs, orchards, lakes, shorelines, or embankments, but enhances or at least preserves, the natural quality that creates the original need or desire for a facility in that area.
• Preserve floodplain areas and wetlands for open space activities, such as wildlife refuges, hunting, fishing, and passive recreation.
• Considering demand, encourage the development of a system whereby the number of participants is controlled at acceptable levels in sensitive areas to diminish impacts on natural resources.
• Encourage the creation of tourism related jobs for County residents to increase economic growth. Action Plan Priorities:
• Collaborate with Public and Private Partners
Take advantage of land acquisition opportunities that support the highest priorities for recreational activities as identified by the public survey, including the acquisition of land for public beaches, natural areas, and for extension or enhancement of non-motorized trails (including the Betsie Valley Trail). Acquisition opportunities will be carefully considered to insure that the site is compatible with its intended uses and that the site can be legally and safely accessed by the public.
• Work in Cooperation with Local Units of Government
The Benzie County Parks and Recreation Commission will encourage each community in the County to develop or upgrade its Recreation Plan. The Commission will encourage local communities to work with the County Planning Commission, local planning commissions, and the County Parks and Recreation Commission to assess the need for facilities, methods to acquire, fund and develop projects, and the responsible operation and maintenance of same. Please note that some of the information included in the above goals and objectives was taken from the 1992, 1997, and 2002 Benzie County Recreation Plans and the 2020 Benzie County Comprehensive Development Plan.
Action Plan Priorities
Overarching Policies: Preservation of Natural Resources
Access to Public Waters
Access to Public Lands
Work in Cooperation with Local Units of Government
Collaborate with Public and Private Partners
Operational Needs: Integrate Cultural Facilities and Activities into Recreational Planning
Consolidate Management of County Owned Properties
Coordinate Recreational Activities and Programming
Archive Parks and Recreation Records and Project Files
Create a Parks and Recreation Web Page
Current Projects: MDNR Crystal Lake Public Boating Access Site
Lake Michigan Drive Road-end Improvement
Thompsonville to Interlochen Trail Connection
Parking for Visitors to the Point Betsie Lighthouse
Completion of the Elberta Beach to Beach Trail Section
Expand Recreational Opportunities to Include Persons with Disabilities
Forestry Management Plan Projects and Railroad Point Enhancements
M-22 Scenic Heritage Route and Bikeways
Northwest Michigan Regional Non-Motorized Transportation Plan and Investment Strategy 2008
Comprehensive State Statute Re: Access to Public Water