Residents review plans for Muskegon and

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By Cynthia Price

The citizens of Muskegon love their lake. To quote the writers of the Imagine Muskegon Lake plan, “The Lake is an inspirational old soul that provides tranquility, beauty, exhilaration, and wonder.

“The Lake is the City, and the City is her Lake.”

So a group of planners from  the companies Williams & Works and  Nederveld joined the city planning department in creating a “citizen-influenced” plan to make sure that development and preservation proceeded deliberately and not just by chance.

A large stakeholder meeting was held in October 2017, and the resulting overview of what people would like to see fed into the 2018 plan, which can be viewed at www.muskegon-mi.gov/cresources/17200929_IML_ReportFinal_Rev_1.pdf.

The Imagine Muskegon Lake plan follows on the heels of a number of plans made by the City of Muskegon both to protect and to make use of the valuable asset represented by the lake.

In 2003, a large number of community meetings resulted in the vision-based Imagine Muskegon plan. The mid-2000s Muskegon Area-wide Plan, spearheaded by West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission and the Muskegon County Land Use Task Force was followed by a Lake?Michigan Water Trail Plan in 2014, the Muskegon Lake Vision 2020 in 2016, and the WATCH mUSkeGOn Perceptions Research in 2017.

Based on looking at all of those plans Imagine Muskegon Lake writers came up with a number of creative ways to “Sustain, Advance, Connect and Convene.”

“Sustaining” involves improving water quality and enhancing natural features; “advancing” seeks to grow residential, port-related and tourism opportunities; “connecting” supports linking all modes of transportation so the community’s assets and opportunities are available to all; and “convening” means strengthening recreation and activities along the shore.

Some of the suggestions are, for example, having a water taxi, creating safe pathways from downtown and the neighborhoods to the shoreline, focusing on educational opportunities incorporating the water and other natural resources for tourism, and increasing amenities near and along the shore so that visitors (and residents) find a lot to do on longer stays. Another proposal is to have transient docks that can serve visitors who come by boat.

Now the city is seeking to incorporate this plan into the overall master plan for Muskegon.

A master plan is a guidance document that indicates how a city would like to develop, or not develop; it is a long-standing joke that most master plans can be found gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. Muskegon, which has so much potential, would like to avoid that fate for its planning documents.

To keep the public informed as this process unfolds (a public hearing is scheduled for the March 26 commission meeting), the Beachwood Bluffton Neighborhood Association (BBNA) hosted an informational meeting last Tuesday at the USS Silversides Museum. Muskegon Planning Director Mike Franczak, Planner Jamie Pesch (both staff of the city) and elected Commissioner Ken Johnson presented at the meeting.

Shortly before the community meeting was conceived, City Manager Frank Peterson had proposed to get Beachwood Bluffton neighbors together to mull over a possible proposed recreational vehicle camping site at Pere Marquette. As it played out on Facebook, active community members were up in arms because they felt decisions had already been made without consulting the residents. This all followed on the heels of the controversial development in the Bluffton area that has been detailed in past Examiners.

Not too much was said at Tuesday’s meeting about the RV park, but it was clearly on the minds of some who commented.

According to notes distributed by  BBNA President Chris Willis, Ken Johnson himself said he thought that there should be “limited development only” at Pere Marquette, and that Lakeside should be developed as a “tourist hub”with the bulk of recreation and activity development taking place downtown.

Others said they hoped that Pere Marquette could be kept “pristine” because it contributes to the attractiveness of the Muskegon area.

As proposals become more concrete, the public will have an opportunity to comment, and BBNA along with other neighborhood associations will continue to publicize those opportunities.
 

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