POINT ABBAYE - Baraga County residents have until March 16 to offer feedback on a five-year countywide recreation plan that includes extensive renovations to Point Abbaye County Park.
The 2012-16 Baraga County Recreation Plan was prepared by the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region on behalf of the Baraga County Board of Commissioners to guide recreational improvements throughout the county. Additionally, the five-year plan is required to qualify for Michigan Department of Natural Resources-administered grants.
The draft of the plan contains a community profile, administrative structure, recreation inventory, list of county recreation needs, an action plan and information on community input and adoption.
According to the needs section, as identified by WUPPDR, "Local needs included improvements at Pointe Abbaye Park, acquisition of key recreational property if and when it becomes available, and development of both non-motorized and motorized trail opportunities."
The first step of the five-year action plan, based on anticipated funding opportunities, is to redesign the trail system and develop eight to 10 primitive campsites at the remote 258-acre park, which is flanked on the west by Keweenaw Bay and east by Huron Bay.
"I think it's actually an encouraging plan because it's really moving us forward with parks here in Baraga County," Baraga County Clerk Wendy Goodreau said. "It is crucial to have a group like WUPPDR working for us."
WUPPDR Associate Planner Lori Hauswirth put together the countywide recreation plan, based largely on the Point Abbaye Improvement Plan, which was started in 2010 with funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Zone Program. Hauswirth worked with a Point Abbaye Planning Committee to develop that plan, which segued nicely into the five-year countywide plan.
"Initially I was working with the Point Abbaye Improvement Plan, and since that is the primary recreational goal for the county, we wanted to take care of that first," Hauswirth said. "The county recognized it as a somewhat underutilized park. It's a great asset that the county has and could promote better. ... I think a big focus (in Baraga County) is working on projects that increase employment in any sector, and tourism is obviously one with potential for growth."
The rustic park is 25 miles northeast of L'Anse, with 11 miles of two-track gravel roads and minimal signage directing tourists to the park.
"It is remote. It's a beautiful scenic area," said Doug Mankee, Department of Natural Resources Forest Resources Division Unit Manager for Baraga, who is on the Point Abbaye Planning Committee.
"They do have some developed dispersed campsites, but they're needing upgrades to protect them from erosion, and they need to develop ample parking and signage so the public can find them and access them properly - and do so in such a way that resources are protected."
Point Abbaye improvement costs are estimated at $200,800 by U.P. Engineers & Architects, which include parking lots, a boat launch, toilets, upgraded trails, primitive campsite development, signage and road improvements.
The entire plan, including possible funding sources, is available for viewing at wuppdr.org, the Baraga County courthouse and the Baraga County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Feedback can be emailed to Hauswirth at email@example.com by 5 p.m. March 16. Comments can also be mailed to Hauswirth at WUPPRDR, P.O. Box 365, Houghton, MI 49931. A public hearing will be held just before the 5 p.m. April 9 county board of commissioners meeting.
"It's the opportunity for people to contribute ... to provide additional insight and get involved," Hauswirth said.