Traverse City public lands on the ballot this election

Oct 5, 2020

 

The proposed tax would fund maintenance costs for two barns at the Historic Barns Park in Traverse City, home to the city’s botanic gardens, a community garden and an education center.
Credit Jeremy Thompson

Voters in Traverse City and Garfield Township will weigh in on a new millage, or a tax, to continue funding the Recreational Authority for the next 20 years.  

That’s a public entity responsible for acquiring and maintaining public lands in the area. The Rec Authority currently operates the West Bay waterfront, Hickory Meadows and Historic Barns Park in Traverse City. 

Michael Groleau, part of the advocacy group Friends of Public Lands and Preservation and a Rec Authority board member, says the organization was created in 2000 as a partnership between local governments. 

“At the time, it seemed like a pipe dream. To see what it's become today. I tell you what, it's the most amazing thing,” he says. “I can't wait to see that work continue.” 

The Rec Authority would purchase an 80-acre property next to Hickory Hills if the millage passes.
Credit Noah Jurik

If passed, the tax would help purchase another 80-acre parcel next to Hickory Hills, known as the former Kroupa property.   

“You walk up through there and you can just get lost — you’ve left this world and everything that’s happening. For me, you can be at peace,” says Richard Lewis, former Traverse City manager and leader of the Friends group. 

“We don't want to see it go to something else, such as a development project," Lewis says. "No one wants to see that.” 

For a homeowner of a $200,000 property, the tax will cost about $15 a year for the next four years, and is expected to decrease after that, according to Groleau. Although the board could raise the fee to $30 a year for the same homeowner, if the need arises. 

“It continues to remain a really great deal for taxpayers,” Groleau says.

The millage will go to a vote in November’s general election.