Sep 01, 2022

Parks and Trails Millage FAQ


+ What are voters being asked to consider?
  • •Saugatuck Township is asking residents to consider a 10-year dedicated millage to support improvements to existing Township parks, acquisition of new parks, and the creation of community trails. The question will be on the November ballot.


+ What would the millage pay for?
    • •The millage would be used to for current park operations and improvements, and the acquisition of new park and trail opportunities within Saugatuck Township.


    • •In our current parks, funds would be used for operations & maintenance, such as improved grounds keeping, better restrooms and trash service, and needed capital improvements.


    • •Funds would be used to acquire new properties and develop new parks, improve public access to the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan, and seek public input on other new park opportunities.


    • •Community hiking and multi-use trails would be developed and improved. The trail presented in the Tails ‘n Trails property Master Plan would be built as a multi-use/year-round trail for running, walking, and cross-country skiing. Hiking trails at River Bluff Park along the Kalamazoo River would be improved.


  • •In 2023, the Township will update its Park Plan with additional public input and ideas from the community for new park features such as playgrounds, picnic shelters, sport fields, courts, and natural exploration.


+ How much would this millage cost me?
  • •If approved, homeowners would pay .5 mill per year. For example, a resident whose home has a taxable value of $100,000 would be assessed $50 annually.


+ Why is the millage request for 10 years?
    • •10 years allows time to develop and implement a long-term vision for more and better parks within Saugatuck Township.


    • •Projects and land acquisitions can take several years to initiate and complete.


  • •Seeking outside grant funding will allow Saugatuck Township to leverage local dollars on larger efforts. Grant programs can often take several years from the initial application to when funds are awarded. A 10-year timeframe will allow time to develop community priorities, identify specific projects and acquisitions to move forward with, and seek additional outside funding sources to implement.


+ Why does the Township need more funding for parks and trails?
    • •The Township is home to 4 parks, 2 undeveloped park properties, and 2.4 miles of paved pathway.


    • •Current funding for parks & trails is limited and must compete with other Township priorities each year and is not consistent from year-to-year.


    • •Available funding has not kept pace with increased resident demand. In recent years, the Township has seen increased growth and an increased want from residents to enjoy public parks and the natural spaces that define our unique community.


    • •A dedicated funding source will allow for improved operations, maintenance, and needed capital improvements.


  • •A dedicated funding source will allow new parks to be acquired and trail opportunities to be developed within the community.


+ Will the Parks & Trails Millage fund construction of the Blue Star Trail?
  • •No. This millage will not be used to fund new construction of the Blue Star Trail.


+ Will the Parks & Trails Millage fund any work on the existing 2.4 miles of paved pathway?
  • •If approved, funds could be used for maintenance of the existing 2.4 miles of paved pathway currently managed by the Township.


+ Will the Parks & Trails Millage fund Youth Sports Programs or other Community Recreation Programs?
  • •No. This millage does not support recreation programming or youth sports programming. Saugatuck Public Schools manages the area’s Community Recreation Programs. There is a separate millage renewal on the November 8th ballot to support these programs.


+ What are the current Township Parks?
    • •The Township currently has 4 parks, 2 undeveloped park properties, and 2.4 miles of non-motorized paved pathway.


    • River Bluff Park is a 27-acre wooded tract with a half-mile of river frontage on the Kalamazoo River. There is a small picnic and lawn area with children’s swings near the paved parking lot. Just under 1-mile of natural-surface trails wind further into the park. There is a boat landing and picnic shelter along the river.


    • River Bluff Park will be receiving funding from the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Trustees for a shoreline restoration project to consist of up to 1,200 feet of bioengineered stable shoreline and related habitat improvements. The project may include the installation of large pieces of natural wood, native plants, and large rocks to stabilize the most highly eroding sections of riverbank and improve riparian habitat. The project is anticipated to benefit the aquatic ecosystem, improve sediment and water quality, and improve public access to the shoreline for recreational use.


    • Sundown Park is a small roadside park along Lake Michigan at the end of 126th Avenue. There is no beach access. A small picnic area offers an overlook of Lake Michigan from atop a high bluff. There are a few gravel parking spaces along the road.


    • Tails & Trails Park offers 5-acres of rustic grass and wooded dog areas for off leash play. There is a gravel parking lot, fencing, and small gazebo that support the dog park area.


    • •Undeveloped portion of Tails & Trails Park – located north of the dog park area is an additional 35-acre natural area. A Master Plan for this park was recently created to guide future improvements. Main elements of the Master Plan include the following: natural-surface trails for running, walking, cross-county skiing, improved natural habitat with native meadow and ponds, on-grade accessible wood walkways, restrooms, accessibility improvements, improved parking, dog park amenities and improved off-leash trail areas. The Township Parks Commission worked with local schools and community members to develop a plan for a multi-use trail that could serve as a “home course” for the local schools’ running programs.


    • Blue Star Memorial Highway Park is a roadside park with memorial signage and small picnic shelter. There is a small area of off-street parking along Blue Star Highway.


  • •Undeveloped Amelanchier Park – is a 4-acre wooded natural site located between North Street and Riverside Cemetery. Goshorn Creek flows through the property which is mostly a ravine. A future portion of the Blue Star Trail (non-motorized path) is planned to go through this property in its next phase of construction. The Township has envisioned possible improvements that include a small parking area/trailhead, picnic gazebo, and improved access to Goshorn Creek for creative nature play.


+ What is the Saugatuck Township Parks Commission?
    • •Saugatuck Township has an elected Parks Commission. The following Township residents compose the current elected board: Jim Searing (chair), Ken Butler (vice-chair/treasurer), Dana Burd (secretary), Jane Dickie (member), and Elliot Sturm (member). The Parks Commission meets monthly to oversee park operations, maintenance, and improvements and to discuss the future vision for parks within the Township.


  • •According to their mission statement, “The Saugatuck Township Parks Commission guides, shapes, and preserves the heritage of our natural areas for the purpose of play, exploration, and appreciation.”


+ Will the existing parks see improvements?
    • •Yes. The millage will allow for additional maintenance, needed capital improvements, and new opportunities for recreation and play at existing park properties.


  • •The Township has a 5-Year Park Plan which includes a current list of capital improvements. This plan has not been updated in 4-years and many new ideas have been discussed. Following passage of the millage, the Township will seek public input to the develop priorities for the millage funding over the next 5 and 10-year periods. The updated plan will be submitted to Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources to be eligible for state grant funds.


+ What are the plans to acquire new parks and develop new trails?
    • •The Township Parks Commission would like to develop and acquire new parks & trails within the community.


  • •Natural resource properties that provide opportunity for public water access to lakes, streams, and rivers will be prioritized. This could include acquiring property for public access to Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River.


+ How will the improvements be prioritized?
  • •The Parks Commission will update the Township Park Plan in 2023 which will include public input in the form of community surveys, public workshops, and public hearings. This plan will guide and shape specific priorities and projects over the next 5 and 10-years.


+ Does the Township maintain a detailed plan for parks and trail improvements?
  • •Yes. The current Park Plan is on the Saugatuck Township website. The plan will be updated in 2023 with community input.


+ What happens if the millage is not approved?
    • •If voters do not support the Parks & Trails Millage on November 8th, funding for the Township’s parks will remain limited and will have to compete with other Township priorities each year.


    • •Operations and maintenance practices will remain the same as the past few years with no substantial improvements to park amenities, accessibility, or services offered.


    • •The Township will be much less likely to develop current parks or acquire property for new parks & trails – including improved public access to Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River.


    • •The Township Parks Commission would evaluate the election results and likely amend the request for a future election.


  • •Growth and increased demand for public spaces will continue within the community.


+ If passed, when will the millage go into effect?
  • •The millage would go into effect on July 1, 2023 and appear on the Summer 2023 tax bills.