Hastings Charter Township Supervisor Jim Brown thinks it’s time for one parks and recreation board covering all of Barry County, with everyone who has an interest in recreation in the county represented.
“It’s time to get back together, sit down and come up with a plan,” he said. His idea is to bring all of the recreational interests under one umbrella, instead of myriad, limited efforts from townships, villages and Hastings, each with its own boards and funding concerns.
The economic benefits of recreation in Barry County are huge, he said, and the more you consider it, the more interests impact it: Charlton Park, the county Parks & Recreation Board, McKeown Park, the Paul Henry Trail and numerous township and village parks and recreation groups, committees and authorities.
Brown said it’s essential that supporters of an overall examination of recreation in the county take a wider view; look at the county from 10,000 feet up; ask what’s best for everyone in Barry County.
“We need a package built from a vision from 10,000 feet up,” he said. “The focus will be on not just what we want to do, but what it costs and what it returns.”
The model is out there, he said, it’s been talked about several times, but no one has brought it all together. “We can’t have this millage thing every two or three years; we have to have something better; there may be a smarter way to fund this, and a more equitable way to spend it.” His outline starts with forming a group with representatives from the general public, the county, townships, villages, Hastings, and economic development. He sees a seven member board: “We don’t need a 15 person board.”
Hopefully, a board can be formed by the beginning of the year and start work on an outline of its goals. He plans to bring the concept to the County Commission for its input.
“If you have a big project, don’t go it alone is good advice,” he said. He expects the committee to use the expertise others already have; bringing special interests into the process and asking them to contribute.
Brainstorming ideas will be a big part of the committee’s work, he said. However, “Good ideas are just a distraction if you don’t act on them.”