Written by Laura Colvin, Staff Writer
The Village of Milford wants to know what’s important to local residents and business owners when it comes to Huron River recreation.
The Village Parks and Recreation Commission, along with the Huron River Watershed Council and the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs will host an asset mapping meeting next Wednesday to help identify amenities, resources and future economic development opportunities related to the river.
The meeting is the next step for Milford in the HRWC’s Trail Towns program, initiated last year as part of the larger RiverUp program. The program designates five towns along the Huron River Water Trail as destinations where river users can venture off the waterway to enjoy the scenery, services and heritage of a community that identifies with the river but is infused with its own character and charm.
Milford is situated at the north end of the 104-mile trail, followed by Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Flat Rock.
Part of the program’s goal is to help stimulate local economies while also improving recreational access and opportunities to make rivers and communities healthier.
Planning for the future
Organizers of next week’s meeting are hoping for a robust turnout.
“It’s an opportunity for us to look at the Huron River and how it relates to the community,” said Anita Twardesky, HRWC Trail Towns coordinator. “We want to give people an opportunity to provide some input on how (Central Park) can be developed, how we can connect with businesses and how we can connect with the downtown.”
Discussions will cover possible improvements that can be made within the community to best benefit the businesses and residents of Milford and tourists who use the Huron River Water Trail.
Future developments could include infrastructure improvements, signage, marketing and promotion, for example.
“The plan will have lots of (layers) to it,” Twardesky said.
Village Manager Christian Wuerth is also involved in helping to develop a plan and will attend next week’s meeting.
“There are a lot of positives that can come out of this process,” Wuerth said. “We’re looking for feedback from residents and businesses people in the community; what does the Huron River mean to them, and, going forward, what is their vision for how the village and the community interact with the river? What’s important to people? What are their concerns?”
The meeting, he said, will help shape the next several years of planning from a parks and recreation standpoint.
Currently, he added, members of the Parks and Recreation Commission are looking at ways to enhance kayak and canoe access in Central Park, while also taking into account erosion issues that call for stream bank stabilization measures.
“I hate to use the words ‘boat launch,’ because I don’t envision it ever being steel and concrete,” he said. “We’re talking about a much more natural looking feature, but something that can handle that (canoe and kayak) traffic.”
Members are also considering picnic areas, as well as enhanced opportunities for bird watching, fishing and enjoying the view in various spots along the river.
“We want to look at how those things fit,” Wuerth said. “What are the priorities of the community?”
The group is also looking at ways to make Milford’s downtown area accessible river-users staying at Camp Dearborn or Proud Lake, or paddling to or from a different destination.
Information to those visitors, he said, could be disseminated through use of a kiosk.
“One of the things we want to do is emphasize how close downtown is,” Wuerth said. “If someone canoes from Proud Lake they can spend an afternoon, maybe stroll into downtown grab lunch, hop back into their canoes. We want to make it easier for them to access downtown, support the businesses and restaurants and enjoy Milford.”
Next week’s meeting takes place 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday at the Milford Senior Center, 1050 Atlantic St. Beforehand, from 5-6 p.m., volunteers from the Village Parks and Recreation Commission will be in Central Park to talk with visitors about the program.