Can ordinary citizens take charge of Northern Michigans destiny and help shape what our region will look like over the next 20 to 50 years?
Thats the dream of the folks behind the Grand Vision, a series of workshops which has been attracting visionary citizens from six counties over the past few months to share their ideas on the future of Northern Michigan.
Starting in Grand Traverse County, where 1,500 participants shared their ideas on land use and transportation alternatives, the Grand Vision has expanded to Kalkaska, Leelanau, Antrim, Benzie and Wexford counties, with 109 governmental participating.
The two-year Grand Vision study is being funded by the federal government. It is administered locally by TC-TALUS (the Traverse City - Transportation And Land Use Study) for Grand Traverse County and by the Northern Michigan Council of Governments for the outlying counties.
In addition to having the enthusiastic support of local planning and zoning officials, the Grand Vision has signed on some of the regions major movers-and-shakers. Marsha Smith, the executive director of Rotary Charities, for instance, is chair of the projects public involvement committee.
Personally, Id love to see a light rail system in Traverse City, running along the bay and out to the malls and down Airport Road and back. Others would like to see urban growth boundaries, more bike paths, protection of the Boardman River Valley, more parks and greenways, limits on building heights and such. Guess we should go put our two cents in at one of the meetings... Who knows? Our vision of the future could someday come to pass.
One question, however: How do you make those great ideas stick?
When Dick Cheney was reproached on the five-year anniversary of the Iraq war for his disastrous ideas that had wreaked so much death, carnage and expense, his response was, So? How do the people behind the Grand Vision plan to avoid the same response from developers who may not respect their ideas?
How will they keep the Grand Vision from being the equivalent of a “non-binding resolution“?
Backers of the project make no guarantees, but they point out that there is $2 million in federal funding to help implement a portion of the Grand Vision when the study is completed. Theres also a tool kit to help guide local communities bring the Grand Visions recommendations to life. And its also felt that this sort of large-scale, collaborative planning will make it easier to obtain state and federal grants.
Land use and transportation specialists on the Mead & Hunt team which is guiding the project also point to successful planning sessions in southern California; Portland, Oregon; and southern Louisiana.
So, think of the Grand Vision as planting a seed and growing our future in a positive direction.
Whats on your wish list for the region? The Grand Vision would like to hear from you, with an invitation to join an upcoming workshop, including those planned for Antrim and Wexford counties (May 27) and Benzie (May 28). You can learn more about the project at www.thegrandvision.org