By Cameron Billes
Ingham County Chronicle
The Ingham County trails and parks could soon be upgraded.
In the Nov. 4 election, a trails and parks millage proposal will be on the ballot to create, upgrade and maintain the recreational trails and parks through 2019. If the proposal passes, approximately $3.2 million will be raised within the first year.
This proposal calls for a .5 mill increase, or $.50 per $1,000 of state taxable valuation for six years. This means the tax would cost an Ingham County resident who owns a $100,000 house an extra $50 per year.
Willis Bennett, the Ingham County Parks Department director, said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero approached county commissioners two years ago about regionalizing the trails and parks in the county. However, by then it was too late to get on the 2012 ballot.
The proposal was officially put onto the ballot in August, and Bennett says if it passes, it could provide great opportunities to Ingham County.
“It is an opportunity for us to take and connect non-motorized trails that are being built, or have been built, or are going to be built by other municipalities throughout the county and be able to tie them together,” Bennett said. “There is a lot of potential as to what this could mean to our region.”
Carol Koenig, Ingham County commissioner of District 9 and parks commission member, said the investment goes beyond building and connecting trails.
“Trails and Parks investment is actually an investment in the health, welfare, future and economy of any community,” Koenig said.
Improving the trails could help bring families out to the parks and improve their health. Bennett says this proposal will help get people up, out and active.
Henriette Hakopian, a county resident and mother, says she visits Hawk Island park once to twice a week and that she is in favor of the proposal.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” Hakopian said. “Investing in something like this brings us all more outside, right? It’s just good mental health.”
Steve Moore, who works in Mason, says he comes often to visit Hawk Island park after work.
“I would definitely be in favor of (the proposal), but I’m from out of town,” Moore said. “I dont live in Lansing here so I wont be voting on it.”
Moore will not be able to vote on this proposal in the Nov. 4 election, but hopes more trails are added.
“The more the merrier,” Moore said. “The more trails we get the better.”
Koenig and Bennett say there is enough community support to pass this proposal.
“I think there is a lot of support for something like this,” Bennett said. “Support on the local levels, there is support on the state level, there is support on the federal level and there is a lot of organizations, like the Michigan Trailways Alliance, and they are able to help support us as well.”
“I believe the millage will pass because the people of Ingham County are smart and they like innovation and investment in the future… they always have,” Koenig said.
Bennett said he believes the millage will pass, but knows that even if it does not pass this year, it will be brought up again.
“Not all of them are going to pass their first time around,” Bennett said. “I think this stands a very good chance, but, yeah it would come back around, I’m sure.”
For more information on the upcoming election, check out the Ingham County website.