Plans made to boost park attendance

ESCANABA — Delta Conservation District (DCD) Executive Director Rory Mattson took a look ahead at the factors that could influence county park attendance in 2018 and what the district hopes to accomplish in the parks this year.

Mattson believes weather conditions will have a major effect on park attendance in 2018.

“Obviously, the weather will be … the key factor,” he said. He noted the DCD would like to see warm, dry weather in the area this summer, as the cool, rainy conditions seen during the summer of 2017 had a significant impact on park attendance.

Road construction near Pioneer Trail Park in Gladstone may also have an impact on attendance there, Mattson said.

“This year, the road construction will be on our side (of the road),” he said.

Mattson spoke about the DCD’s plans for 2018, as well. At Fuller Park in Bark River, the district will construct a fence to separate land recently purchased by the county for the park from neighboring, privately-owned land.

“We have to build (it) between the new park land and the remaining private property that the county did not buy,” he said.

Improvements to campsites at Fuller Park are also expected to be made this year. Mattson said the DCD plans to install six rustic campsites and work to raise campsites 30, 31, 32, and 33.

“Those were the sites (where) we had problems with flooding,” Mattson said. Along with this, there were issues with trailers backing into the campsites and sinking.

At Sac Bay County Park, the DCD plans to complete a project that began last year.

“We’ll be building brand-new restrooms out there this spring,” Mattson said. The cement vaults for the restrooms were installed in the fall of 2017.

The DCD will also be installing signage at a newly-established community forest in Cornell Township this year.

“We’re looking for a name,” Mattson said of the forest.

In addition, the DCD will implement various forest-related projects funded by donations from local wildlife groups. These projects will include the planting of trees and shrubs, establishment of food plots for wildlife, and the addition of hunting and hiking access trails. The district will also work on other trails and roads on this land.

A ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for the community forest is scheduled for Aug. 14.

According to Mattson, little in the way of major work will be done at Pioneer Trail Park this year. The DCD will build new picnic tables to replace old tables, as it does every year.

Once road construction in the area is completed, a new sign for Pioneer Trail Park will be installed by U.S. 2 and 41.

“We will be putting up a brand-new, attractive sign for the park,” Mattson said.

The tile floor in the Pioneer Trail Park shower building may also be replaced with Dex-O-Tex epoxy flooring in 2018.

“We’re looking at redoing that floor,” Mattson said. The DCD’s decision on this project will depend on the park’s early seasonal booking numbers.

While construction on major changes slated for Rapid River Falls Park — including the addition of 25 campsites and a four-wheeler trail — will not begin this year, Mattson said the DCD will take an important step towards officially getting the project started in the coming months.

“We’ll be putting in for (a) grant,” he said. He noted the DCD will also work with local groups to design the layout of a trail on the park’s grounds.