County meets with master plan advisors

ESCANABA — After a recent visit to Delta County from representatives of OHM Advisors, efforts to update the county’s master plan will continue. Delta County Administrator Philip Strom spoke about what the visit accomplished and how it will impact the rest of the project.

“It was a lot of long hours and hard work, but we got as much (done) in the three days the consultants were here as possible,” Strom said of the visit.

He noted the representatives were pleased by the level of community involvement shown throughout their visit.

“They were really impressed with the amount of participation we were able to get,” Strom said.

The visit began Monday, May 6 with a tour of Delta County facilitated by Strom.

“We had cooperative weather, which was helpful,” he said.

The tour covered Escanaba, Gladstone, Ford River, Garden, Wells Township and the Bluff.

“It helped us educate the consultants we’re working with on some of the natural resources and (geographical) landmarks within the county,” Strom said.

Later that day, the representatives attended a meeting of the Delta County Planning Commission. There, they provided a broad overview of master plans, spoke about the schedule for the project and informed the planning commission of the role it will play in master plan-related work.

On Tuesday, May 7, a series of focus group interviews began.

“The purpose of the focus groups is that it is the first opportunity to receive public input on the county master plan,” Strom said.

Focus groups related to the Delta County Chamber of Commerce and Delta County Economic Development Alliance, education, local health and wellness and recreation, and tourism met Tuesday. A roundtable of local elected leaders also took place that day.

The last day of OHM’s visit — Wednesday, May 8 — included one more focus group interview.

“On Wednesday, we had a focus group on natural resources, infrastructure and forestry,” Strom said.

Though the topics addressed by the focus groups differed, Strom said they were structured similarly.

“We discussed current challenges and future issues related to the topic at hand and we also talked about community assets and opportunities for each topic,” he said.

Strom was pleased by attendance levels at the focus group interviews.

“For all of the focus groups, I was very encouraged and happy about the participation,” he said.

At least 10 to 20 community leaders and stakeholders participated in each of the focus group interviews.

Moving forward, information from the focus groups will be an important part of the master planning process.

“The consultants will summarize those focus group conversations, and we will include that information within the master plan and also build a community survey from that information that we can distribute and get more public input to help drive the master plan,” Strom said.

A website for the project including the community survey will be launched as part of the project, and the county will work with the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission (CUPPAD) — which OHM is partnering with for the master plan project — to hold additional focus groups for individual townships in the area.

Delta County will remain in touch with OHM, as well.

“We’ll be doing some telecommunicating with them,” Strom said.

OHM representatives are set to return to the area multiple times throughout the process of updating the master plan.

Strom said the development of the master plan should wrap up next year.

“We’re hoping to conclude that process in 2020,” he said.

Community stakeholders interested in getting involved with the master plan project are encouraged to reach out to Strom or CUPPAD Executive Director Dotty LaJoye.