City designates land for dog park, mountain bike track

Will be discussed at future council meeting

The Reed City city council approved a motion to designate land for construction of a mountain bike skills track and a dog park at its meeting Oct. 19. (Herald Review photo/Cathie Crew)

The Reed City city council approved a motion to designate land for construction of a mountain bike skills track and a dog park at its meeting Oct. 19. (Herald Review photo/Cathie Crew)

REED CITY — The Reed City city council approved the designation of land for the future construction of a Mountain Bike skills track and a Dog Park at its meeting Oct. 19.

Mountain Bike Skills Track

The council was approached by local resident John Zelinski about constructing a mountain bike skills track on city-owned land on 200th Avenue at its meeting in September.

Zelinski suggested the skills track would provide recreation for youth in the community and bring visitors to the area, which would boost the economy.

During the Oct. 19 meeting, Zelinski reiterated his desire to bring the skills track to Reed City and shared a basic plan for what it would look like. Zelinski said there is a trend in mountain bike tourism going on now and many communities are embracing the idea.

“There is the whole Pere Marquette Rails to Trails close by there, and if we were to get this approved, we could have features going from the Depot to the skills track, encouraging people to park downtown and ride their bikes to the track,” Zelinski said. “This could potentially increase revenue in downtown businesses.”

Embracing the city’s Pure Michigan Trails designation, trails throughout the city could be incorporated, he said, from the campsites at Rambadt Park to the crossroads of the trails near the Depot.

“Communities are starting to see a huge impact in what this does for the economy,” Zelinski said. “There are a lot of ideas that could be a lot of fun and generate economic revenue for the city, including bike events such as a 'Bike and Brew.'"

Council members expressed their continued concerns about the city’s liabilities for sanctioning such a project, as well as the cost to the city for construction of the project.

Zelinski said, from what he's found in his research, the liability would be covered under the city’s insurance.

“Negligence is the biggest issue when it comes to liability, so we would need to have good signage letting people know the risks and that they are using the track at their own risk,” he said.

“I love the idea of anything we can set up to have community involvement and bring the community together, but I am concerned about the liability,” Council member Carol Tillotson said. “I know that just having signs does not stop a lawsuit. We need to take that into consideration.”

Reed City Attorney Dave Porteous said the liability issue was likely to be more involved than that, and suggested city officials check with the city’s insurance carrier to determine their level of coverage.

“Even if you are covered, if the city gets sued, that is a lot of legal expense, as well,” Porteous added. “There is always a certain amount of risk in something like this. If you can’t get insurance, then that is an indication that the liability is potentially significant.”

If there is an organization that is overseeing the project, they should also carry insurance with the city named as insured, he added.

Council member Karen McKinney said they would need to figure out how to raise money to fund the project, because right now, the city does not have any money to invest in it.

Regarding the construction cost, Zelinski said most of the construction work could be done by volunteers, although that would take a longer time to complete.

“Ideally, I would like to coordinate volunteers with professional developers and get the local shop students involved,” Zelinski said. “We could solicit donations from local businesses and residents to help fund the project.”

“I have talked with a lot of people on the trails and there are a lot of them that are willing to donate time to the project,” he said. “We have the tools, we have the families, and we have the time. We can knock out a lot of the cost using volunteers, and I think local businesses and residents would be willing to invest in something that is going to create a better quality of life.”

Howell suggested the city could sell the timber from the lot, the same as they did for the Disc Golf project, and that money could be used to help fund the project, as well.

“I have contacted Ken Ford, who did the clear cutting at Rambadt Park, and he has agreed to do a walk-through to see if a select cut is possible,” Howell said. “The cut from Rambadt Park brought in around $16,000 for the city.”

Tillotson requested Zelinski come to the council with a more concrete plan of action, including construction details and a timeframe, funding options, long term maintenance plans and answers to the liability issue before any further action is taken.

The city council approved a motion to designate the proposed land for future construction of the Mountain Bike Skills track, pending completion of a design, timeline, and cost analysis.

Dog Park

The Reed City planning commission approved a motion to recommend council pursue plans to construct a dog park in the city at its meeting earlier this month.

Council member Dan Burchett said he has since been in touch with the DNR regarding the use property next to the Reed City Depot for construction of the dog park.

“I have spoken with the DNR about using the property between the boy scout building and the Depot that runs along the Pere Marquette trail,” Burchett said. “They are willing to consider a 20-year lease but need to know how much acreage will be needed as well as what utilities will be required. With the council’s approval, I would like to send a proposal to them.”

Again, council members expressed concern over liability to the city and funding of the project.

Burchett said he has talked with several other cities that have dog parks regarding insurance liabilities and what they are doing, and he has gotten a lot of information about what it will take to complete the project.

“If all this goes through, I will be looking at putting together a committee to work on the project plans and the funding,” Burchett said. “I will be working on getting a community effort together and see what we can do.”

One fundraising idea is to offer bricks for sale with names imprinted on them for a pathway in the park, he said.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we can take action on this,” Council member Roger Meinert said. “I think we should know the total project cost, where the funding is going to come from, what the upkeep will be and who will be responsible for maintaining the park.

“Something like this, the mountain bike trail and the disc golf course, yes, they are great for our community, but we don’t stop to consider the impact to upkeep something like this,” he said.

Burchett said he has been I contact with several other city officials that have constructed dog parks to see what was involved, and what the cost might be, and has detailed information on what it takes to complete such a project, that he will share with council.

“It is my understanding, that on any project like this, an important step is to contact the property owner and see if there is any interest,” Howell said. “Then you can come back to council and lay out all of the specifics about the project.”

Tillotson reiterated that all that was being asked of council at this point was permission to find out if the property is available to be used, and what the details of that agreement would be.

Council approved a motion to designate the land for construction of a dog park, pending approval from the DNR, and a plan for funding the project.