Recreation authority working to promote opportunities in area
REED CITY — For years, rocks, logs and dam debris made the trek down the Hersey River nearly impossible.
As an avid kayaker, Robbie Svegel knew the challenges she and other enthusiasts faced when encountering these obstacles.
Over the summer, funding from the Reed City Downtown Development Authority finally paved the way for those things to be removed, making the river navigable all the way from Reed City to Hersey.
Svegel had a front-row seat to the work being done on the river, as secretary of the Greater Reed City Area Recreation Authority.
The authority, comprised of two representatives from each the DDA and Richmond and Lincoln Townships, promotes recreational opportunities in the area, Svegel said.
“We began about five years ago with a purpose to provide a cooperative venture for the area’s recreation efforts among the governmental units: the Reed City DDA and Lincoln and Richmond townships,” she said. “We coordinate our ideas for recreation with the resources that cross all three governmental boundaries.
“The authority is kind of a broker, a coordinator and advocate for those who have projects of interests for the area and we see what we are able to do.”
Trying to get the Hersey River obstacle free and navigable was one of the more intensive projects the authority jumped on board with, Svegel said.
“With a number of people’s efforts, the gates were finally removed,” she said. “The next step was to get the rusty steel and debris from the old dam area out of the river.”
The DDA was able get things rolling over the summer.
“(The DDA) had the money available and got the permit from the DEQ to move the project ahead,” said Karen Wright, a DDA and authority board member. “From the city’s perspective, kids were jumping in that part of the river from the bridge and it was very dangerous. At that dam site, there were logs lining up in the river and that was potentially dangerous in the perspective of bridge safety.”
Wright said there needs to be a little more work done at the dam site, as well clearing away some debris, such as sticks and tree limbs, that show up after heavy rains.
“The goal of everyone involved is making the river more accessible for fisherman and kayakers, as well as making the river safer for those using it and increased safety around the bridge area,” Wright said. “The project has worked out well so far. You usually don’t have two groups who have similar goals and projects at the same time working together.”
With the economy starting to come back, Wright said the DDA board felt it was important to focus on the natural beauty of the city.
“We have camping at Rambadt Park and a very nice Westerburg Park and such a lovely river,” she said. “If we all do a little work and tie them all together, it will help the whole area.”
The next step in the project, Svegel and Wright said, is identifying locations for access sites.
Svegel and Wright said the big thing the recreation authority wants to address is finding a home for local youth soccer teams.
“We had an interested community member with the local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) program come to us and said there is a need for soccer fields,” Svegel said. “Years and years ago, there used to be soccer fields dedicated to AYSO. However, that location became unavailable.”
Wright said 15 to 20 acres would be needed to build a centrally located sports complex that could be developed for soccer fields and provide enough room for soccer tournaments.
“That’s really a big project the authority is working on,” she said. “By not having a good soccer facility for our kids, it shows later on in our soccer teams.”
The lack of fields for games has led to a drop in participation numbers over the last couple of years, Svegel added.
“That trickles up,” she said. “They do not even have enough numbers for Reed City (High School) to have a JV boys soccer team.”
One thing that remains a challenge for the authority is funding.
“All we can do as an authority is apply for grants, in particular, DNR grants,” she said. “They look favorably at communities and groups working together. That being said, it’s also very competitive to get grants and we continue to look for local sources.”
Svegel said the authority is looking for people to help with its current or future projects, and encourages members of the public to share any ideas they have that would benefit the community.
Any interested person is invited to attend the authority’s next bi-monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Reed City Depot.