ALPENA - Now that its primary mission is complete, the Negwegon, Thompson's Harbor and Rockport Advisory Committee will be taking a new tack, according to committee Chairman Patrick Pokorski.
Once charged with assisting in formulating long-term management plans for the two state parks and recreation area, the committee will now focus on implementing them, Pokorski said. It also will work more with volunteer "friends" groups formed for each park, and market them together as a tourist destination.
During the meeting, the committee heard reports from all three friends groups, Pokorski said. Members for each one are now tasked with electing a representative to work with NRTH.
There are many things common to the three parks NRTH can do, including marketing them as a package, he said. This could be accomplished by printing a pamphlet, along with other advertisements.
"If somebody went to Northeast Michigan on vacation, they'd find information on all three parks in a pamphlet," he said.
In order to achieve its goals, NRTH created several subcommittees, each with a specific set of tasks, Pokorski said. One will focus on tourism, while another will focus on where ORV users can ride in the parks without hurting them.
Pokorski, along with Rick Deuell of Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, will focus on writing grants to fund several projects, he said. One of them would be for a banner promoting the three parks that could be used at events and festivals.
NRTH members also agreed on marking more trails, especially at the newly designated Rockport State Recreation Area, Pokorski said. Volunteers will use GPS coordinates to map the trails, and the committee will work on a standard system of markings so users will know they're on a trail designated for a certain use.
"Negwegon seems to be doing well with it, and Thompson's Harbor is getting started, so we're looking at it and saying, 'How do we go and mark it,'" he said.
A major priority will be to mark the trail to Rockport's sinkholes, Pokorski said. Currently, they can be reached by trails that are difficult to find for those unfamiliar with the land.
Users of the parks also will notice more trail cleanups, as well as other fixes, Pokorski said.
"Some trails at Rockport have big divots," he said. "They said you could lose a car in them, so we need to fix those."
Along with reports from friends groups, NRTH members also heard a report from the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, Pokorski said. The group is working more and more with teachers, and the three parks have been used as living classrooms for students from nearby schools.
"The stewardship program is great, but we haven't done the tourism," he said. "We decided it's time NRTH changes direction and accomplishes these goals."
NRTH's next meeting will be from 7-9 p.m. at the Alcona Township Hall on Oct. 30, said Jeff Shea, committee secretary. Paul Curtis, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources management plan administrator, will attend to explain how to open up the parks to more use while protecting the environment.
Shea said the committee should also hear the first reports from its newly formed subcommittees.
While the DNR makes the final decision on whether to take the committee's advice, the department has been a good partner, Pokorski said.
"They want our input, and they are being extremely good to work with," he said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.