ROGERS CITY - Rogers City's population is shrinking, and one business owner wants to do something about it.
Gary Rickard, Presque Isle Athletic Club and Center of Rogers City owner, is holding an organizational meeting for "A New Rogers City." It's a civic group he's hoping to start to come up with ideas on how to stop the city's population slide. Census numbers show the county seat's population has dropped from 4,722 in 1960 to 2,827 in 2010. If left unchecked, this population loss could hurt the city's standards of living, he said.
"When we get to 2,000 people, will we be able to have a police department, will parks be able to be maintained?" he said. "Definitely, water and sewer rates will go up."
The first meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Center of Rogers City. Rickard's also started a website, at www.anewrogerscity.org, to gather comments.
By starting the group, Rickard is hoping to seed a grassroots effort to come up with ideas, and bring what he sees as a slow-burning crisis to the forefront. Rogers City is blessed with quite a bit: It's right on the shores of Lake Huron, has lots of nice parks, wide streets and sidewalks, and a bike trail rivaling those found in larger cities.
"I really think that, with all the blessings given to Rogers City, we can turn it around," he said.
Rickard referred to an article in the Wall Street Journal pointing out a trend of shrinking populations affecting rural counties everywhere. Nearly 60 percent of rural counties shrank in 2013, a higher percentage than in 2009 and the previous decade. Out of that 60 percent, more than half of these counties were dependent on farming, manufacturing or mining.
Jobs are critical to stabilizing the city, Rickard said. He believes that part-time residents in the county are a largely untapped resource. Some may want to start a business, or support the starting of one.
Restarting the city's Main Street Program could help as well, Rickard said, and he plans to have Main Street directors from Alpena and Boyne City in town in the future to talk to the group.
These are only two idea, and Rickard said he's hoping lots of residents will contribute theirs. Whatever happens, he feels the need to take action.
"I don't want some day to sit in my rocking chair and know I could have done something and didn't," he said.