MSU students present plan for Rockport Recreation Area

ALPENA – Interested community members and involved officials listened to Michigan State University students present their ideas on the future development of Rockport Recreation Area.

As the 100th state park in Michigan, Rockport Recreation Area still is in need of developing a way to draw in more visitors. However there has not been a clear consensus on which direction should be taken.

The Friends of Rockport, a nonprofit organization, set out to spearhead the development of the more than 4,200 acre piece of land. The land is full of hidden treasures geographically unique to the area.

Being officially designated as a Dark Sky Preserve, Rockport can boast a deep-water harbor, 300 acre old limestone quarry, sinkholes, Devonian era fossils and the Besser Natural Area. This also includes differing land types, vegetative cover, cultural resources and recreation opportunities.

Eight students from Michigan State University Professor Karen Russchen landscape and architecture capstone class were tasked with the initial design for future development of the area.

Russchen has been teaching the class now for four years, having completed designs for areas in East Lansing, Holland and Boyne City.

The class is designed to showcase what students have learned over their academic tenure. Taking the project from beginning to end, students participate in a site visit as well as research the different facets involved with the development.

In September, the students traversed north to Rockport where Department of Natural Resources officials gave them tours of the area.

“We all piled into four wheel drive vehicles and got a real thorough look into the area,” Russchen said. “We stopped at the limestone pile, the fossil collecting area, the sinkholes, the Besser Natural Area and then went to the beach.”

At each stop students would switch vehicles so they could hear the DNR workers’ differing perspectives of the area, Russchen said.

The students were split into four groups who each took a different theme in their presentations. The presentation were given by the students Tuesday afternoon to community members and DNR officials at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The themes of the four presentations were sightseeing, education and entertainment; balance, looking into balancing the environmental, social and economic factors of the area; green lungs, a concept of sustainable development and maintaining a healthy environment; and immerse yourself into adventure, a theme based on the adventure of the area and developing campsites and different types of trails.

Each group had roughly 10-15 minutes to present which was followed by a short question session.

“I thought the students did a very good job representing the first process of the design,” Russchen said. “They were given a task of looking at things to research such as topography, history, and culture among other things.”

Friends of Rockport President Carol Dodge Grochowski said the presentations were interesting to listen to.

“I thought that they came up with some unique creative ideas,” Grochowski said. “Some of it pertains to our situation and our mindset of promoting the naturalness of the area.”

The students are not done yet either. On Oct. 20 they will meet in Lansing for their final presentation.

The Friends of Rockport are not done in its endeavor to develop the area either. Grochowski said the group will remain active in promoting the area whether through the annual XTERRA triathlon, Smores ‘n’ Meteors, or other events throughout the year.

Grochowski believes Northeast Michigan has been overlooked by Lansing when it comes to DNR funding so she hopes this and other outreaches will pull the attention of Lansing officials.

“Having events helps bring attention to the area to show the need for investment,” Grochowski said. “This will ultimately help Alpena and the local economy. We just have to bring attention to the area across the state.”

Tyler Winowiecki can be reached via email at twinowiecki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Tyler on Twitter tw_alpenanews. Read his blog, Just a Thought … at www.thealpenanews.com.


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