Ingham County debates parks and trails funding allocation

Mar 14, 2016

An Ingham County task force spent last year working on how best to use money from a voter-approved parks and trails millage proposal. Their recommendations are now going before the county board of commissioners. Current State talks with the chair of the board, Kara Hope, and commissioner Teri Banas.


Voters in Ingham County approved a six-year, one-half mill levy in 2014 to support parks and trails in the county. It’s estimated that the millage will produce $3.5-million annually for the operations of county parks. The plans have included trails in the Mason, Williamston and Delhi Township areas as well as near the Michigan State University campus. Since that vote, a county task force has worked on plans related to how those dollars should be used.

Now, that task force is sending recommendations to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners.

Current State talks with Kara Hope, who chairs the board, and commissioner Teri Banas.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Local governments are essentially going to be asked to compete for millage money. How does this process work?

“The task force just last week recommended a spending plan for trail improvements and maintenance in the coming couple of years. What we are recommending needs to be voted on by the full board of commissioners.   

We had consultants do a full inventory of the system and assess conditions of the trails and bridges. Of the 84 sections of the trail, 50 are in the Lansing River Trail system. Those are all being recommended for the first go around of improvements.” -- Teri Banas

How do you respond to criticism of the millage?

“I believe the criticism of the grant process - and I share the criticism - is that it pits communities against each other, instead of taking a holistic approach.” -- Kara Hope

"We’ve modeled ourselves after the DNR. They have a pot of money they distribute to communities that need projects. We look at these projects by how important they are to the system, and how important they are to the community. Do they have support? We need to make our dollars stretch.” -- Banas

It would seem the city has a strong case for receiving quite a bit of this money. Is that a fair assessment?

“From my point of view, it is a fair assessment. Speaking of the language that was on the ballot, the Lansing River Trail was the only system mentioned by name. The purpose of the ballot language was to create and maintain a county-wide system of trails. The Lansing River trail, with its 16 or 17 miles of trail, is the heart of the system. If that heart isn’t healthy, then every section that connects will suffer from less usage or less value.” -- Hope