Traverse City, Michigan's new waterfront redevelopment plan contains some truly visionary ideas. Establishing a new lakefront 'town square' with plenty of open space for festivals, concerts, and lounging. Expanding the marina, volley ball courts, public art scenes, and beaches. And burying the 4-lane Grandview Parkway below grade to reconnect the central business district with the beautiful shores of Grand Traverse Bay.
Indeed, like Chicago, Cleveland, and other Great Lakes cities, Traverse City's new plan recommends serious investment in paradigm-shifting projects to maximize the value of the waterfront, elevate the quality of the place for residents and tourists, and strengthen competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.
So what's the first thing a State of Michigan employee seizes on when asked to react to this bold new vision for the city's future? Fish cleaning stations. That's right. Fish cleaning stations.
"Ports that have these fish-cleaning stations are really popular,” Todd Kalish, a representative of the state Dept. of Natural Resources told the Traverse City Record Eagle. "If you don't have an adequate place to clean them you have to take them home and clean them on your kitchen table."
Don't get me wrong. Fish cleaning stations can be an important waterfront amenity, particularly in places like Northern Michigan where fishing is a boon to the local spirit and economy.
But it's pretty low hanging fruit. The redevelopment bar must be much higher if waterfront cities want to take full advantage of their unique assets. That's especially true for state leaders who control significant spending decisions that often times determine whether local communities like Traverse City realize the full potential of their grand plans.
Kalish, by the way, reportedly was quick to point out that his agency lacked the funding for the fish huts. And that points to the larger pressing problem for state government in Michigan today.
State leaders are so caught up in partisan bickering, budget fights, and ideology they can't even dress up one of the state's more popular summer hot spots with a table and a garbage can for fish guts.
Nevermind prioritizing a strategy to safeguard, enhance, and leverage the state's most valuable natural asset: the Great Lakes