Parks, infrastructure, economic development on 2021 to-do list in Grand Blanc

GRAND BLANC — Officials in the City of Grand Blanc are looking forward to hitting the ground running in 2021, and tackling some of the projects they had to put on the back burner in 2020.

“We accomplished a lot based on our strategic plan,” said City Manager Wendy Jean-Buhrer. “We did a great job of doing a lot of things, even though we had some COVID impacts.”

Some of the most exciting initiatives will derive from the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The city will work with the Spicer Group to implement parks programs and enhancements.

“That will be a really exciting process because now we have the money to be able to do some things in our own parks, and this will be a great time for the public to come out and participate and let us know what they would like,” Jean- Buhrer said.

Since the city and Grand Blanc Township split up their common Parks and Recreation program in February 2020, the city has been able to bank about $120,000 for its own park plan, which will allow for “some really good things,” she said.

The city has four parks, one of which has deed restrictions that limit changes to passive recreation such as trails and benches.

“Grand Blanc Commons has restrictions,” Jean- Buhrer said. “But in the others – Physicians Park, Rust Park and Schram Park – there are some open canvases that we can do some great work with.

“We’d like to do a more extensive veterans’ section in Rust Park. We are just starting to do a garden around the monument for Lt. William Rust. We have a full plan for next year with the garden. We would also like to do some monuments, possibly a wall, possibly some statues. We will look for grants, and we may do some fundraising.

“We may want to redo some of our playground equipment. At both parks, they’re getting very old, so it may be time to replace them. We take very good care of our equipment, so it’s still usable, but it may be time to look at that, as well.”

Building a warming hut at the ice rink also is on the 2021 to-do list.

The public will have opportunities to weigh in on the park Master Plan starting in January.

“We want to keep our minds open to what else might be out there that the public may want,” Jean-Buhrer said. “We’ll be able to do more than we’ve done before.”

Also in January, city officials will begin to take a close look at the infrastructure, focusing on water and sewer, and funding sources for both.

“That is a very important project for the next year,” Jean- Buhrer said. “We do not anticipate any major projects with water and sewer.

We do have some local and major street projects that may be going on, however.

“We will also look at local streets again. Although we may not do any for the next three to four years, we will start to evaluate and get an idea of what will be the next round and what ones may need to be replaced. That’s always an important piece to our infrastructure.”

The next area of great importance is economic development. The city owns several properties where the City Council hopes to work with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to facilitate development. In 2020, the city achieved Redevelopment Ready Communities status, making it eligible for state resources.

“We will also be looking at some of our empty buildings and working with the individuals who own them, and possibly helping to get them filled,” Jean-Buhrer said.

So much of the progress depends on the COVID- 19 pandemic, she said. But the city will forge ahead, regardless.

The city also hopes to do more with public art to make the community as beautiful as possible.

“We will do anything we can to make our city pop, to make it different than any other neighboring community,” Jean-Buhrer said. “If it’s different, it makes us stand out. We strive to be a little different, but not gaudy. We already have amazing schools, great public safety … we just need those extra little things, that creative culture.”