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Children enjoying the natural area of Tobico Marsh at Bay City State Recreation Area. (DNR Photo)

STATE PARK PLAN: Trail to Ironwood Planned Near BCSRA

DNR Phase 2 Underway, Public Opinions Sought

September 4, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking citizen input on a draft 10-year Action Plan for the Bay City State Recreation Area (BCSRA).

BCSRA plays an important role in the region for recreation, nature appreciation, education and the environment. It features one of the few public access points to Saginaw Bay. An estimated 20,000 school children visit from within a 1-hour drive of the park.

Organic build-up on the beach at Bay City State Recreation Area is an ongoing management challenge that limits the public use of the beach. Historically, this beach has drawn, and has the potential to continue to draw, thousands of people to enjoy access to Saginaw Bay.

Projects currently underway include construction of a campground host shelter and construction of a shoreline access boardwalk.

The Michigan Comprehensive Trail Plan (2013) identifies eight priority recommendations with associated key actions that should be implemented to assist in achieving the vision of establishing a high quality, nationally recognized, statewide trail plan. An outcome of this plan is the Iron-Belle Trail, a hiking and biking route from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood on the Wisconsin border. The biking route of this state trail passes through or near Bay City State Recreation Area.

Please see the following link:

The proposed long-range action plan provides specific action goals focused on the natural resources, historic-cultural resources, recreation opportunities, and the education-interpretation opportunities of each zone established in Phase 1 General Management Plan.

The Phase 1 General Management Plan for Bay City State Recreation Area was adopted in 2010. In this phase, the first action is to re-evaluate the Phase 1 plan to assure that no conditions have changed that would cause a modification in the overall guiding document. The Planning Team has reviewed the Phase 1, significance statements, management zones and proposed project boundary recommendations and found that the plan remains relevant today.

The second phase of management planning for Bay City State Recreation Area (BCSRA) establishes long-range action goals for the park as a whole and for each of the management zones defined in the General Management Plan.

In 2014 a Lakefront and Beach Access Study was developed in partnership with Bay County and community members. This report was subsequent to the Phase I GMP and focused on soliciting public input and evaluating development and recreation opportunities specific to the park's under-utilized lakeshore area. The recommendations of the Lakefront Study that constitute specific actions to be undertaken over the next 10- years have been incorporated into this Phase 2 plan.

The Planning Team provided updates on the progress that had been made at the park since the Phase 1 GMP and the Lakefront and Beach Access Study. The completed projects, with the majority receiving support from the Friends of BCSRA and other community groups, included: Phase 2 of the GMP provides an opportunity to re-evaluate and assure that no conditions have changed that would warrant revision of the overall guiding document.

The Planning Team reviewed the Phase 1 GMP including the significance statements, management zones, and the proposed project boundary. This planning effort was confirmed to remain appropriate in providing the guiding framework for Phase 2 of the GMP.

The BCSRA is a destination for birding. It provides stopover habitat for migrating songbirds and is home for many rare nesting marsh birds. The Tobico Marsh is a significant staging location for migratory waterfowl.

Significant resident bird species include the marsh wren, American bittern, yellow-headed blackbird, black-crowned night heron, least bittern, and common moorhen.

The park offers unique natural resources, including southern hardwood swamp, wooded dune & swale, emergent marsh, lake plain oak openings, and lake plain prairie.

Due to its location on Saginaw Bay, its connectivity to Bay City through trails, and the facilities available within the park, the local community feels a sense of ownership of Bay City State Recreation Area. The park serves as a buffer strip between the surrounding commercial development and Saginaw Bay. Special community events, such as the annual Waterfowl Festival, trail rides, wellness walks / runs, and the like are held within the park throughout the year.

The BCSRA provides unique natural resources for species along Saginaw Bay shoreline and the inland marsh. The visitor center provides valuable educational opportunities.

The Tobico Marsh is a National Natural Landmark, one of only 600 properties so designated by the National Park Service. It is significant because it is one of the best fresh-water marshes in the north-central United States, and because of its large size and relatively undisturbed condition, and the variety of aquatic plant communities, ranging from open water to marsh vegetation. The marsh hosts a variety of uncommon animal and plant species. The marsh serves a key role as 'Nature's Water Filter,' protecting underground water sources and Saginaw Bay from excessive run-off and pollutants.

The Visitor Center is a well-used resource for education / interpretation. Additional education and interpretive opportunities exist within the park relating to fishing, archery skills, and invasive species identification and control.

Year-round recreation opportunities include camping, archery, hiking trails, biking, wildlife viewing, fishing, ice fishing, and hunting. It is one of the few public access points for ice fishing in the area.

The park area has a rich history, from its use by many different Native American tribes, to logging, to its history as the renowned Tobico Hunt Club.

A variety of natural resource, sporting, and friends groups are active within the park.

Stakeholder, public and tribal outreach is an important part of the planning process. PRD hosted a stakeholder workshop and a public participation workshop. Both the stakeholder and public participation workshops involved solicited written and verbal comments. The draft plan was available for review on the project website and the public was invited to email, call or mail questions or comments concerning this initiative. In addition, the DNR informed Tribal Governments of the planning process and invited them to meet with the DNR and PRD to discuss the GMP and provide input. Upon compiling the input, the Planning Team discussed and refined the plan as appropriate. A summary of all these outreach efforts and input received is documented in Appendix C. ###

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Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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