2018-01-11 / Front Page

Sebewaing downtown revitalization continues

By John Bonke
Staff Writer • jbonke@mihomepaper.com

SEBEWAING - An effort to revitalize downtown Sebewaing began in 2016 and continues as the village looks to improve what it has to offer.

Part two of a presentation on what four members of a First Impressions group experienced in Sebewaing featured a power-point conducted by community leadership team member Jeff Parsons in mid-December.

The four members of Michigan State University’s FIT, which is short for First Impressions assessing your community for Tourism, visited the village to experience what a first-time visitor would see. They were in Sebewaing in May and June to help the community learn its strengths and weaknesses and to offer recommendation.

The first presentation was in mid-November.

The second program in December offered positive and negative points from the FIT group.

Destination comments by the visitors and their positive experiences included well-developed reputation as a hunting and fishing destination, great potential for nature-based recreation like kayaking and birding, large, wellkept residential areas, kind staff at the campground and well-maintained, picturesque sites, downtown is close to the water and campgrounds, nearby islands and rivers for attracting kayakers, huge potential for farm-to-table ag-tourism, and close to large cities in the area.

The visitors said Sebewaing’s weaknesses included getting businesses downtown, update accommodations, need to create a strong online presence, marketing campaign, lack of personnel primarily for downtown development, and prominence of large, vacant, industrial sites.

Suggestions for improvements included business relocation incentives to revitalize downtown, add new accommodation options to attract campers into downtown, museums should have interpretative signs, walking tour and brochures, develop a theme for the town, emphasize the main park and water access, and more restaurants.

More specific ideas included kayak docks at the county park, biking routes, brewery as a community social hub, with a viewing platform for sunsets, programs to drive businesses back downtown, shop local buy local program, pop-up retail businesses, kiosks and signage, and a fishing competition.

Some projects have been identified as ‘next steps’ and they include walking trails, kayaking and boating opportunities, signs for the historic district, and a new map for the Sebewaing Chamber of Commerce.

The village will be getting some outside assistance with their efforts for walking trails and kayaking and boating opportunities.

The MSU School of Planning, Design & Construction will enlist students to do a practicum this month.

The village will also be looking into grant funds available for signage on the M-25 corridor to direct people downtown to the historic district.

Another project being considered is a new chamber of commerce map that lists more businesses and attractions, including non-members, that can be used in print and online. One thought is that an online map could offer increased information for chamber members.

Community leadership team member Melanie McCoy said there was a great discussion at the recent meeting.

McCoy said the next basic step is to decide how to use the $2,000 in grant monies that came along with the First Impressions visitors. The top ideas include directional signage leading to the downtown, developing a walking path or trail and funding a project to bring kayaking to the village.

McCoy said the MSU student project will help the village evaluate the river for kayaking and look at locations for dockage, estimating costs and looking for grant funding. She said that it has been noted that some prefer kayaking in a river setting instead of a bay or large lake.

Downtown revitalization efforts are continuing from Michigan State Housing Development Authority Main Street program, which started the community looking at ideas and developing priorities, she added.

One of the programs that came out of that effort is the Sebewaing Lawn Chair Film Festival, McCoy said.

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