ONTONAGON — Ontonagon is in the process of some major improvements. The village of Ontonagon is one of the four communities in the state of Michigan selected for the sustainable small harbor management strategy project.
The project is part of a case study designed to help assist small harbor communities develop ways to attract businesses, tourists and more by making better use of waterfront areas. A project team full of profound and experienced economists, professors and other experts will be providing an opportunity that wouldn’t likely come to the village otherwise.
“The chances of bringing this group of experts up from downstate to come to Ontonagon for this would be very expensive for our community,” said Ontonagon Village Manager Joe Erickson, “so to be part of this case study is a lot of good information and expertise that comes to town that we might not have access to.”
One of the most important reasons for sustainability planning has to do with the adversity the village has recently overcome.
“In the past few years, the mill has closed in town, the mines closed about a decade ago, so there’s been a lot of economic hardships that have taken place,” Erickson added, “but the river, the lakeshore, those have remained and we need to find ways that we can emphasize and make use of those resources.”
Some of the targeted areas include the island adjacent to downtown, the old Escanaba Lake Superior rail yard, the Ontonagon Marina and their surrounding areas.
Part of the plan is to continue to build on the assets that the village already has, like the Ontonagon Harbor Lighthouse.
“I look at Ontonagon like a gem that’s just a little bit dirty,” said Future Business Owner Dan Sullivan, “it just needs to be shined up.”
“I think the biggest thing that we’re looking for is to improve access and improve visibility of these things,” said Erickson, “they’re assets that are already here, it’s just a matter of making them a little more visible to the public and people who come into our town and also making them attractive so they become places where people want to visit.”
Even though a large number of professionals from out of town are guiding the project, community input and involvement is highly encouraged.
“The more people that show up at these meetings the better because it gives us more diversity in the ideas,” added Sullivan, “what we are trying to do as a community is come together with a consensus. What do we want as a community moving forward? Not only for recreation and our harbor, but also for our main street, River Street in our town.”
The next set of meetings will be held November 5th through the 7th. The energy throughout the community is optimistic and hopeful to sustain the village and improve upon all it has to offer.