I have been to probably a dozen or so master planning, feasibilities and development sessions for the City of Trenton, its Downtown Development Authority, the Trenton Business Association and the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber over the past few years.
There have been walkability studies, place making sessions, branding initiatives and study sessions analyzing what we have and what we would like to have in our city.
There has been some action taken toward some of these items. For example, the walkability study has turned into a connection for the City of Trenton with the Downriver linked greenways initiative. These study groups have led our Parks and Recreation director, Joann Gonyea, to being able to build biking paths that connect with the Iron Bell trail and will ultimately earmark our city as a Trail Town.
Another example is Kayaking. Ten years ago, no one would have thought the Detroit River could be a tourist location for kayaking. Because of the efforts of Anita Twardesky, Riverside Kayak and Mary Bohling, (Michigan Sea Grant) Michigan State Extension, who created a Downriver Greenways initiative that eventually turned into a waterways initiative, we now have tourists from all over the country and the world seeking the adventure of kayaking Downriver on the Detroit River and even taking water tours to Zug Island and Belle Isle.
We now have two live theatre companies in town, The Trenton Village Theatre, which has been operated by the Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center for nearly 20 years now, and a newcomer, Open Book Theatre. The city also has attracted an Escape Room on West Jefferson. What other destination-type businesses can we imagine and then pursue to join our community?
The Trenton Coast Resiliency Plan was part of the Michigan Association of Planning’s Master Planning for Sustainability and Resiliency grant program. Financial assistance for this project was provided, in part, by the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program, Office of the Great Lakes, Department of Environmental Quality, under the National Coastal Zone Management Program, through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.
They established six Characteristics of a Community: knowledgeable, healthy and organized, established priorities, relationships with business, infrastructure and services with strong housing, transportations, water and power systems in place, has economic opportunities available, is flexible, creative and can manage and maintain natural assets.
Not only did this group grade our city services with adults, but they also were graded by eighth grade students. While the majority of the grades were A’s and B’s, it is interesting that citizens graded the city a D+ on economic opportunities and students also ranked the city a D on having a plan in a changing world. This meeting was held in the fall of 2016 and the plan was placed on file in July 2017.
Another planning session, through a grant of Downriver Community Conference brownfield redevelopment, was initiated this past November of 2017. It asked many of the same questions the previous plan had asked and answered. That plan is scheduled to be rolled out this year, hopefully with more specific action items.
The Trenton Downtown Development Authority hasn’t had funding for any downtown area marketing in a few years due to paying off the sewer project. So other groups such as the Trenton Business Association have stepped up to look at ways they can try to help. In 2015 the TBA initiated a banner program to help decorate and promote the Downtown area and that program will run through December 2018, funded by Trenton Business and Trenton Rotary members.
I am currently involved in a coalition led by members of the Southern Wayne County Chamber, Downriver Linked Greenways and Riverside Kayak called Destination Downriver. The group is working on an interactive GPS-based website that informs, directs and depicts Downriver destinations as a place to live, work and play.
There is still much more to do. But I have always believed much of what could be corrected with our city and Downriver in general would be solved if we had additional like-minded businesses move to town. We started the Trib newspaper with that thought at the forefront of our own business plan. There are a few other businesses in town that think this way and have more new plans in the works that we will report on soon.
What if we can attract more restaurants and destination spots to our city? What if we could have a sustainable business all lined up to take over the space at DTE before they move out? What if we used waterfront property to attract more marina and rowing and fishing tournament-based activities? What other festivals, events and destinations could we dream up to take advantage of the thousands, maybe millions of visitors that will be flocking to the only International Wildlife refuge in the U.S. right on West Jefferson?
I have a copy of the Trenton Master Plan as presented by Trenton Coast at our office if you would like to borrow it to review it in full and hope to receive a copy of the next Master Plan that is currently in the works. There is also a group of concerned area citizens that has formed to monitor the progress of activities on our Riverfront. We are working on a story about that for a future issue. Whether it be the entire Downriver area or just the city of Trenton, it will take us all saying the same thing about “What is” our city/area and what can be for future generations?
Kathy Kane is business manager and co-publisher of the Trenton Trib. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 676-0850.
Comments and story ideas also can be emailed to the Trib at email@example.com