Events Return To Old Mission, Plus Township Approves Seven Hills Development & Parks Contract

Two long-running events on the Old Mission Peninsula – the Blessing of Blossoms and the National Cherry Festival’s Meijer Festival of Races – are returning in person this year after going virtual in 2020. An event to celebrate local history called Harvest in the Park is scheduled for August at Lighthouse Park. Peninsula Township discussed the events on Tuesday at a meeting at which they also approved a development group’s plans to revitalize the Seven Hills commercial complex and a consultancy agreement to look into funding opportunities for township parks.

A tradition that goes back a century will return this year on the Old Mission Peninsula as the peninsula’s four church leaders – Dr. Gary Hogue, Pastor Zelphia Mobley, Rev. Ben Rexroat and Pastor Peter Shumar – together with the Diocese of Gaylord Bishop Walter Hurley, a ceremonial blessing of flowers on Sunday May 16.

The ceremony, which took place virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic, will take place in person at 1 p.m. in St. Joseph’s Church, followed by a free cherry cake reception at Chateau Chantal. The tradition dates back to 1910 when the residents of the Old Mission held a “Blessing of the Blossoms” ceremony to pray for a good cherry harvest. In 1925, in partnership with the business owners of Traverse City, the event evolved into the Blessing of the Blossoms Festival and eventually became the Michigan Cherry Festival and then the National Cherry Festival.

The return of a personal Blessing of the Blossoms ceremony this year coincides with the National Cherry Festival and returns with live events like the Meijer Festival of Races on July 10th. The Peninsula Township trustees unanimously approved an event proposal from the festival to bring the race back in person this year. In downtown Traverse City, a 5 km and a 10 km route as well as a 15 km and a half marathon route are planned, using parts of the peninsula including road segments as well as private vineyards and orchards. The 15 km and half marathon races are limited to 300 participants each due to the pandemic and, according to Kat Paye, Executive Director of the National Cherry Festival, are already full from pre-registration.

Courses include temporary morning road closures, including Peninsula Drive between Front Street and Montmorency Lane, as well as a possible brief block on Island View Road as per application. Alternative transport routes are available to residents of the community, and the race structures will be cleared by 11 a.m. Community trustees noted that they have received no complaints about the race in recent years and that the festival organizers worked well with the community and local emergency departments to coordinate a smooth event.

The community’s trustees also approved a proposal from the Old Mission Peninsula Historical Society (OMPHS) on Tuesday to hold an event called Harvest Our History at Lighthouse Park on August 29. The event replaces the Old Mission’s typical annual national annual Log House Day celebration, which usually takes place on the last Sunday in June, with a later event this summer where COVID-19 restrictions may be relaxed. According to application documents, OMPHS will open the historic Hessler log cabin for public tours, offer lighthouse tours and offer concessions and special activities during the all-day event that marks the 22nd year of celebrating local history in the park.

Seven Hills development
After several months of community reviews and repeated revisions of the application documents, a trio of local developers received the go-ahead from the trustees on Tuesday to redevelop the Seven Hills commercial complex at 13795 Seven Hills Road north of Devil’s Dive Road.

Jay Milliken, Troy Daily and Jordan Valdmanis plan to create a “community-oriented” center on site that will include a coffee shop, tasting room, restaurant, studios (including some existing tenants), and health and wellness businesses. In consultation with community staff to meet zoning requirements, the developers dropped some aspects of their original plans, including a small 10-room motel, farmers market, and recreational equipment rentals on the property. The trio also cleared a number of technical issues – such as lighting and outdoor facilities – to gain community approval. Community Chairman Rob Manigold said these application updates represented a “turning point” in getting the plan into an acceptable place to move forward, with the board unanimously approving the application.

Park study contract
Although Peninsula Township manages over 1,000 acres of public recreation and facilities on half a dozen park lots, Parklands do not have a dedicated annual township budget, making it difficult for the park committee to do basic maintenance, operations, or plan major capital improvement projects in advance . The trustees hope to change that by commissioning the Land Information Access Association (LIAA) to conduct a feasibility study that will identify potential earmarked funding flows for township parks.

The trustees unanimously approved a $ 9,700 contract with LIAA on Tuesday to complete the feasibility study, which will focus on three components: depicting current operations and maintenance needs, usage, and desired capital improvement projects in parks; Completing a tax analysis that includes annual estimated operating and capital budgets; and a funding plan that could include options such as grant opportunities, allocations from the community’s general fund, and / or a voter-approved millage for park improvement and maintenance. The trustees were enthusiastic about the management of the park study while the municipality is in the process of updating the master plan. Board members also shared their desire to involve the public as much as possible in the study, as well as in future stages of deciding how best to improve and expand parklands.

Photo credit: National Cherry Festival

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