Scottville Update: Forward March!
A column by Rob Alway
In November of last year, I was elected as a Scottville commissioner-at-large. For those who know me, you know that have a deep loyalty in our little city. I also have faith that our town can once again be great. A couple times a month, I intend to write this column about some of the great things happening in Scottville.
For my first submission, I would like to share with you a project that is very dear to my heart, the community center, park and sculpture project.
This project started about two years ago when Scottville was given the opportunity through some start-up grant funds and donations, to place a heritage sculpture in our town, as part of the Mason County Sculpture Trail. A committee was created and it selected the Scottville Clown Band as its theme.
The committee then commissioned local sculptor, artist, and film producer Harold David Cronk to create the sculpture. Cronk’s vision of “Forward March!” took the sculpture to a whole new level, an interactive piece that would portray the fun and uniqueness of the Clown Band along with elements of Scottville’s agricultural heritage added in. It was decided that the most appropriate place to display the sculpture would be in front of the Scottville Clown Band Shell adjacent to the Scottville Optimist Center.
About this same time, the Scottville Optimist Club started doing some soul searching. The club’s slogan is “Friend of Youth”, with a mission to support local children along with other community projects. However, for the past several years, the club has spent a large portion of its annual budget maintaining the aging building, rather than using its funds for the kids.
Through this, a conversation was started with the Scottville Downtown Development Authority to acquire the building and property, including the band shell with the stipulation that the Optimist club would have access to the building for its meetings and select community events. Plus, the grounds would be called Scottville Optimist Park.
In 2017, the Optimist Club had the building inspected. The inspector determined that while the building is in need of many repairs, its frame is solid and will last for many more years. The DDA is in the process of developing a plan to completely renovate the building, including adding a new roof, new heating and cooling, updating electrical and plumbing, plus interior and exterior updates. A patio space is planned on the west side of the building, allowing for the placement of tents and for renters to utilized both indoor and outdoor space.
The band shell is likely going to be moved to the southern boundary of the property, facing north. This will open up the park space and also be a more pleasant experience for concert-goers, who currently are typically looking due west, into the sun, during summer evening shows.
The building and park design is being overseen by our sculptor, Harold Cronk, which will allow the entire project to be uniform and part of his creation. Cronk has a vision to create a place where people can keep coming back to. He has ideas to create play structures that are incorporated into existing trees with a literary theme. That theme, along with the historical theme of the sculpture will give an educational component to the park.
The estimates for this entire project are near $500,000. We are optimistic (no pun intended) that we will raise these funds. Currently the DDA and the Optimist Club are exploring various funding options with a combination of utilizing DDA funds, financing and fund raising.
The current Optimist building is our town’s community center and the renovation of this building and improvements of the park are essential for economic growth of our town. Each year, the building is used for many community functions. It also has potential to generate revenue through rentals, especially since it will be one of the few indoor-outdoor venues in the county. The center and eastern side of Mason County needs to continue to be relevant and needs to provide goods and services to its residents. I strongly believe that this project is the key to re-developing the “out county.”
If you would like to discuss this project with me more, or any other topic relevant to the city of Scottville, please feel free to email me at [email protected] or call me at 231-757-3202. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation towards the project, you may send that donation to Scottville Sculpture Project, Community Foundation for Mason County, PO Box 10, Ludington, MI 49431.
Editor’s Note: Rob Alway is owner/editor-in-chief of Mason County Press and serves as a City of Scottville commissioner-at-large, serving on the finance/ordinance committee, public safety/infrastructure committee, Downtown Development Authority and as chair of the City of Scottville Planning Commission. He is also treasurer (and life member) of the Scottville Clown Band and serves on the Mason County Farm Bureau board of directors.