A $600,000 outdoor asphalt walking pathway planned for Tuscola County Medical Care Community residents – and the public – took a big step forward Monday with state Sen. Mike Green announcing a $300,000 state appropriation to help fund the project.
“It isn’t all of it, and I would like to have it all, but at least this will give you a good start and I’m proud to be able to present that to you this morning,” said Green, R-Mayville, addressing the Tuscola Medical Care Foundation board of trustees on Monday morning.
Green said he and state Rep. Edward “Ned” Canfield, R-Sebewaing, worked for approval of the $300,000 special-project line item in the state budget.
“It was approved the other day. The governor (Rick Snyder) signed it, and it’s all done,” Green said. “It’s in a fund, so you don’t have to spend it; it’s already appropriated.” The pathway would consist of about three-quarters of a mile of asphalt trail leading west from the medical care facility, across existing farmland into a wooded area east of Luder Road. Once in the woods, the path would loop and meander past the spot of a proposed pavilion.
The Tuscola County Medical Care Community is finishing up its payments to Tuscola County to buy the property for the project.
Two rest stations are planned along the pathway, with two proposed entrances to the path: one behind the medical care facility and the other along the east side of Luder Road adjacent to a proposed parking lot. The Luder Road entrance would include a gate to block trail access at times.
The proposed pavilion in the woods would feature a 32-by-48 structure with eight picnic tables beneath it.
“I look at (the pathway) as an enhancement for our entire community,” said Brenda Kretzschmer, chief executive officer of the Tuscola County Medical Care Community, a complex including the county medical care facility.
Relatives of residents of the medical care community could accompany their loved ones on the pathway, which will be accessible to wheelchairs.
Kretzschmer said the idea of an adjacent asphalt trail, accessible for wheelchair users, appeals greatly to those living in Tuscola County Medical Care Community buildings, which house 159 residents.
“For the people that live right here in my community, right now I’d have to put them on a bus and take them to a trail somewhere,” said Kretzschmer, noting that if the pathway is built on land adjacent to the medical care community buildings, residents and their loved ones could access the trail without being transported via automobile.
“We’ve got places for them to sit in our buildings, but it’s not the same as taking a walk outdoors with a relative or a staff member,” Kretzschmer said.
Kretzschmer sees the pathway as an improvement in the quality of life for those living in the community’s buildings.
“So many of our residents were raised on a farm, and there’s still something about watching a crop grow, or watching a field that’s just been turned,” Kretzschmer said. “Some of the residents sit for hours watching beet trucks or farm equipment going past.
“Farming is such a big part of who we are here.”
Kretzschmer envisions the pathway also serving students at Highland Pines School, located along Cleaver Road and run by the Tuscola Intermediate School District. The school provides services to students from birth to 26 who need highly concentrated special education and therapy services.
Bill Woolwine Jr., president of Serenus Johnson Construction of Bay City who presented a proposal to the medical care foundation trustees regarding the pathway in 2017, noted the plan includes a paved parking lot for eight cars off Luder Road near the western entrance to the path.
“From what I understand they’re going to have a gate that will be open during normal business hours and their maintenance group will make sure that that’s locked for nighttime,” Woolwine said.
Kretzschmer said she hopes construction of the pathway can start in 2019.
Donors wishing to support the project may write a check payable to “Tuscola Medical Care Foundation” and write “Pathway” in the check’s memo line. Mail the check to: Tuscola Medical Care Foundation, 1285 Cleaver Road, Caro, MI 48723.
Matthew J. Koch, planned giving consultant for the Tuscola Medical Care Foundation, said he’ll pursue revenue from other sources as well.
“I will pursue larger foundations who are interested in similar projects for senior citizen complexes and also we will continue to reach out to our donors who have given in the past and raise the additional funds to make this project a reality,” Koch said.
Koch, owner of Koch Financial Design in Vassar, turned to Green after Woolwine presented the pathway-project proposal to foundation trustees last year.
“I was given the task of trying to start raising some money – not just me, but the team – so I reached out to some people, one of them being Sen. Green, and we met two or three times over breakfast,” Koch said.
Green, a former Tuscola County commissioner, said he greatly appreciates Tuscola County Medical Care Community facilities.
“Trust me, I have a love for this place,” Green said. “I hope, someday, I can be here. Not soon, but I hear nothing but good things about it. … From everything that I know of, this is one of the better medical care facilities in the state.”