About 75 people crowded into the Peninsula Township Hall last night to hear the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s plans for Kelley Park on Mission Road. At the informational meeting, which took place at the beginning of the Park Commission meeting, DNR District Supervisor Tim Schreiner outlined plans for Kelley Park, also known as the “Old Moorings” or “Nevinger Campground,” located across the road from the Old Mission Inn on Mission Road.
Schreiner explained that when the DNR purchased Kelley Park a number of years ago with funds from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, they did something they don’t normally do. Because Kelley Park is located so close to Peninsula Township’s Haserot Beach Park, they agreed to work with the Township to make the best use of that entire area.
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Also, because of the possibility of arsenic, hydrocarbons and other pollution in the water at Kelley Park, the DNR received funding for a sieve test – which analyzes granules of sand to determine how they collect organic materials – of the soils underneath the water there. Schreiner said they tested the soils about 450 feet from shore, as that depth – about four feet – is the standard for a boat launch, should one be installed there.
The test revealed that there were no arsenics, hydrocarbons or other contaminants in the water. However, a boat launch at Kelley Park wasn’t feasible because of the major amount of dredging that would be required to install one there. Schreiner said if they were to dredge a channel to create a boat launch, they would have to remove 6,264 yards of soil, which translates to 160 double bottom semi-truck loads, and another 160 yards, or 10 double bottom semi-truck loads, per year to maintain it.
Because of this data, he said the $150,000 in the district budget for design, study and structures wouldn’t begin to cover the cost of dredging. The DNR concluded that Kelley Park is best suited for carry-down boats – kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, etc. – which do not require a dredged channel. The DNR will also utilize some of the current asphalt and pavement for parking, starting small with spaces for five single vehicles and five trailered vehicles. A vault toilet might be included in the design, as well.
As for whether Kelley Park could be used as a public beach, that’s more complicated. “We met with the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) about the inland waters – those puddles next to the beach,” said Schreiner. “There are wetland grasses in that area, which are protected by the DEQ. So it’s a little more complicated than just saying we’re going to do ABC.”
However, he noted that before anything happens, the DNR will hold a public hearing with the Township Board and Peninsula Township residents. “We don’t want to come in and be the goons that ruin your life,” said Schreiner.
He said they would also draft a letter between the Township and DNR expressing interest in working together on maintenance for Kelley Park, possibly a long-term lease where the Township takes on more of the operational responsibilities.
During the Q&A session of the meeting, many residents brought up the issues associated with Haserot Beach, including congestion, traffic and safety of kids and adults crossing the road to get to the beach. Schreiner said that while the DNR is available to help with the boat launch, they do not want to tell the Township what to do with the park.
“The DNR has never had, nor do we have, any desire to tell the Township what they should do at Haserot,” he said. “If the Township would like DNR assistance in the way of grant dollars to potentially do something with that existing boat launch or anything else at Haserot Beach, we will get the assistance we can. But it’s got to be a Township driven thing. It’s not going to be driven by the DNR.”
He added, “The DNR is not going to do any changes at Haserot. We have no intention to go in there. If the Township says, ‘We want you to help us build a ramp,’ then I would have my staff come out and work with Rob (Manigold, Township Supervisor), the planners and engineers, and I’ll talk to my leadership in Lansing and see what we can do.”
Should the Township ever decide to close the boat launch at Haserot and pursue building a boat launch at Kelley Park, Schreiner noted that because of the high cost of dredging, both to install the boat launch and maintain it, they would require a needs assessment to make sure the boaters “get the most bang for their buck.”
Lisa LaBonte, whose father owns beachfront property near Kelley Park, asked if the DNR had any provisions for protecting the homeowners in the area. Schreiner said they could help with “private property” signage and fences. He added that while people have the right to walk on the beach within the high water mark, it’s not legal for them to put out chairs, build fires, or otherwise use the beach.
Regarding the issues at Haserot Beach involving congestion, traffic and safety, park commissioner Don Atkinson outlined the goals determined at a public meeting on May 24, including:
- Swim/safety buoys to separate boat traffic from launch and swim area.
- Fencing along roadway (beach side) to inhibit parking and limit random crossings; a split rail fence is suggested, with one or two breaks accompanied by painted crosswalks.
- Signage warning of road crossings and pedestrians to be placed at junction of Traverse Street and Swaney Road, and Swaney Road and The Pines.
- One one-lane boat launch to be made safe and secure in present location, with no other boat launches installed. Soft kayak launch to be placed at Kelley Park.
- Three to four maple trees to be planted as recommended by locals.
- Improve water access: fountain or irrigation are possibilities.
- Better organization regarding clean-up; possibly hire help.
- Deal with overuse/parking problems by one or more – parking fees, launch fees, better enforcement, extend parking across the street behind the American Legion Hall.
Schreiner also suggested the possibility of using Kelley Park to park vehicles and trailers associated with the Haserot Beach boat launch. He added that there are no plans to institute a fee for using the Haserot Beach boat launch or Kelley Park carry-down launch.