At last night’s Peninsula Township Board meeting, the board voted unanimously to abandon a proposed boat launch expansion at Haserot Beach and pursue a plan to move the boat launch to nearby Kelley Park, located on Mission Road across from the Old Mission Inn.
The Haserot boat launch and parking lot improvement project, half of which would have been funded by a DNR Waterways Grant with the other half from the township’s Enterprise Fund (funds from cell phone towers), has been a hotly-debated issue among township residents. Some are in favor of the move, while others question the need for an expanded boat launch at either location.
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In an email to the township dated August 28, 2019, Dave Middlemas, whose family is part of the Hyslop, Middlemas and Prescott families who own “The Pines” on Eastern Road in Old Mission, expressed support for moving the boat launch to Kelley Park.
“My family has long been concerned about the safety issues raised by the close proximity of swimmers and motorboats,” he writes. “Additionally, moving the boat ramp will be an important first step in resolving traffic and parking issues at Haserot Beach, and will restore the usage of the area back to what was originally intended – a swimming beach for our community.”
At last night’s meeting, William “Rudy” Rudolph, who lives on Forest Avenue in Old Mission for part of the year, said he likes the idea of moving the boat launch to Kelley Park and creating a low-impact facility there, but also expressed concern about the over-use of resources and suburban development that a larger boat ramp at Kelley Park would bring. Overall, though, he views the move as a positive thing.
Meanwhile, in an email to the township dated Sept. 5, 2019, Mission Road residents Jeanne Rogow and Bond Sandoe expressed concern about the proposed redevelopment of both Haserot Beach and Kelley Park, “and the subsequent effects that these changes will have on the pristine harbor and the neighboring community.”
“An improved boat ramp (at either site) will come with costs and risks that far outweigh the benefits of boaters that currently have ample access at East Shore and Bowers Harbor,” they note.
“Over the last ten years, the increased traffic on and around Haserot Beach clearly demonstrates overcapacity on a regular basis. Without an on-duty lifeguard, and limited law enforcement and EMS available, the increased traffic at this beach is a time bomb for a catastrophic event involving injury or even death of a pedestrian, swimmer and most likely, a child. Currently, the speed limits on Mission and Swaney Road are exceeded by beach-going drivers, including those towing boats.”
They also expressed concern that “Kelley Park is rapidly becoming the new ‘Torch Lake sandbar,’ with boaters encroaching on swimmers and adjacent private properties,” and eventually destroying “the nature of our village culture, where generations of local and summer residents have love and respect for this valuable Great Lakes ecosystem.”
After hearing comments at the public hearing during last night’s meeting, the board voted to pursue a five-point plan to move the Haserot Beach boat launch to Kelley Park. The five proposed steps going forward include:
1. Respectfully decline to sign the proposed grant agreement with Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in recognition of additional public input indicating significant opposition to the project location and the understanding that moving the project is not possible.
2. Acquire Kelley Park from the MDNR or enter into a long-term lease that retains township control of the park and its assets.
3. Develop plans for a similar but alternative project at Kelley Park that includes a single lane shallow water launch accommodating up to a 2.5-foot draft, a launching area for non-motorized boats, low-impact vehicular movement/parking areas with minimal added parking, and signage. These plans would include identifying possible alternatives and measures to minimize impacts on neighboring properties.
4. Present alternative project to area and township residents for feedback and plan design development.
5. Take steps to re-apply for MDNR funding (as early as spring 2020), sign a new grant agreement, and proceed to build all or a portion of the proposed project at Kelley Park. This project would include removing the existing boat ramp, rip rap, and dock at Haserot and restoring the swimming beach.
At the meeting, Township Clerk Becky Chown also noted that this course of action will correct a longtime breach of an agreement between Peninsula Township and the Hyslop family, which owns “The Pines” on the north side of Haserot Beach.
According to an email dated May 18, 2014 from Robert Hyslop, in 1959, the Hyslop family conveyed approximately 120 feet of beach frontage to Peninsula Township, “with the understanding and agreement that it would augment the newly established Haserot Park swimming beach. The deed has a prohibition against buildings, docks or other structures, with reversion to the grantors in the event of breach.”
Township attorney Greg Miehn noted at last night’s meeting that the current boat launch at Haserot Beach does indeed represent a breach of that agreement.