Remember last year when it looked like the motorized boat launch at Kelley Park was in a go mode? There’s been a plot twist, and now it appears that the boat launch is off the table.
At last night’s Township Board meeting, Township Supervisor Rob Manigold updated the board and residents about the future of Kelley Park and the boat launch. Earlier this year, the township was on track to lease the park, which is currently owned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Then the pandemic hit and everything was on hold.
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At the meeting, Manigold said they recently received a signed agreement from the DNR for the proposed lease, but the motorized boat launch was not included. He noted that someone higher up the DNR chain of command said no to the boat launch, and a conference call with their attorney confirmed it.
While the DNR would still allow for carry-down boats like kayaks and canoes at Kelley Park, “that doesn’t solve the boat launch issue,” said Manigold. “We’re trying to get motorized boats away from the swimmers at Haserot.”
He believes the DNR’s decision might be based on the cost of dredging the boat launch area at Kelley Park. “Everything’s off the table as far as I can see right now,” he said.
Over the past few years, multiple township meetings have taken place about the plans for Kelley Park, including meetings with the DNR in 2017 and 2018. Several options for the park were reviewed, and one year ago in September of 2019, the Township Board officially voted to move the boat launch from Haserot Beach to Kelley Park.
There are a number of reasons why this seemed like the best option, many of which were outlined at a standing-room-only meeting on August 2, 2017 with DNR District Supervisor Tim Schreiner, who stated at the meeting, “We don’t want to come in and be the goons that ruin your life.”
Some of the biggest reasons include increased traffic at Haserot Beach, as well as the need to separate boat traffic from swimmers there. That’s why a DNR grant of $170,217 to expand the Haserot Beach boat launch was rejected last year.
Another is the fact that the Haserot boat launch violated an agreement with the Hyslop family, who owns The Pines adjacent to the beach and who conveyed approximately 120 feet of frontage to Peninsula Township in 1959 – with restrictions.
The agreement states that “buildings, docks or other structures” would not be built on the frontage. In short, the dock at Haserot Beach has been violating that agreement all these years.
Mother Nature seemed to agree that getting rid of the dock at Haserot was a good idea, when it was destroyed during a massive windstorm in the fall of 2019.
While things are currently up in the air regarding the boat launch, one option noted at the meeting last night is to go back to the DNR Trust Fund, which many years ago left it up to Peninsula Township to decide where the boat launch was going to go. Manigold said he has a document signed by the DNR to that effect.
“That’s why we moved it back [to Kelley Park],” he said. “We thought we were living up to the Trust Fund’s directive.” He added that for some reason, during the previous township administration, “the plug got pulled” on that option.
Peninsula Township also may explore other properties where a boat launch could be installed, possibly near Mission Point Lighthouse.