Residents weigh in on controversial public boat launch proposal

A proposal for a new, public access boating site in Southwest Michigan is making waves in a small community.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources wants to transform the former Dock Restaurant and boat launch site, located along the southeast corner of Eagle Lake, into a public-access boat launch.

The proposal includes adding parking, restrooms, a fishing pond and a boat launch with access to Eagle Lake and the chain of lakes.

“We’re not for it,” said resident Norman Booth. “Not by any stretch.”

During a public open house Thursday, dozens of residents showed up to ask questions about the controversial project. The overwhelming majority are strongly opposed to the idea, citing safety and conservation concerns.

“Clearly the lakes, the waters of Michigan, belong to everyone,” said Margie Allan, president of the Eagle Lake Improvement Association.
“But, so does the stewardship. And, we’re seeing no stewardship. No responsibility for safety, no responsibility for controlling invasive species. And, general lack of due diligence.”

While many residents share Allan’s views, the DNR says their goal is to give more residents access to the lake, which is a great place for boating, fishing and swimming.

“Most people live off the lake and they'd like to come out when the fishing is good or on a nice afternoon,” said Paul Yauk, a land program manager for Michigan state parks. “And, that's exactly what this does. It provides those people in the area access to a nearby lake.”

Yauk says the facility could also give local business a boost, drawing more people to the area.

One of the few residents who’s in favor of the project, Mickey Thomas, says he’s hopeful it will bring more bass fishing clubs to the lakes. He says, as long as fish conservation efforts become a priority, the change could be good for the community.

“There’s been a semi-private feel for these lakes for a long time, which is a good thing if you live on the lake.” Thomas said. “The problem with that is it is not a private lake, it is a public lake.”

The DNR will consider all of the public comments it collected during Thursday’s meeting.

Before they can move forward with the project, it must be approved by the Michigan State Waterways Commission and Natural Resources Commission.

If that happens, they could take over ownership of the site by the end of the year.

The site has been vacant and in a state of disrepair for a number of years. So, it will only cost the DNR $600,000.

If approved, funding for the acquisition will come from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund’s Southwest Eco-Regional Land Consolidation fund.

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