Our Opposition to the DNR’s
Proposed Boat Launch Site
By Paul J. Sniadecki
Eagle Lake Improvement Association, INC
In Part 1 of this series, we provided some history about the Eagle Lake situation, our initial dealing with the DNR in its initial attempt to acquire a Boating Access Site on the lake, as well a brief summary of what has happened to date, and what steps lay ahead. This article will cover more of about the DNR’s actions in the process. By sharing this information we hope to prepare other lakes for their future dealings with the DNR, as well as to expose some of the problems we found in the DNR Policy and Procedures relative to land acquisition for Boating Access Sites (BAS) on inland lakes.
We first met with DNR officials in September 2012 when a friendly County Commissioner advised that the DNR would be making a site visit for an in-depth review of the targeted property. Since the DNR had not invited us (the Lake Association) we invited ourselves to the site visit and arrived at THE DOCK Property well ahead of the 10am time the DNR officials would arrive. There were four (4) DNR officials who showed up and they represented various departments within the DNR from different locations around the state. They were all pleasant and courteous toward us even though they did not expect us to be there to “greet” them. They listened to our concerns and reviewed some of the site issues we pointed out. They provided some general ideas about what “might” be developed if the DNR purchased the property, but provided no specifics. They then commenced (in our opinion) a soft-sell about working together to collaboratively fund and develop the project to “meet the needs of the community.” One DNR official asked us several times to “imagine” what could be done with the property if we worked together. We were not in the mode to “imagine” any kind of partnership at that time, but we did ask them what they would do to solve some of the issues we have with lack of restroom facilities, traffic congestion, trash, and the conduct of people who use the general area as a swimming/bathing location along the public road which parallels the lake and extends to the water’s edge. Their response was: “we can look into that” as part of the development.
We then learned they would meet with us and the Township Supervisor and Zoning Administrator at 1pm for an informal meeting about the land acquisition process. At that meeting we shared with the DNR our list of Pro/Cons that the Lake Association members developed our 2012 Annual Meeting. The DNR took our list and commented “we can look into that.” They then explained what they called the “Act 210 Process” that might be followed for land acquisition. The DNR also told us they would “keep the Lake Association informed” as they went through each step.
Subsequently the Eagle Lake Improvement Association and the Ontwa Township All Lakes Coalition called a general meeting on Sunday October 7, 2012 to share what we learned from the September interface with the DNR. We also needed to develop a consensus as to what the property owners felt should be our approach to the proposed DNR land acquisition. To its credit, one of the high ranking officials from the PRD Department made the trip to attend the meeting. The meeting hall was filled to capacity with concerned riparians. After we presented our list of pro/cons, we opened the meeting up to questions. The DNR official responded to each question but provided very little in the way of specifics. The reply of “we can look into that” was the response to most of the questions. At the end of the meeting we asked for a show of hands as to who favored a Boating Access Site, and the overwhelming majority voted against. I counted two in favor, but it appeared they were people who honestly believed the DNR would solve some of the issues mentioned above.
During late fall of 2012 and early months of 2013, periodic emails were sent to the DNR officials inquiring about the status. After all, the DNR did state they would keep us informed at each step in their decision and action process. One email was responded to by the DNR which indicated they believed a funding source for the acquisition had been found. That email did not come to the Lake Association, but rather to one of the County Commissioners who shared it with us.
Subsequently, on Good Friday, March 29, 2013, I received a call from a Lake Resident (who has connections to the Bank that repossessed the property) indicating his sources advise an Option To Buy with the DNR would be entered into on April 4, 2013. The DNR never gave the Lake Association Notice that it had reached that Step in the acquisition process. It wasn’t until April 29 that the DNR officially sent us an email with their “timeline” for the acquisition. That timeline was the first confirmation that an Option-To-Buy had been entered into. We were also surprised to learn that the DNR had made a presentation to the Water Ways Commission (WWC) at the Commission’s April 26, 2013 Meeting wherein they advised the WWC that acquisition of the Eagle Lake property had begun. They also advised the WWC that THE DOCK property was a great acquisition for the State. About this time we also learned about the DNR’s pre-application meeting with the DEQ on March 19, 2013, wherein detailed drawings about the proposed Boating Access Site were disclosed. Reviewing those documents revealed that the detailed drawing was prepared in January 2012, but never shared with us. We had to obtain that drawing from a “friendly source” who was not under a confidentiality agreement.
So, we have shown the DNR’s statement as to “…keep the Lake Association informed…” as well as their repeated response of “we can look into that” did not align with most of their actions. The next part in this series will chronicle even more disconnects in DNR actions, our use of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to determine their inner-workings/policy, how the DNR conducts Public Input Sessions, and our actions to oppose this acquisition because we believe the DNR failed to properly perform Due Diligence to ensure proper stewardship for inland lakes.
EDITOR’s NOTE: This newsletter recently published a yearlong series of Election Period articles by Paul concerning how riparians need to influence the local election process. That series was very well received by readers. In this current series, Paul will continue to report on a very real concern for inland lakes.