EDWARDSBURG, Mich. — “That’s nuts,” commented Robert Phaff when he spoke about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recent plan to build a boat launch at the east end of Eagle Lake that would close off to the public the road to the water’s edge.
Phaff emphatically told Ontwa Township Board members during its meeting Monday night, March 10, “We are talking about the public. Our job is to make sure that the public’s interests are protected. Everyone is a member of the public. That property has been used by the public for 73 years,” noting he has swam and always used the property for as long as he could remember. A retired attorney, he said there have been six lawsuits since 1957 that have upheld the public right-of-way to the water’s edge of the lake.
Eagle Lake resident John Harsh made similar comments, noting during last week’s planning commission meeting is when he learned the MDNR plans call for a 450-foot long stretch of right-of-way for a boat launch where it will be posted “no parking and no swimming.”
Harsh said the MDNR intends to fill in a portion of Eagle Lake with fill for the boat ramp, but there are no details on it. He said he has seen only an artist’s drawing. It was revealed there are plans to fill in the rest of the area with concrete and vegetation to prevent the people from swimming there. He said, “Under this plan, the use of the property would be restricted to people who own boats. That discriminates (against) the vast majority of citizens of Ontwa Township most of whom are not boat owners.”
He asked the board if it would make sure that the Michigan Supreme Court ruling is upheld and that the citizens have the right to use the property and that it is not violated.
Trustee Norman Krupp replied there are steps to be taken before anything happens. The Department of Environmental Control and the road commission need to approve the plan plus other steps are needed before a site plan will be presented. Then it has to be approved by the planning commission. “It may take several meetings.”