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E-M:/ Crystal Lake

Enviro-Mich message from Keith Schneider <keith@mlui.org>

I note the traffic on enviro-mich concerning a proposed boat launch on Crystal Lake. The Michigan Land Use Institute's Beulah office is located two blocks from the lakeshore. We've been following the developments around a proposed new boat access since 1998, when the Department of Natural Resources first made its plans public.

A good piece on the issue was published on our Web site nearly two years ago. The sidebar includes a proposal we and other organizations here made at that time to significantly down-size the boat access installation that the DNR wanted to build.

See it here: http://www.mlui.org/landwater/fullarticle.asp?fileid=16655

A number of organizations in this county, including elected officials, met consistently for months in 2003 and 2004 to develop a consensus around the proposed new access site. We thought a consensus had developed around a smaller site but Ann Bourne, representing Citizens For Positive Planning, sided with the then chair of the Benzie County Commission and some politically prominent boat owners and anglers.They asserted that the large site proposed by the state was necessary. Bourne and her supporters framed their argument around the view that lake front property owners were trying to keep regular folks off the lake. It was disappointing, to say the least, to watch Citizens For Positive Planning embrace that false and divisive strategy. In fact, the Crystal Lake Association and the Crystal Lake Watershed Fund, the two lake front property owner groups, actively and publicly supported the idea of a smaller access site and consistently made that view plain in their testimony at a public hearing early in 2004.

There are significant issues surrounding the site the DNR chose, including the fact that the boat ramp lies at the bottom of a high and steep bluff, and that boat owners would need to climb up and down many stories of stairs to get to and from their vehicles. In other words, the site was likely to be less easy to use than the current public boat ramp in Beulah. It was a widely shared view at the time that the vertical design of the site, the physical exertion that would be necessary to use the site, could be a nuisance/inconvenience/barrier to some boat owners.

There is an opportunity to revive what we are convinced is the entirely reasonable proposal to build a right-size boat launch. The former chair of the Benzie County commission, who was a champion of the large boat launch, lost his race for re-election. There are smart, reasonable, and environmentally-minded leaders on the county board and great resolve in the community to secure Crystal Lake and find a reasoned approach to enabling safe boat access.

Our lead on this project is Jim Lively and is reachable at 231-941-6584 ext. 13 or jim@mlui.org. Thanks so much, Keith Schneider, Michigan Land Use Institute.

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