The state Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) public launch site on Orchard Lake is slated for major renovation after Labor Day, and the timing couldn’t be worse, according to Orchard Lake city officials.
According to the DNR, the access site located off Orchard Lake Road just north of Pontiac Trail will be temporarily closed from Tuesday, Sept. 4 through mid-October.
“It’s not that we don’t understand the need, but we’ve had very little notice,” said Mayor Bruce McIntyre. “The real problem is that most residents have boats removed (from the water from) late September to early October. Especially (with) pontoons, they may need to be hauled out and may have difficulty scheduling (to have them removed from the lake).”
A letter by DNR Regional Field Planner Kristen Bennett states that the site is in dire need of immediate repairs.
“This site is in very poor repair and needs a major renovation in order to make it usable into the future for the boaters of Michigan, as well as the lakefront owners,” Bennett wrote.
The construction project includes redesigning the launch area for increased maneuverability, paving the driveway and parking lot, increasing accessibility, and adding landscaping. The landscaping will consist of native species and an eco-friendly rain garden that will absorb run-off before it reaches the lake. Bio-logs will help ensure shoreline stabilization.
The project is funded through the Michigan State Waterways Fund, a restricted fund derived from the collection of boat registration fees, a portion of the Michigan marine fuel tax, and user fees. Waterways Fund money is dedicated to the acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance of recreational boating facilities.
Bennett stated that the DNR intends to make some weekends available for retrieval of boats off of Orchard Lake during the project.
Jodi Nieschulz, supervisor at Dodge Park No. 4, said that “While the site will be closed during construction, every attempt will be made to keep it open on the weekends when feasible.”
However, McIntyre has asked the DNR to delay construction until Oct. 1 so riparians are given ample time to remove their boats from the lake.
“We just want it delayed a month and the DNR is saying they can’t do that, but people need notice to take their boats out,” he said. “Another issue is September is still a good boating month.”
Bennett said that due to the amount of construction that needs to occur before the site can be paved and the unpredictability of weather, the DNR can’t push the project any later into the fall and guarantee that the access site will be ready in the spring.
In the meantime, McIntyre has called on the help of state Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Orchard Lake) to convene a meeting between the city and the DNR to address the issue, possibly on Friday, Aug. 31.
The DNR plans to post signs at the site, and keep Orchard Lake municipal offices apprised of what weekends following Labor Day boaters will be permitted to remove boats via the access site.
The city is also in the process of notifying riparians of the reconstruction project at the site, which is expected to be fully operational again by mid- to late-October.