Despite efforts to delay construction at the Orchard Lake public boat access site that’s operated by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), city and state officials were unable to sway DNR staff to hold off on the project.
Orchard Lake Mayor Bruce McIntyre asked the DNR to delay the start of the improvements to the access site to Oct. 1 so riparians would be given ample time to remove their boats from the lake. He also took issue with the city not being notified of the project with adequate prior notice.
A meeting was held on Friday, Sept. 7 between McIntyre and Orchard Lake City Council members Jackie Beach and Norm Finkelstein, state Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Orchard Lake), and DNR officials. A half-dozen riparians also showed up to vent their frustrations.
“We were unsuccessful in getting the work postponed, but we gave them an earful that they didn’t consult with us before they launched (the project),” McIntyre said.
“The project had already started before the meeting, so literally there’s a giant hole in front of the launch, and so we weren’t able to postpone it. The contractor has already begun,” said Jodi Nieschulz, supervisor at Dodge Park No. 4, which manages the Orchard Lake access site.
McIntyre said the DNR has handled projects similarly in the past.
“That appears to be the case across the state,” McIntyre said. “Any state agency that starts a project of this magnitude should be required to advise the community before it’s launched and we should have the opportunity to comment on it. If so, it could have been modified.”
Even some DNR staff, however, didn’t receive much prior notice.
“The day we found out construction was to start (Aug. 21) is the day we went over to speak with (Director of City Services) Gerry McCallum and notify him it would start on Aug. 27,” Nieschulz said.
The construction project includes redesigning the boat launch area for increased maneuverability, paving the driveways 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.
Beach said that if the DNR had worked alongside the city, some of the deforestation at the launch site would not have been necessary.
“Part of the design involved excavating a portion of a beautiful wooded hill and old timber trees,” Beach said. “They didn’t take into consideration of our woodlands ordinance, nor do they have to, but they could have brought the city in for some pre-planning and design. Unfortunately it’s another example of (a) one-size-fits-all (mentality).”
During the meeting, DNR representatives agreed to replace some trees removed.
The site was closed on Tuesday, Sept. 4 and work is expected to be completed by spring 2013.
The DNR plans to post signs at the site, and keep Orchard Lake officials apprised of what weekends boaters will be permitted to remove their boats from the lake.