Changes for village parks on the horizon

Marie Havenga • Jul 10, 2019 at 1:00 PM

SPRING LAKE — Big changes may be on the horizon for Tanglefoot and Mill Point Parks, if the village budget will allow for them.

The village recently hosted a community engagement meeting at Seven Steps Up so residents could view drawings of potential plans for both parks. Those plans include a multipurpose building at Tanglefoot that would replace the current campground usage, and a splash pad and playground improvements at Mill Point.

Both parks are on the Grand River, immediately south of Exchange Street.

Many of the about 100 residents who attended last month's meeting favored opening up Tanglefoot Park to more public uses. The building could be used for a year-round farmers market and rented for events such as graduations, weddings, baby showers, bridal showers and family reunions.

The Thum family, who invented Tanglefoot (think sticky) fly paper, donated the riverfront to the village many decades ago, with the stipulation that the land be held for public use. The Thum family also donated the land surrounding the Spring Lake Yacht Club to the village. The public may use both parcels.

However, Village Manager Chris Burns noted that because Tanglefoot Park was loaded with RVs during summer months, it feels more “exclusive” than accessible to the public.

Phil Ruiter, who lives next door to the park, said he likes the idea of transitioning the campground into something new.

“I think it's a good idea to utilize the trailer park for something else,” he said. “A fresh market would be nice.”

Spring Lake Township resident Lee VanderMeulen said he likes the market and fire pit options.

“I would definitely use the farmers market,” he said. “I use it now, but it's basically in a church parking lot.”

Village resident Dave Barbier, a kayak enthusiast, said he loves the idea of an improved launch.

“I think there are a lot of great ideas here,” he said. “I'm thrilled Village Council and the village manager are being proactive with these ideas. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of them come to fruition.”

Village Council members said during Monday night's work session that they want to listen to the public's requests, but also have a budget to keep in mind. They asked Burns to solicit estimates from the Progressive AE engineering firm.

Although many council members appeared to be onboard with potential changes, long-time Councilman Scott VanStrate said he would like to leave things unchanged.

“I may be in the minority here, but I still want the trailer park there,” he said of Tanglefoot Park. “You talk about trailers blocking the (waterfront) view — you put a building there, that's going to block the view. We showed them a bunch of plans with all these goodies like it's a done deal.”

Councilwoman Susan Petrus said the summary of public comment made it clear their constituents desire change.

“It was really clear folks wanted that property used for something other than a trailer park, something that was more inviting to the community,” she said.

Councilman Michael Duer agreed.

“If you take the time to read what people wrote, they were pretty explicit — 'We would like to see something different happen there,'” he said.

Council members agreed that if they were to proceed with a rental building, splash pad, playground improvements or any other park amenities, they must put a plan in place to maintain the structures. That could potentially mean a millage increase.

Burns reminded the council that it takes money to maintain Tanglefoot Park as an RV campground.

“Even if we keep it, it would take a large dollar amount whether it stays Tanglefoot or becomes something else,” she said.

Councilwoman Michelle Hanks, who runs the Seven Steps Up event center/concert hall with her husband, said there's a huge demand for public space on the waterfront for events. She said many venues are booked out more than a year.

Village President Mark Powers asked for a cost comparison of leaving the space as an RV park or moving forward with potential new plans.

The Village Downtown Development Authority has already spent more than $20,000 on drawings and schematics for potential new plans, and its members have indicated a willingness to provide more funds for new amenities.

“If we leave it as an RV park, we don't get to keep going just like it's been,” Powers said. “We need to invest to maintain it. There's a cost and a benefit to continuing it, and a cost and a benefit to change. I'd like to know more about pricing.”

Hanks agreed. Although she likes the ideas presented, she said if the cost is prohibitive, “it's going to be a different story for me.”

Burns said if the council decides to move forward with any changes, she would likely apply for a state grant in April. Construction would not begin until 2020, at the earliest.

“I think the conversations will be taking place over the course of the next few months,” the village manager said. “We would have to get cost, design and engineering estimates done so we could apply for a grant. Council could say 'no, it's going to be just like it is.’ I would think with all the public input, we would like (Tanglefoot Park) to be more public.”

Burns noted that all Tanglefoot campground users were invited to a meeting at Village Hall last fall so that they could give their input on future use of the park. Also, all village residents received a postcard invitation to last month's community engagement meeting at Seven Steps Up.

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