Development on our lakeshore? Not so fast!

In a recently published issue of The Mining Journal (March 12), I read about a Marquette City Commission vote to allow the U.P. Community Rowing Club to build a very large building on the Lake Superior shoreline.

Commissioner Sara Cambensy was the lone no vote. Her reasons for her no vote were well stated and she is to be commended for standing up for the good of the citizens of Marquette.

In the early 1990s, then-city manager Dave Svanda convened a large, representative group of Marquette citizens to take part in a visioning session. The event included a presentation by Ed Barlow, a renowned speaker on planning for the future.

Following the presentation by Barlow, city residents were asked to meet in small groups and write down their preferred vision for the future of our city. Without exception, each group included in their vision that the shoreline of Lake Superior continue to be held in public ownership with no development.

Having been involved for over 10 years in the city’s strategic planning process as the facilitator in my role as the Michigan State University’s Educator for Community and Economic Development, any structure on the shoreline was never part of the vision/decision of the people of this community.

Hundreds of people came to the town hall meetings to let our elected officials know their desire to keep the shoreline of Lake Superior open and accessible to the people. They spoke loudly and clearly about their vision for the future of the shoreline.

They even went so far as to make clear that should the four private homes on the shoreline become available for sale, the city should seek the right of first refusal and remove the structures.

The people of this community also spoke at well-publicized meetings conducted during the city Planning Commission’s lengthy and arduous process in preparing zoning for the 25-acre parcel of the old railroad property. Again, the people have spoken.

Their overwhelming voice was that the property remain public on the east side of Lakeshore Boulevard with the exception of the far north end. This development would serve as a connector to the city’s downtown. Here, the lakeshore would be kept public with the construction of a boardwalk and yet to be built promenade over the existing pilings.

This concession to allow for private development on the northerly portion of Founder’s Landing was made after considerable deliberation and public participation. There was never any concession for a structure to be built on the remaining lakeshore at Founder’s Landing.

The city commission stated that the shoreline along the stretch of beach where the boathouse is to be constructed will remain public and all will be able to use the beach.

The U.P. Rowing Club has 97 +/- members and with their activity at this facility and increased pressure on the very limited parking spaces in this busy area, it is unlikely that there will be room for the public to use this stretch of beach.

Being an avid paddler myself, I am in no way opposed to the U.P. Community Rowing Club. I understand their need for a sandy beach where it is safe to enter their boats.

What I, and many others oppose, is leasing/licensing any city lakeshore property east of Lakeshore Boulevard for a private, non-profit’s use. This flies in the face of the resounding voice of the city’s residents. It opens the door for other private nonprofits to seek the same privilege and rightly so.

Perhaps it could compromise the sale of the remaining property on the west side of Lakeshore Boulevard by making it less desirable having a very large structure in its view shed.

For over 20 years, following well attended public visioning and input sessions, city commissioners have honored the public’s voice regarding any building on the east side of Lakeshore Boulevard. Our current elected officials have taken action to allow a very large building to be built on our lakeshore.

As soon as this spring, there will be a huge swath of trees cut in this area. Prior to this occurring and prior to the awarding of a license/lease to this private, nonprofit group, if you have an opinion on this, our community people need to again make their voices heard.

Write to your city commissioners. Their information is included on the city’s website. Speak at a city commission meeting (the next meeting is Monday). Tell others about what is happening. Don’t wait until it’s too late and then wish you had. It is not too late to prevent this very large building from becoming a reality.

Editor’s note: Rita Hodgins is a Marquette resident and retired worker with the Michigan State University Extension.