Thanks to Record Eagle for this:
RAPID CITY — The daily summertime quagmire of boaters, boats and boat trailers at the state launch on the southern end of Torch Lake is expected to benefit from a planned site upgrade.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials are in the real estate closing process on just over an acre of lakeshore property adjacent to an extremely busy boat ramp near where Torch River flows out of the lake.
Plans are to improve the boat launch and create more parking for a spot plagued by traffic congestion virtually all summer long.
“It’s unbelievable. It will back up the whole road there, people trying to back up and get in there,” said Lon Bargy, Milton Township supervisor. “They’ve needed to do this for a while.”
State officials recently agreed to pay $1.5 million to Christian and Laurie Copeland of Rapid City for 1.05 acres to the north of the existing boat launch where a lodge, cabins and a former gas station once operated.
It’s at the intersection of Torch Lake Drive and Cherry Street with 124 feet of shoreline frontage.
The new boat launch footprint will surround on three sides an existing real estate office that faces Cherry Avenue.
Environmental cleanup of the former petrochemical storage tanks at the old filling station — Torch River Pit Stop — was already completed, and the project should both triple available public parking and reduce traffic congestion, said Ron Olson, DNR parks and recreation chief.
It’s a busy spot, he said, as the closest boat launch to the popular Torch Lake sand bar.
“Torch Lake is a very coveted public waterway and the launches we have on the lake are heavily used,” Olson said.
The idea for this project is for the existing buildings on the land in question to be demolished so the boat launch can be reconfigured, he said.
“We’ve just got a concept plan now to show how it might be laid out,” Olson said. He said engineering work is expected to happen this year, followed by construction in 2021. The finalized site plan will be considered by Milton Township officials. “There won’t be a new launch by this summer, but we hope to create some optimism,” Olson said.
The boat launch is found where Antrim and Kalkaska counties meet at the Torch River and is one of the busiest on Torch Lake, among the state’s most popular inland lakes for tourism. “They come from all over and put in there,” Bargy said. “The biggest thing is traffic congestion right at the bridge. It’s hard to get through. Fourth of July is unbelievable.”
Minimal parking spaces on a gravel lot across the street from the launch quickly fill up and boaters end up parking along residential streets on both sides of the Torch River — and not always legally.
Antrim County Sheriff Dan Bean said he assigns patrol officers to help at both this site and another boat launch in Alden on busy summer weekends and holidays. Officers end up writing gobs of parking tickets and having vehicles towed because of the haphazard way in which many boaters park their vehicles and trailers, he said.
Perhaps the state’s planned changes will actually improve the situation, the sheriff said.
“I hope by what they’re doing … it will alleviate some of that congestion problem there,” Bean said.
Amber Cyman, member of group Friends of Torch Lake, said the area is so hectic that many locals completely avoid the southern end of the lake during the summer.
Olson said DNR officials wanted to build an altogether new boat launch along the west side of the lake, but zoning prevented that in the residential neighborhood. This project to enhance the existing boat launch is the alternative, he said.