BY SCOTT SULLIVAN EDITOR
Why are Douglas Beach gates locked? Some neighbors are asking Douglas City Council.
The city last year spent $164,754.98 to rebuild high water-damaged stairs and stabilized the bluff leading down to Lake Michigan, yet citing nearby property owner complaints about trespassing and liability concerns about icy steps have limited access to it this winter.
Jennifer Johnson and the Dana Burd family wrote the city recently questioning this action.
“Several times over the last three months my family has tried to access the beach only to find the gate locked,” wrote Burd. “Each time as between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Once was at 10:30 a.m. on a lovely Sunday morning. The gate has been locked more often than not when we have tried to go down there.”
Burd, an engineering consultant for several municipalities, understands the risk/reward aspect of many of their processes.
“I have come,” he continued, “to learn the city began locking the gate as a try-and-see response to some complaints received last summer.
“The unintended consequences of this decision have undoubtedly denied public access for the many, for only the potential benefit of a very few lakefront property owners — most of whom enjoy the full benefit of 24-7 access to the lakeshore via private property. The majority of us rely on public access,” Burd went on.
“I do not understand what the safety issue is. Some have said it was because there is snow on the steps making them slippery.
“If true, that begs the question of where does that line of this thinking stop? Closed all winter? Closed in summer when it’s wavy or too sunny … cancer and all?”
“Our ability to access natural public spaces is why we live where we live. It’s what makes our community so unique and special. I am truly the grateful the city made a huge investment to ensure there is access to Douglas Beach. It’s the shining star in our neighborhood. It’s the major reason people live here and visit here …
“If there is anything my family or neighbors can do to help maintain beach,” Burd went on, “we would be glad to help. Want us to shovel the steps? Want to give out keys to trusted locals? Want to post a 24-7 watch for riffraff? We could try to help coordinate that … (sarcasm intended).
“But serioiusly, there are a lot of us who want to help do whatever we can to keep the beach open to the public,” Burd’s letter said.
Johnson also observed the beach had been closed“ much more often than not, even on days when weather was not extreme. We are wondering what the parameters are for closure and whether there can be less restrictive access for residents during normal dawn to dusk hours …
“I am wondering:
“a) How is the access determined? Is it on a daily basis, and if so
“b) What are the criteria for closure on those days?
“c) What can we Douglas residents do to ensure we can spend time on our public shoreline via Douglas Beach Park throughout the year?” Johnson asked.