Clare County Review & Marion Press News

Misunderstanding leads to tense meeting in Village of Marion

Chrystal Clavier protests denial of park and path to citizens
Marion’s Village Council hears citizen complaints
William Zeilinger, Little League Director for Marion, expresses concern with lack of access to the baseball diamonds

By Genine Hopkins

 What started as a misunderstanding between the new campground manager and citizens trying to utilize the park and path on the village owned portion of the fairgrounds in Marion, blew up Facebook and resulted in an extremely tense village meeting on July 1, 2024.  Citizens who alleged they were denied access to the walking path and the playground were angry about having been turned away allegedly by the new campground manager.
A Special Meeting on June 10, 2024, discussed the issues and maintenance of the park and campground.  It was decided at that meeting that the North entrance would be reserved solely campground and the South entrance would be used for the park, ball fields, etc.  It was also determined that an upgrade to the South entrance parking and entrance would be moved to a priority with more parking on the park side of the campground as well.  Due to the parking that has been occurring on the track, that area would be blocked for vehicle traffic as well, to prevent damage to the track. 
Either the conversation took a wrong turn, or there was a misunderstanding of circumstances between the new campground manager, David Van Wieren, and several different citizens who believed after their encounter with Van Wieren, they were no longer going to be allowed in the park, walking path, and river front area for fishing as well. 
The Village Council stated that there was no clear separation of the campground and park area and that this needed to be changed as well. Campers rent the space and the among of traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, were not conducive to a pleasant experience by the campers.  This is why the North entrance would be reserved solely for the campers and why there was a separation between campground walking paths and the open access walking paths; the access to the river front was never to be in jeopardy. 
Due to the rules of engagement (Robert’s Rules) for public entities, speakers were limited to three minutes for comments and responses were not required to be given by the council.  This raised the level of tension, resulting in several people being asked to leave the meeting.  The public comment portion, which mostly consisted of concerned citizens about the fair grounds park and path, went on for over an hour, before the Village council voted to take a recess, with members clearly feeling they were erroneously being attacked.  Once the council reconvened, there was a calmer atmosphere, tempers were snuffed, and some answers were provided to the audience members who spoke.
One of the, The Pine River Youth Baseball Association representative, William Zeilinger, who is the director of the Marion program, had been concerned about being locked out of the parking and access to the diamonds.  He was informed that the council would bring the matter up with the campground manager and that while the parking area would be different, access to the baseball diamonds would be open.
Justin Jones, who lives just outside the village limits  but in Marion Township, also said he was denied access to the park and was told he needed a pass, which confused him.  He explained the only place where his family could roller blade, skateboard, etc., was at the fairgrounds park, since the road they live on is gravel.  Alexus Johnson stated that on June 26, 2024, she and her kids were also denied access to the path and park, after being handed a flyer from the campground manager.  Ms. Johnson also complained about the condition of the public access pavilion, which had apparently been damaged last week during the series of strong winds and thunderstorms that swept through the area.  President Grundy explained that once the insurance adjuster comes out to take photos the village can make sure the pavilion is cleaned up, and that they already had removed some of the branches that littered the grounds from that same storm.
Grundy apologized for not having the ordinances and prior meeting minutes online yet as the website was under construction and she expected those to be uploaded soon for citizens to access.  Lack of access to ordinances was another concern brought up at the meeting, that citizens were required to come in and read them at the village offices. Grundy did provide a brief overview of the Special Meeting minutes in response to the public comments.
In other issues resolved, discussed, or tabled at the July 1, meeting:
A request to allow campers to set off fireworks on July 4 was denied due to potential liability issues and camper safety.
 The new ordinance officer,, Ron Gwizdala, was introduced and gave a quick overview of a couple of the problems he is handling.
Council President Flora Grundy announced she is running again, and that David Swiler is still undecided but Scott Salisbury will not be seeking another term.  Those are the three seats that are potentially up for the upcoming election in November.
Signs for the new disc golf course and the campground will be put up as will signs designating the areas open to the general public per the Special Meeting.
A date for the bridge inspection was to occur in August and the council passed a motion to pay the fee for that inspection in the sum of $1,400. 
The fairgrounds will host a fire fighter training on September 21, 2024, on approval from the council.  The disc golf course will be closed for access on that day for public safety.
The dates for the Tri-County Bike Club campground rental were set at July 8 through July 13, 2025, with campsites mostly full to capacity by Tri-County members, which were capped at 175.  This was approved by the council.
The council will be requesting bids on trash service for the village as the contract with American Waste expires in September.  President Grundy hopes to have bids in by the end of July to allow the council to vote on accepting one of the bids at the August meeting.

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