I wish to respond to statements by Peggy McTigue and Susan Phelan in their October 20, 2022 Mailbag letter to HCN.

I was involved in every single Park Board meeting that led to the Cherry Beach Expansion completed in 2021. The process began with the October 29, 2015 DEQ hearing on the Beidler-Reed property which adjoined Cherry Beach. At the November 2015 meeting of the Chikaming Township Park Board under the direction of the chair, EnRico Heirman, the Board developed a multi-point response to DEQ in regard to the proposed development. In August of 2017, prior to the regular PB meeting, EnRico held a special meeting to gauge interest in pursuing the purchase of that property. All PB members, Supervisor Bunte and 22 citizens attended, reviewed many background materials (surveys, deeds, building plans) and addressed questions including whether the TWP should purchase the property, a request to donate time/money/talent to make this happen and if there was interest in serving on a committee to pursue this. After this meeting, the Cherry Beach committee was formed and I was an initial member along with Sara Doty, Alan Kayler, Peggy McTigue and Brian Kern. Others, including Sue Phelan joined a bit later and others dropped out for personal reasons including myself.

On February 24, 2018, Joseph Reed, PB Chair, conducted a Cherry Beach Public Hearing with 70-plus people in attendance and the project began in full force under the excellent leadership of Peggy McTigue and Susan Phelan. A grant application was submitted on April 1, 2018 along with 375 letters of support most of which were gathered in partnership with the PB. It was at that point that the project was placed under the aegis of the TWP as the PB is not authorized to enter into grants independent of the TWP. It was NOT because the scope of the task and working with the outstanding committee was beyond the expertise of the Park Board. The initial decision to pursue purchase of the property came from the Park Board, not the TWP, and would not have happened without the original strong push from EnRico and PB member Janet Schrader.

Ms. McTigue and Phelan wrote that we need a “system that is efficient, responsive and accountable.” I have attended and written reports on over 60 Park Board meetings and can track excellent efficiency and high responsiveness to a variety of concerns and issues. Duties and responsibilities are spread among the 7 members who also have had great success in attracting volunteers for many events. Over the years there has been lively dialog among the members as they often considered all aspects of an issue especially when they have disagreed. Under Deborah Hall-Kayler as Chair, a question-and-answer period was included in all monthly meetings offering the citizens the opportunity to make their concerns known in a public forum and to have the Board respond on the spot. The TWP Board does not do this. The Planning Commission does not do this either. All actions of the Park Board have been open for public review and the members have been approachable and concerned and most accountable.

I urge voters to not allow a group of individuals to take away your right to vote for an elected Park Board. This erosion of your rights under our Democracy can not be undone if this referendum passes. Just imagine going down to the beach on a windy, wavey day (one of our great joys) and finding it closed down by a “hired” parks manager due to fear of TWP liability. How very efficient is that?

Fran Wersells

Union Pier

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