OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. -Ottawa County expects to spend nearly $2.5 million to downsize Parkside Marina and expand a small park along Lake Macatawa.
The county says the project will open the marina to the public and expand the local economy, but not everyone is happy about it. Some longtime boaters in the area say the project will disrupt the tight-knit community, leaving some seasonal boaters without a slip.
Ottawa County Parks and Recreation officials tell us they've had plans to improve the marina for years, but the changes haven't come without frustration from some of the Parkside Marina boating community, some of them adding they feel forced out.
"They say it really opens it up to Ottawa County residents. I am an Ottawa County resident and it shut me off," says upset resident, Tim Haney.
The plan includes a waterfront walkway that extends to the marina with landscaping, making for a more attractive area. But, it also includes only 15 rental seasonal slips, which is a huge cut to the 80 slips Parkside currently has.
"So part of our concern is when they change the marina, not only are we losing slips and going down to 15, but just to people that are going to be renting. I love what they've done with the park so far. I love the boardwalks and everything. I just think this piece is not a very good piece," says Haney.
Over the years the marina has attracted a tightknit group of boaters. But, the county wants to open up Parkside to the general public, including some two dozen transient slips in the redevelopment plan.
"The marina that's there is not something we feel that's been sustainable over the longterm. The docks are really in kind of a rough shape and a change is needed to be made and we feel like the change to a little bit more focused on transient boat slips and more public use. The park-like setting along the waterfront that the county owns, is gonna have a positive longterm impact for everybody," says John Scholtz Ottawa County Parks Director.
But not everyone agrees.
Elaine Blouw's been operating the marina for 37 years and says she fears the changes could leave her seasonal boaters without a slip.
"There is not going to be any place for them to go because they don't fit in these great big slips and they're just wonderful people and my heart breaks for them," says Blouw.
"I'm going to miss all of the people around here. I made a few friends. Now, we're looking for another spot but there is waiting list everywhere," says Haney.
But the county remains optimistic about attracting future visitors.
"There's going to be a real convenient spot in a parklike setting where they can have their boat and have easy access to it," says Scholtz.
The county is currently looking for bids to get the project going. They expect to start construction mid-October and have it open by May 2019.