KALAMAZOO, Mich. — During an April 19 meeting, the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with acquiring a landlocked cottage property located within Prairie View County Park with an 8-3 vote.
The future of the cottage property, owned by two families, has been the center of debate for years.
Related: Kalamazoo County looks to purchase property that’s been part of two families' names for over 50
The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners determined it was necessary to acquire the property so that Prairie View County Park project stated in 1960 could finally be completed and used for the benefit and enjoyment of the public.
According to Board Chair Mike Quinn, the plan has always been to incorporate the property into Prairie View County Park, becoming public park land, and returned to its natural condition consistent with the surrounding lakefront.
Since the creation of Prairie View County Park in 1960, Kalamazoo County has worked on conserving and restoring the Park’s natural features.
The County accepted a proposal in 1963 from the five families who then owned the landlocked property. The agreement reached gave the County the first option to purchase the property before it could be transferred to anyone other than the last remaining survivor of the ten original owners.
Upon the passing of the last original owner in 2019, the County has attempted to acquire the landlocked cottage property.
According to Quinn having privately owned property in the midst of a public park poses the following concerns:
- The need to maintain a private .85 mile drive through the heart of Prairie View County Park for private access to this parcel.
- Future park use and improvements cannot proceed without considering how to maintain and work around private access for the benefit of private property.
- Difficulty in ensuring public access/use for all Kalamazoo County residents and visitors.
- It is contrary to the terms of the legal agreement reached between the County and the original owners to be promised to transfer the property to the County if they were allowed to keep it during their lifetimes.
- Uncontrolled access to county park property and facilities with keys that must be issued.
- Limitations for future park planning
- Negative impacts on Gourdneck and Hogsett Lakes
“This agreement is nearly sixty years old, and the County has upheld its responsibility as outlined in the agreement. We must preserve our public parks and ensure every resident and visitor has access to them throughout those years,” stated Board Chair Mike Quinn. “We also understand the importance of family, so the decision doesn’t come without strain. This was a no-win situation, but we had to err on the side of the larger community that will benefit from the purchase and the Park’s natural visitors and residents.”