Searching for solutions: Parks Commission, DPW talk beach safety and upkeep

Manistee's First Street Beach was packed on Thursday afternoon, as residents and visitors enjoyed clean facilities and beaches. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

Manistee’s First Street Beach was packed on Thursday afternoon, as residents and visitors enjoyed clean facilities and beaches. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — While the summer days continue to bring on the heat and clear skies, Manistee’s beaches and parks have been a hub of activity for the past few months.

To ensure public safety and maintain these local treasures, the Department of Public Works (DPW) and City of Manistee Parks Commission held a discussion on Thursday on accessibility, safety and beautification of beaches and parks in the city.

Present for the meeting were commissioners Erin Pontiac, Lani Rozga, Stephen Spencer and Tom Swedenborg. Mark Tomaszewski and  Frank Cardella were not in attendance. Currently, there is one vacancy.

Jeff Mikula, DPW director, and Mickey McCann, DPW parks leadman, were also at the meeting.

Mikula said the beaches have been full lately, and beach vendors are staying busy. However, he said many measures were recently completed to maintain both First Street Beach and Fifth Avenue Beach, along with the parks.

McCann said, recently, workers eradicated hornet nests at public facilities, and he is monitoring other areas for any issues. Pontiac said she identified other areas where nests were spotted recently.

“We had a report of a hornet nest earlier this week, which we took care of the next day,” said Mikula.

Mikula added that crew members completed work down at Fifth Avenue Beach planting and watering trees, removing old light posts and repairing a damaged sidewalk near the Fifth Avenue Beach House, among many other projects.

He said, in the future, there’s a possibility for the public tennis courts at First Street Beach to receive an upgrade in fencing, as well.

“The beaches are being used tremendously so far this year,” said Mikula. “I have been doing research on putting up some fabric up at the First Street Beach tennis courts — it’s not that expensive. We can try to mitigate some of the sand movement and keep that clean.”

Also on the agenda, Mikula informed commissioners on new city procedures to lock public restrooms nightly — including the beaches — in order to reduce vandalism. He said incidents of vandalism vary, but some restrooms have been more common than others. 

Mikula said the City of Manistee police are locking doors around 11 p.m., and the DPW opens doors back up around 7-8 a.m.

“We do have plans to install automatic locks at the two (restrooms) downtown, because those had the highest incidents of vandalism,” said Mikula.

Commissioners also discussed a project to upgrade the First Street Beach tennis courts.

At a meeting on June 30, Manistee City Council voted (4-3) to approve an application to the Manistee County Community Foundation to upgrade the courts. Council members Dale Cooper, James Grabowski and Lynda Beaton voted no.

“It did pass… I was very surprised (by the vote),” said Pontiac.

The amount needed for the project would be $60,000.

Council approved a city match of 25 percent, and will explore the possibility of sharing the match with Manistee Area Public Schools. The application to the community foundation, if approved, would grant $45,000 toward the project, with a $15,000 match for the project cost.

“We should know the results by September (for the grant),” said Mikula. “Either council can allocate matched funds at that time, or we will have to wait a budget cycle to do the upgrades.”

Swedenborg asked for more details on the project.

Mikula said a focus group, who reviewed the project scope, deemed the Sands Park tennis courts to be in worse condition, more expensive and attaining funds would be difficult. He said improving the First Street Beach courts is a better option. 

“They suggested that spending $150,000 to upgrade Sands Park would give us four new courts, but spending $60,000 at First Street (Beach) would also give us four new courts,” Mikula said.

If the grant is approved, plans would move forward to council again in the future.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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