Community efforts make Ontonagon beach area possible

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Alan Ralph and Dan Sullivan of the Ontonagon Downtown Development Authority stand with a new sign intended for the reopening downtown beach area.

ONTONAGON — After slightly less than a year of community efforts the Ontonagon downtown beach project is nearly complete.

Since the 1970’s the once popular beach area has been fenced off from the public. That all changed in 2016 when Lake Shore Systems (LSS) acquired the property and began working with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to “make Ontonagon a better place to live and work.”

Not using the now fenced off section of land, LSS agreed to lease the property for only $1 a year, opening up the 4.5 acres for community use. LSS will pay property taxes on the land and intends to lease it to the DDA indefinitely.

“More than one person has told us, and even some members of the village council, that they could not have imagined the DDA being able to strike a deal with the owners of the shipyard to do what we’re doing, but are thrilled by our accomplishments…Without their (LSS) total and enthusiastic support for our project, it would not have been possible,” said DDA Vice-chair Alan Ralph.

Volunteers from the DDA and community quickly got to work removing the old chain link fence and cleaning up the long-neglected area. The team has nearly finished, though a few projects will have to wait for warmer weather. “There is still some work that remains to be done, physically, on the site, but the lion’s share has been completed,” Ralph said.

With funds from the Ontonagon Class of 1967 for a park bench, a $3,500 cash contribution from LSS, labor and equipment from TNT Trucking & Excavating and an in-kind labor donation from P&R Safety Consultants, the equivalent of $9,005 was donated to the project.

The whole community pitched in to make the beachfront a reality, Ralph reports. Tom Picotte, owner of TNT Trucking volunteered both his equipment and time to remove the almost 1,500 feet of chain-link fence and transport it for recycling, an invaluable contribution. Other key members were Jacek Olszewski of the DDA who spent hours clearing brush on the property and Scott Roehm of P&R Safety who used his expertise to arrange permits.

The finishing touch for the Ontonagon beach restoration will be two signs, recently completed thanks to a $5,000 WUPPDR grant. The main sign will appear over a walkway leading to the beach and the other will stand nearby recognizing LSS for their invaluable contribution. The signs will go up in May to avoid unnecessary winter damage.

In future, the DDA hopes to develop the beach as a “downtown destination,” adding amenities and potentially including improvements into the next five-year recreation plan. In the meantime, the beach area will be ready by the 2018 beach season.