Union Lake boat access targeted for completion in October

A day on the water could be a lot less stressful once a new boat launch in Commerce Township is completed. 

A new launch at Union Lake is set to open in October (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR).

It should also be a lot safer to launch boats on the northeast corner of Wise and Union Lake roads. The new launch replaces the existing one on Union Lake Road at Cooley Lake Road, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Construction began in early July and the targeted completion date is October 31, according to Jodi Nieschulz, DNR park supervisor.

Right this way

Traffic backups are common as people hauling their boats try to get into the current lot. The best feature of the new site is that parking and launching will be on the waterfront, explained Commerce Supervisor David Scott.

“There will be no more dangerous crossing the street,” he said, adding that building the new launch was prompted by accidents and traffic jams by motorists and pedestrians.

“There were accidents and near misses of people walking across the road,” Scott said.

The existing launch site will remain open through 2019, even when the new launch is done, Scott said, adding that in 2020 the new launch will be the only operating launch.

Offer is in

Commerce Township is in the process of trying to buy the land on the existing site to be used as a pocket park and for launching small watercrafts, like paddle boats, kayaks and canoes. It would also be designed to allow people to pull-up and patronize the nearby businesses, Scott stressed.

The old and new launch properties are owned by the DNR. Scott said he was somewhat confident the DNR will approve the $1 purchase offer from Commerce.

“I imagine they will honor our request, but they haven’t formalized that or given us an answer,” Scott said. “If they do, it would become a Commerce Township property and it retains access just as if it were a state operated property. It retains lakefront access property that they don’t have to maintain or manage. It’s a win-win. It keeps more space open to the residents of the state of Michigan, which is what the DNR tries to do.”

He said his “ultimate dream” would be to dedicate part of the existing parking lot for the widening of Union Lake Road if a plan is considered. The project would be under the jurisdiction of the Road Commission for Oakland County. Scott said, however, that he can’t realistically plan for property that the township doesn’t currently own.

Costs rose

The cost of the new launch project is $1.2 million and was paid from the Michigan State Waterway Funds derived from boat registration fees and the Michigan marine fuel tax, which helps fund the construction, operation and maintenance of public recreational boating facilities, Nieschulz said.

The price tag is up from initial cost estimates of $850,000. Some of the increased expenses were caused by a need to remove a fuel tank, as well as testing the ground for contaminates, Nieschulz said.

The new launch will also include a new block retaining wall and 20 paved parking spots, she said. A key element of the constructed area will feature one entrance at the light at Wise and Union Lake roads, and one exit north of Commerce on Union Lake.

“Hopefully the traffic will be a smooth roundabout to launch and to park,” Nieschulz said. “They will be able to retrieve their boats and leave smoothly.”

Smaller space

One of the biggest detractions from the plan, however, is that the number of parking spaces will go down from 33 spots at the existing site to 20 trailer/vehicle spaces at the new location. But the benefits far outweigh the negatives, Scott said.

“It will update access, it’s safer, the walkability will increase and it’s closer to a light,” Scott said before the project began. The new launch will allow motorists to que-up on site and not be in the roadway.

“It will increase the flow of traffic and hopefully solve the bottleneck,” Scott said.

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