By MIKE NORTON
TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Well, at long last the cherry trees are starting to blossom, so spring must finally be here!
If you're interested in checking out a new spot for spring beachcombing or sunset-watching, allow me to recommend the lovely new beach at Acme's Bayside Park.
Yep, a new beach!
In this era of rapid shoreline development, many coastal resort areas are mourning the disappearance of favorite beaches. But here around Traverse City, the exact opposite seems to be happening.
Over in Acme, on the eastern shore of East Grand Traverse Bay, the local township has spent the last few years acquiring aging motels and other buildings, tearing them down and reclaiming what will be a mile of shoreline for public use. And now they're unveiling it.
“That’s a lot of frontage and a lot of acreage, and now it’s going to belong to the citizens,” said township supervisor Jay Zollinger. “We’re just going to be the caretakers of it.”
The village of Acme (as opposed to the largely rural township to the north and east) is a small community at the edge of the Bay, just below the towering buildings and sprawling golf courses of the 900-acre Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. For generations, its stunning views of the water could only be enjoyed by speeding motorists on U.S. 31 or guests at private motels -- there was almost no public beach.
That began to change in the 1980s, when local residents voted to buy a small parcel of property for a public swimming beach known as Bayside Park – the nucleus of what is now a much more extensive project. Over the past five years, township officials have secured some $6 million in state recreational funds and private donations, acquired over six acres of land with 1,300 feet of shoreline, and demolished five motels, a large restaurant and other structures.
(The process hasn’t been without its interesting moments. Demolition of one motel was halted when local residents and historians objected that its main building -- an elegant Victorian home built in 1875 – had belonged to the village’s founder. The building, now known as the Hoxsie House, was spare from the wrecker’s ball and will eventually be moved to another site to become a historical museum.)
Much of the day-to-day work of property acquisition and fundraising is being carried out by the nonprofit Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. Conservancy director Glen Chown says the park is one of his organization’s most visible successes.
“Everyone was writing off this stretch of road,” he said. “But it’s going to be the new gateway into Traverse City.”
The new beach and park are already open for public use, but it may be several years before local officials are able to install amenities more sophisticated than the current picnic tables and trash cans. They do have a plan for the park’s future – including even more land acquisition south of the existing site – but for now they’re going to put their energies into creating a permanent endowment for its upkeep.
“We’ve got some great drawings and conceptual plans, but we haven’t begun that process of major rebuilding yet,” said Zollinger. “For now, if people want to enjoy the water, walk along the shore, or just sit and watch the sunset – well, those are good things, too.”
Indeed they are. Kudos to the township, the Land Conservancy, and everybody else involved in this worthwhile endeavor!