Webber Township approves ORV Park grant application

Project will begin in Spring 2022

WEBBER TOWNSHIP – The Webber Township Board of Trustees adopted a resolution approving a partnership between the township and the county to develop an ORV Park.

The development will be on property near the current Webber Township park.

Also approved was submission of a DNR Trust Fund grant application to help fund the project and a commitment of $64,000 from township funds for the project.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, some in attendance expressed concerns about partnering with the county causing further delays in the park development.

“I don’t understand why we have to partner with the county when we already have funds for our part and we already have our own grant writer,” Lena Lyles said.

Township Clerk Kathyrn Young questioned whether they would be able to move forward with other projects at the park if they were to partner with the county.

“We waited a year for the county to get its ducks in a row, and now they are asking us to wait another year,” Young said. “We are not a township that likes to wait. We like to move forward and upgrade when we can.”

Township Supervisor Ernie Wogatzke said they can continue to move forward with park projects that are not part of the grant application.

“Until we get the grant we cannot move forward on the restrooms or finishing the driveway,” Wogatzke said. “In the meantime, we have other projects that we can address.”

Michigan State University Ag agent Ryan Coffee, who is assisting the Lake County parks department on the grant application told the trustees that once approved for the grant, they would likely be able to begin construction of the park in the spring of 2022.

“The money needs to be appropriated before you can put a shovel in the ground,” Coffee said. “You will know by the end of the year if you are approved for the grant or not. Anything in the grant proposal will have to wait for approval, but anything outside of that you have compete control over what you do at anytime.”

“Our goal is to promote Lake County and keep businesses going,” he added. “ORV’s and the trails are the future of this area. We don’t know what will happen with the prison, and we don’t have any industry to speak of.”

Lake County Commissioner Robert Sanders told the board that, as a resident of Webber Township, he was in full support of them pursuing the DNR grant and partnering with the county on the project.

“If you want to move forward on your own, I get it,” Sanders said. “I understand the frustration people have with trying to develop that park, but with the grant, if you only have to spend $64,000 to get $250,000 of improvements, I don’t why you wouldn’t want to do that."

“I know you want to get things rolling on this, but this is me speaking as a taxpayer,” he added. “If we invest in this from the general fund and do all of this without trying to seek out grants, then I am very concerned about that. If there is money available out there to do what we want to do and we can capture those funds, that’s no-brainer to me. If our elected officials don’t see that, then I am concerned.”

Sanders said with the viability of the prison uncertain, and no other industry looking to establish themselves in the Lake County area, the economy is dependent on outdoor tourism.

“Our goal is to promote Lake County and keep our businesses surviving,” Sanders said. “ORV’s and trails are our future, so let’s look at the future and come together to provide for our residents and the people that want to visit our community.”

“I know this COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of people to get frustrated because we haven’t been able to do anything at the park other than just keep it open,” Wogatzke said. “I think we can take some of these projects and move forward this Spring. Right now, I think we should join forces and submit the grant application.”

Following the public hearing, Williams moved that the board approve moving forward with the grant application, with the condition that they move forward with other projects on the list this summer.

The motion was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Young voting no.

RV ordinance revision adopted

In other business, the board adopted a revised recreational vehicle ordinance.

Revisions to the ordinance include clarification of the definition of a recreational vehicle and a tent; designation of where a tent can and cannot be used; regulations for outdoor fires; requiring a camping permit, including for temporary stays.

“Those are the heart of the changes,” zoning administrator Mike Oisten said.

The revised ordinance can be viewed at the township office, 2286 W. Springtime St., Baldwin. For more information call 231-745-3471.

The Webber Township planning commission has completed its revisions of the Rustic cabin ordinance and has forwarded it to the county planning commission for review. It is expected to be before the township board for adoption at the regular monthly meeting on April 8.

There will be a public hearing on the revised camper ordinance at 6 p.m., March 22, after which it will be forwarded to the township board for adoption.