MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Additional parking and wider sidewalks are on the way to Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon.
The city originally announced a plan to expand the parking lot last spring but were met with pushback from the community because the plan included cutting down several trees.
“They’ve been here for a long time. We love those trees and it would take away from the aesthetics of the park,” said Darlene DeHudy, who lives in the Norton Shores area.
DeHudy was one of several dozen residents that led the charge against the expansion. She says she and about 100 other people signed 90 letters detesting the removal of the trees.
After hearing residents’ concerns, the city amended the project in a unanimous vote on Jan. 11, eliminating the plan to cut down trees. They are now planning to move forward with a modified parking lot and sidewalk expansion. The project has an estimated cost of $2 million to $3 million.
“The park use has been just huge the last couple of years. Even with the institution of paid parking at the beach in the summer, we’ve noticed that the parking spaces are full, just routinely full,” said Muskegon Public Works Director Leo Evans.
Evans says the city will expand the center lot at the park and add additional diagonal parking on a one-way road from the bathhouse to the kite shack building. This will result in about 300 spots total.
Instead of the 20 feet wide boardwalk originally proposed last spring, the city will take the now 6 feet sidewalk and make it 16 feet wide. Evans says 10 feet of the 16 feet boardwalk will be designated for bikers while the other 6 feet will be for pedestrians.
The new plan allows the park’s historic trees to stay put. DeHudy says she is relieved the trees will remain but still has concerns about the project in general.
“I would hate to see (the park) turned into something that it’s never been: too developed,” said DeHudy. “Do minimally to preserve the beauty of what you have. That’s what I would like to see.”
DeHudy also added that she believes the money would be better spent on additional safety measures.
The city says the construction will be phased over the next few years and could begin as early as fall 2022. Over the next few months, they’ll work to complete the survey and design work.
“It’s going to change the way that everyone uses the beach, it’s going to open up a lot more opportunities for people to bike to the beach and get to the beach that way. It’s going to really improve the accessibility of our beach,” said Evans.