TRAVERSE CITY — The lakeside volleyball courts in Traverse City could grow by two, but city leaders have canceled plans to repair a beachside parking lot west of there.
After back and forth over a few meetings, commissioners agreed on Monday that they wanted to see better barricades blocking the crumbling parts of the West End Beach parking lot. They also wanted the city manager to direct other interim solutions, like something to stop runoff from flowing through holes in the asphalt and straight into West Grand Traverse Bay.
But the commissioners weren’t interested in plans costing more than $90,000 to shore up the ground that caused the collapse. The record-low lake level has since washed away the foundation of the parking lot, and Elmer’s Crane and Dozer proposed to reinforce the ground with more rock, sand, and dune grass on top.
Commissioners Tim Werner and Ashlea Walter raised various concerns, including whether the proposal was environmentally friendly. Werner held up a piece of frayed woven plastic, telling the stewards it was a piece of geotextile he had found on the beach during a previous reinforcement project.
“Geotextile is just a fancy word for plastic fabric, which ends up in the bay as microplastics, which I know we don’t support,” he said.
The commissioners previously expressed concerns that lake level experts shared elsewhere — Lake Michigan’s waters may be receding, but that isn’t expected to last.
Werner said he doubts the dune grass and sand on top of the geotextile will hold up long term. Instead, he pointed to efforts by the Traverse City Garfield Township Joint Recreation Authority to stop erosion on his property between the volleyball courts and the Open Space using more natural methods.
Other aspects of the plan failed for Walter, she said. City commissioners seemed to agree that the lot needed more accessible parking, but that wasn’t in the plan. The plans also did not include wheelchair-friendly means of reaching the water.
She also wanted to see an accessible unloading point for people to unload small watercraft and a real redesign of the Traverse area recreation and transportation trail.
Additionally, Walter said she doubted the commissioners would want to come back later and redo a parking lot the council recently paid to reinforce.
“I’m not in favor of continuing this contract tonight, other than some for stabilization, but not the one that’s on offer here,” she said.
Mayor Richard Lewis said the trail redesign is underway as TART Trails seeks to expand and extend the Bay Trail. He hoped this segment of the trail could be designed first so the city could intervene on the parking lot as soon as possible.
The wooden barricades around the sinkholes are not working, Lewis said, and Commissioner Mi Stanley said she had seen people park in front of them facing the water.
Concrete barricades would cost less than $3,000, said city utilities director Frank Dituri. These could be reused elsewhere.
Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe said she wanted to know how soon the city could hire a company like the one Werner mentioned working with the Joint Recreation Authority.
“I think there’s always something better and… right now I’m glad we’re looking at these non-plastic alternatives and things, but I’d really like to know who’s available to do something now, like in the next one year to 24 months and not that might be available one day, because I think we really need to focus on that,” Shamroe said.
After years of asking city leaders for their favor, fans at the volleyball courts west of the Open Space have started a volley.
Commissioners voted 6-1 on Monday, with Lewis voting against, to call for proposals for a project to add two courts to the existing six. This proposal would not exceed the $60,000 that city leaders have agreed to budget for the current fiscal year.
Mark Wagner, a city employee who coordinates the volleyball leagues that play there, and city parks and recreation supervisor Michelle Hunt previously provided figures estimating that several hundred players per week use the lands. With 204 people in the league, around 300 more people play it more informally. And there’s a waiting list of people looking to join the league.
After Lewis noted that the commissioners should approve the project with at least five “yes” votes once it comes back to them, Werner added that simply asking for proposals still gives the commissioners the option to “nitpick it or to talk about it in circles”.
But Werner said he was generally in favor of more people using the waterfront because he saw the ultimate goal of expanding the volleyball courts. He noted that some townspeople had told him that they would rather see other parks improved.
“I would rather it be a ‘yes, and’ let’s maintain and reinvest in our other parks and maybe invest in this one as well,” he said.
Town resident Rick Buckhalter said the expansion would occupy an open, grassy park for the benefit of a user group. It’s the space he said residents have worked hard to reclaim from its industrial past.
Lewis said after the meeting that he did not believe the expansion was necessary, and Wagner and Hunt’s presentations did not convince him.
“I think there’s a lot of room to play, just because not everyone can play at the same time,” he said.