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Public Demands Public Access: Take Action for Eagle Lake

January 22nd, 2014

Eagle Lake, located in Cass County, is a 379 acre body of water with no public boating access site. Providing public boating access on Eagle Lake has been a priority for the angling community and the DNR for several years, however adequate land has not been available for development of such a site even though the funds could be made available for a purchase from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund or other funding sources.

Over the last few years a potential public land acquisition opportunity was identified near the southeast corner of the lake along Eagle Lake Road,  known as The Dock Property, which contains a boat ramp on Eagle Lake and presents an opportunity to provide public boating access on a channel along the north of the property that leads to the chain of Christiana, Juno, and Painter Lakes.

Yet, the Eagle Lake Improvement Association (ELIA) has fought all efforts to develop public access to this public natural resource. They ask residents on the lake in their newsletter for their participation “to help combat this very serious threat to the lake environment.” Imagine that–the public, anglers, a “very serious threat”!!?

ELIA ultimately bought The Dock Property themselves to prevent a land deal with the State of Michigan.

Thanks to a heads up from Michiana Outdoor News reporter Louis Stout, we learned that the DNR has stepped up and made an offer on another property, near The Dock Property. However, its clear that the ELIA is gearing up for another fight against anglers and the public.

The Ontwa Township Planning Commission will hold a public meeting Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in which details will be explained (agenda not yet posted, but check back at the link provided).

A conceptual drawing of the proposed site can be found by clicking here.

It’s imperative that sportsmen and women and representatives of outdoor organizations attend this meeting and show their support, as well as in writing.

Stout says that the new proposal has received preliminary support from some township members. Public support could help make the difference.



It’s stories like this— from around Michigan and the country—about homeowners blocking public access to a public natural resource, held and protected in the Public Trust, that frustrate us.

Public Act 240 of 2012 (the land cap bill) drove the DNR to develop and adopt a DNR-Managed Public Land Strategy (July 2013), which states as an objective: “Working with local governments, provide public access on all priority lakes over 100 acres.”

However, the situation at Eagle Lake and others like it is a top reason why MUCC has strong concerns about giving local units of government the right to veto critical state purchases within their area, as some have promoted in the discussion around removing the land cap in Michigan, as proposed in HB 5210.

These homeowners have been blocking public access to OUR Michigan lake for years, it is time to move forward.

  • Reba

    I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with the DNR on this. This looks like it is a private lake, with homes all around it. I would imagine that these homeowner have taken care of this lake all these years and have paid high taxes. I live on a private lake in another part of the state and I wouldn’t want the DNR to make it public either. I also have a cabin on waters that are open to the public – I spend at least 1 hour a week cleaning up the mess that “the public” leaves behind. Fishing line, bottles/cans, cigarette butts, and the other problem is boaters stopping on my watefront to use my yard as a “potty”.

    • TPAINE

      I see your point, and would even agree with you–wholeheartedly, I might add–IF this was a private lake, but it isn’t. This is in fact a public lake, which is owned by the state, not the decent folks who happen to own homes adjacent to it. When you build a home on a “public” lake, you should be prepared to share the resource with others, because having riparian rights to the lake does not make one the owner of it.

    • tracker16

      Me & my neighbors decide to buy our houses on a paved public road. We expect to pay higher taxes than those who live on undeveloped roads. We clean and pick up after all those who litter while using said road. It doesn’t give us the right to stop the people’s use of said road. Same analogy!
      It is a public lake. As for taxes, sportsmen generate more revenue towards conservation throutogh taxes levied on equipment and through licensing fees. We don’t want people polluting anor desecrating our waters and public lands either. Look before you cast stones! I’ve seen more lake residents throwing their pop and beer cans into the water than I have fishermen. And yes, when I see you docking your boats in front of your home’s, I know your a resident. I watch your children drive your speed boats and jet skis like their running moonshine across county lines. There are always those that with little or no respect, but don’t cast all the blame at all visiting boaters. I pull up old fishing line and trash and keep it in my boat till I get back to the parking lots.
      We are more apt to call for a conservation officer or report illegal activities because we take value and appreciate our natural resources. I would think the people around eagle lake would appreciate the parking area as well. That road buy the ramp is a danger to everyone during the recreational months. Maybe if you had the DNR ramp, conservation officers would be present more often to ticket those breaking the laws. If I saw a boater using your yard to go the bathroom while out fishing, I would record the hull numbers and report the incident.


    People seem to think that home owners on Eagle Lake don’t want to share the lake with the public!! I’ts amazing what kind of over simplifacation people can dissiminate in a few short printed news comments to the general public.
    For example i’m tired, really tired of hearing that Eagle’s a public lake thats not shared with the public, like we won’t allow people on its shores or in the water let alone be able to put their boats in! Why isn’t anyone who wants the DNR property bring up the fact that we have boats coming and going on this lake all the time. As I’m sure it has since the begining of the Lake existance. We have 4 landings on this lake two of them used publicly and also by the residents. It’s amazing we can use them but Mr.Stout acts like nobady else can!!How do they think we get our boats on and off? But of course thats doesen’t excite people like “they won’t let us use the lake”!! The public is on the shores on the east side of the lake all summer long with boats coming and going all summer long. Fishing tournaments happen, Sailboats happen etc.etc. So why not a DNR project? Well the DNR decided they want to do this project with money they have from a trust fund that can only be used on projects like these! Yes they can build it here but they can’t fund maitenance or security any of all the things that support a project like this after it’s done. So lets just drop it at Eagle Lake and let the people who live here pick up the pieces after the DNR drops it in our lap. That sounds like an answer that goverment has come to expect it’s citizens to accept.
    Maybe Mr. Stout would like to live next to it or volunteer to clean it up after the weekends like the Lake Association and the residences does.
    And by the way Mr. Stout, facts from our news deliverers who have the power of a news paper reporter should at least have their facts correct like for example ELIA did not buy the Dock property as you have stated and we do have public boat access, seems like those two facts would be easy to check for someone who makes a living at it.
    Now the DNR’s plan is to fill some east end of the lake in for a back up area to put the boats in. I’d like to see a private company get the approval to try that!!
    Oh and by the way Reba knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the public’s cleaning habits………

    • tracker16

      I don’t think the number of accesses is the issue. Some of the existing accesses are nothing more than a narrow fire lane. Usable ramps, and adequate parking is a key factor. As for a park area, I thought that was a requirement established by the association. Not sure on that last fact and please inform me if I am incorrect about this. It was just briefly mentioned in a previous news article.

      • Mike M

        tracker16: The township zoning for Eagle Lake is L-R
        or Lake Residential which is very similar to R-1 Residential. The zoning
        permits single family dwellings and parks. There is a definition of a park for
        Ontwa Township spelled out in the Ontwa Township Master Plan. The Zoning Board
        od Appeals rejected the last DNR site plan because it did not meet the park
        criteria. The primary intended use must be a park and the boat access site
        secondary according to the guideline in the Master Plan.

        residence want responsible public access. Progressive Michigan townships with
        lakes have set the bar for DNR boat access site by adopting Aquatic Nuisances
        Ordinances to prevent non-native species from entering the lakes. All
        stakeholders need to be responsible stewards. Actions taken today will be
        judged 50 years from now.

  • Ca

    I have a cottage on what was once a private lake and the MI DNR bought a lot and made an access for the public. Our lake was a private lake and the DNR said it was the best way to give the public a place for recreation. Sorry I know first hand about this kind of action and I would not support this effort.

  • Doc

    It seems to me an over-simpification to say that lake owners are trying to keep anglers out. This is an exceedingly complex issue that involves much more than anglers. It seems to me that a conservation organization would approach this with a complete analysis, not a simple ‘help anglers. There is nowhere in the MUCC position that considers all the implications of public access. I support and am an angler. If the issue was only anglers, this would be a rather easy issue to address. The reality is it involves ‘invasive species, het boats, ski boats, and a host of issues that are more complex than simply fishing. When I am trying to fish, i often give up because of the traffic on whatever lake I am on. I would be in full support of this if the only issue were letting anglers on a lake.
    I do think it is important that it is important to provide evidence to support arguments. I think one needs more than an ‘opinion’ of a source. I question whether lake property owners are polluting their own lake and leaving garbage all over the place. I also don’t understand what the point is about lake owners having boats, jet skis etc. I think many private lakes have associations to maintain some tranquility on the lake.
    Finally, when I decide to fly fish in an out of the way place, I often cannot get to the pond. river or lake because people own ‘Land” that they can private signs on. Is it rational to argu;e that all land should be public land? Forests and meadows are privately owned and those owners can put up signs keeping people off the land.
    I am a coservationist in every sense of the word but I use the term in the largest sense, protecting out land and waters as best we can, as well as protecting the environmental impact of various activities. I feel the MUCC and the DNR are pushing this issue with only the ‘angler’ issue without considering the entire environmental impact of changes such as are being proposed.

    • MUCC Staff

      The State of Michigan has made it a top priority that the public should have access to state owned, navigable waters. The association is attempting to block public access to waters owned by the state. Precedent has already been set that waters such as Eagle Lake should be fully accessible to the public. Private waters would be classified as ponds and lakes that are enclosed within property already owned by the land owner. This is not the case with Eagle Lake. The lake is on public property, part of a chain of other public lakes lakes, and fully navigable and inhabited by fish that were stocked with citizen money in other sections of the lake chain.

      The main arguments are based on past state court cases concerning public waters. Precedent already exist that waters like Eagle Lake should have full public accessibility.

      Thank you for your input in the matter. We really appreciate it!

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