Camp Sea-Gull now a public park


The former Camp Sea-Gull property along the north shore of Lake Charlevoix officially became a Hayes Township park on the morning of Jan. 6.

With 1,400 feet of lake frontage, the 20-acre site offers public access to the lake for numerous recreational opportunities, with a number of the camp’s facilities slated for public use and year-round enjoyment.

While the Township plans to open the property to the public immediately for things like Lake Charlevoix access for ice fishing, many of the steps required to convert the property from a private camp to a public park will take time. “Some of the buildings need to be removed, and some will be renovated for public use,” said Township Clerk Marlene Golovich. “We’ll be enlisting the help of community volunteers for some of this work, but we’ll also be applying for development funds in order to develop public recreation facilities.”

Township Supervisor Ethel Knepp said that the manager’s residence on the property will be retained, and that the Township plans to employ an on-site manager. “We might not be able to make that happen right away,” Knepp said, “but it’s an important part of our long-term plan.
Hayes Township officials received a lot of help from the late Emmet County Controller Lyn Johnson and Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Gaetano in planning for the acquisition and development of the park. Emmet County has a long and successful track record of protecting and enhancing recreational properties, including Camp Petosega on the shore of Pickerel Lake. “When Little Traverse Conservancy director Tom Bailey introduced us to the Emmet County staff, it was like ‘off to the races’ after that. It really was,” said Golovich. “It was so positive. They kept telling us, ‘You can do this, you can do this.’” With a price tag of $4.2 million, the project was daunting, but together, the group came up with a plan.

In 2012, Hayes Township Parks Committee member Anne Kantola worked with Golovich and the Conservancy’s Ty Ratliff to submit a grant request to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF). Funded by revenues from oil, gas and minerals on state-owned land, the Trust Fund makes grants to help local units of government acquire land for public recreation and conservation. In December of 2013, the Camp Sea-Gull project was recommended for funding and a $3,750,000 MNRTF grant. The 25% local match requirement was met with $500,000 from the Township’s recreation fund and some $672,000 raised in a public fund raising campaign with help from the Conservancy. More than 260 individuals, families, and foundations contributed towards the project.

“The Camp Sea-Gull land acquisition is a great example of the type of project the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund makes possible” said Steve DeBrabander, Manager of Recreation Grants for the DNR. “This project will provide the public with additional high quality access to Lake Charlevoix for swimming, boating and other outdoor recreation uses. The Department of Natural Resources is proud to be a partner in this project.”

The acquisition of Camp Sea-Gull fulfils a long term dream of Hayes Township. “Through a 2008 township survey, our residents identified the need for more lake access as a high priority,” said Township Supervisor Ethel Knepp. Since that survey, township officials have been actively looking for property to acquire, with a special interest in a place to launch small boats. When the Camp Sea-Gull property came on the market, the township held a series of public hearings and determined that there was widespread support for acquisition of the site. One of the advantages is that the property is just across the Boyne City-Charlevoix Road from the 75-acre Nathan “Barry” Driggers Preserve which was acquired through a 2007 grassroots fund raising campaign.
“The people of Hayes Township have proven over and over again that they want to establish a healthy balance between land development and land protection,” said Conservancy executive director Bailey.

“This new public park will be a tremendous resource for people who live in the Township and those who come here to visit.”
Bailey also noted that the previous owners of the Camp Sea-Gull property, the Schulman family, deserve a lot of credit for sticking with the partners through what ended up being a three-year process. “We wouldn’t have the property to consider as a park site if the Shulmans had not provided good stewardship for the land,” he said, “and the sale would not have been possible without their patience.”

“Camp Sea-Gull has been part of the Schulman family since 1955, offering families and children the opportunity to experience our beautiful northern Michigan outdoors,” said a representative from the Schulman family.

“That legacy can now continue indefinitely under the township’s stewardship.”

Hayes Township is planning for a June 7 Open House at Camp Sea-Gull.