October 23, 2014

Au Gres Township interested in running Au Gres Park

Tim Barnum
Au Gres Township is interested in taking over the Au Gres Park owned by the county.
Tim Barnum
A rustic cabin is yards away from the beach at the Au Gres Park.
Tim Barnum
A walkway leads to a beachside pavilion at the Au Gres Park.
Tim Barnum
Pavilions and playground equipment are some of the features at the Au Gres Park.
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9/20/13

Au GRES TWP. — Au Gres Township has expressed an interest to the Arenac County Parks Board in taking over the Au Gres Park, which includes a beach and rustic cabins.

Township Supervisor Chester Pawlaczyk said he has approached the parks board about the township’s desire to run the park several times.

“This has been ongoing since last year,” he said. “Up in the U.P., the county gave a park to a city because the county had difficulty running it. They didn’t want to stay in the park business. They turned it over to the city and the city took it over. Seeing that, I went to meetings and sent them letters to see if they’d be interested in it.”

Au Gres Township has been working to acquire a 40-acre property across the road from the park, and has a purchase agreement on the property, though it does not own it at this time, Pawlaczyk said. He said he would ultimately like to see that property and the park managed by the township.

“Our idea was to possibly purchase it and develop a park, also with the thought too of maybe someday, of taking over the park in the township,” he said.

At the Arenac County Board of Commissioners meeting Sept. 17, Commissioner Mike Snyder said the parks board has mulled over a few options, including leasing the property to the township.

Board Chairman Robert Luce, who is a parks board member, said having another entity besides the county running the park would help save some money on payroll. Currently, the county has two parks employees: one supervisor each at the Au Gres Park and at Oasis Lake.

“It would get that off our payroll, and Oasis would more than pay for itself,” Luce said.

The county parks have struggled financially in recent years. Luce said one of the big obstacles for the parks is overcoming weather uncertainty.

“You’re so dependent on weather, for one thing,” he said. “This summer was just horrible for the parks. Last summer was really good.”

County Clerk Rick Rockwell said this year, the amended budget for the parks was projected at $74,577 in expenses and revenues. He said at the end of August, though, the parks revenue was $65,421. Expenses were $58,702, but more than $10,000 was spent on the parks in September, taking year-to-date expenses up to $69,300, according to Rockwell.

He added that another another utility payment will be due later this year, which would increase the amount the parks go in the red. Rockwell said that of the year-to-date revenues, $19,500 was appropriated from the county’s general fund, and more than $9,000 was from grants and state disbursements from the parks being accessible for handicapped hunters.

According to Rockwell, gate revenues this year were down about $10,000, with monies from gate fees being $46,600 last year, compared to $36,400 this year.

Pawlaczyk said he has heard several reasons why attendance struggles at the Au Gres Park, one being the lack of development.

“The first thing is (campers) pull in here, and if (they) don’t see water and electric hookup, they turn around and leave,” he said.

However, whether the township or county runs the park, Pawlaczyk said it would be a challenge to finance improvements.

“It’s going to be hard for anybody to take and develop it, really,” he said. “It’s going to take some money, and you’ll have to write for grants.”

Luce said he would like to see the parks board try something new and unique to draw visitors to the county parks.

“We’ve got to start thinking outside of the box a little bit with our parks,” he said. “You have to have an attraction, something that makes them want to go there.”

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