TAWAS CITY – Waterfront parks in Tawas City have already been hit hard this year, as reported, due to rising lake levels. Another impact to the structures at these sites occurred during a recent storm event.

Among other business, the damage was discussed by Tawas City Council members at their Sept. 3 meeting.

Prior to the gathering, City Manager Annge Horning sent them an e-mail regarding the effect the weather had on the parks during an Aug. 26 storm.

In Tawas City Shoreline Park, for instance, she advised that the railing at the end of the pier is gone and the irrigation line along the shoreline is exposed and floating in Lake Huron.

“We’ll be contacting a contractor to bore a new location for the water line,” she stated.

“The ‘box of rocks’ that was located at the north end of the park between the park and the condos is gone,” Horning continued, adding at the time that there was a lot of debris along the shore.

“The good news is that the cement Legos held up and we didn’t lose any of our sidewalk or grass area,” she reported.

“In Town Square, there are the remains of a pontoon boat and jetski littered all along the shoreline and up into the park for quite a distance,” Horning went on.

She stated that there were rocks and other miscellaneous debris scattered throughout the park and the parking lot between Tawas Bay Family Practice and the former Tawas Bar.

“In Gateway Park, the railing along the Lake Huron side of the boardwalk is completely demolished. Two sections of the sidewalk have sank and the grass area is heavily eroded,” Horning told officials. “The rocks that were along the shoreline are scattered all over the lawn.”

Horning said she would keep the council posted as more develops, but she encouraged them to visit each of the parks and take a look at the damage for themselves, as well as the extensive cleanup efforts that would be needed.

It was during the council meeting when she reported that, since the storm event, Department of Public Works (DPW) staff have done a fantastic job of cleaning up the sites. “And our insurance adjuster will be here tomorrow morning to take a look at those, to see what they can do for us.”

As she noted in her background memo for the meeting, talks have been had with the insurance agent regarding the damage to the structures, and he will be filing a claim on the city’s behalf.

Several officials praised the work of the DPW crew in responding to the damage. For example, Councilwoman Jackie Masich shared that, after receiving Horning’s e-mail, she visited the parks and was surprised to see how much better they looked than what she was expecting.

She added that she was equally impressed by how the Legos held up and saved the nearby sidewalk in Shoreline Park.

In related matters, officials heard a recommendation from engineer and fellow council representative Mike Russo, for the wooden walkways in Gateway Park, as well as Tawas City Veteran’s Park and Canoe Launch.

Russo said he visited both sites and, in each case, talks are being had about elevating the existing pier system by 21 inches. 

For the Veteran’s Park along Tawas River, he said the goal would be to get the structure out of the water. In Gateway Park, the elevation would help eliminate the ice damage which could occur in the winter, due to the high water levels.

Russo went over a couple different options for how to make these adjustments, and also talked about such unknowns as whether a contractor could even be brought on in time to complete this work before winter. Uncertainty about the changing water levels also means the amount of potential damage this winter is unclear.

Horning pointed out that another thing they don’t have the answer to yet is how much, if anything, will be covered by the aforementioned insurance claim which could be put towards that.

“And I have no idea what they’re even proposing to cover,” she said, adding that hopefully it can offset some of the costs, at least with Gateway.

DPW Director Gus Oliver also attended the meeting and said the main question is what the damage is going to be after this winter. Without knowing this, the city could have a contractor lined up to do all the work, but then the structures fare far better than expected – and the lake levels could also drop.

“And I think even this past April and May, we had beach. We had no idea the water level was going to be coming up this high,” Horning added.

“I would hate to see us just do minimal repairs, and then have the lake come up even more next year,” she said, in reference to the options of either making repairs, or completely tearing out and rebuilding the structures.

Mayor Ken Cook, as well as other council members, wondered if it may be best to just let Mother Nature take its toll this winter, and then tear everything out in the spring, if the intent is to do a complete rebuild.

“That’s my recommendation, is wait,” said Russo.

Councilman Jon Studley said that if they don’t think they’re going to be hiring a contractor now, he didn’t see why a decision needed to be made that night.

Cook agreed, also saying he was not optimistic about the city being able to find a contractor to complete the project this fall.

Horning added that, hopefully by the next meeting, they will have more information about the insurance claim, as well.

Studley said he would like to see the council postpone the issue and put it on the agenda of their next meeting, with more information, to which the other members agreed.

In separate business, officials acted on the following:

• Unanimously appointed residents Denise Willis and Jeff Coon to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Cook pointed out that the city was fortunate to have received applications from these individuals, as there were two vacancies on the five-member board.

• Entered into closed session with city attorney Sean Freel, to discuss correspondence which has previously been presented to the council.