"PA Waterfront Looking Good"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, August 14, 2010

Port Austin’s three major waterfront projects are moving right along — and looking good.

The first project, the Visitor’s Center is located at the corner of M-53 (Lake Street) and M-25 (Spring Street). This corner was once home to a three story building that housed the American Legion. When that group moved on, the building became village property and was named the Civic Center. It was in dire need of renovation and many local people contributed to a fund to renovate it.

That ambitious endeavor was undertaken by civic leader and Chamber President Bruce Parsons. Chamber members raised funds by hosting bingo games in the building. When the project was completed, which included removal of the third story; there was a full kitchen on the lower level, large open area with a stage on the main floor and new restrooms. The building continued to serve community organizations and private groups for many years. All were welcome to use the building for gatherings, meetings and other activities.

When the Historical Society learned the redevelopment of the entire harbor area included demolition of the Civic Center, they launched a successful project to save it. It sits two miles east on Pte. Aux Barques Road awaiting completion of another renovation. According to Historical Society members, it will serve as a history museum and house “A Treasury of Lost and Found Memories” of the area.

The new Visitors Center opened just before July 4th and has extended summer hours and a large display rack with local information and brochures provided by Chamber members. The building has an office, large community meeting area, public restrooms and facilities for hosting small gatherings. It truly expresses the pride of the community.

A long awaited phase of the waterfront development project is the harbor area. The parking lot and adjacent walkways were removed and the old harbor master building was torn down. Repairs to the south end of the dock, filling and raising it to the existing level at the north end were done. The Michigan DNRE/Waterways, who are providing funding for this phase of the project, have directed redesign of the boat launch parking area to accommodate larger trailer rigs.

A wide, cement capped walkway flows along Bird Creek at the base of the main dock and will facilitate foot traffic. Additional walkways throughout the project will encourage visitors to tour the entire harbor area. I walked to the harbor today and noted finishing touches are being done on the blacktop’s first coating.

The boat harbor area has remained open all summer, a challenge for those docking there and dock the attendants serving them. The existing harbor masters buildings will remain as they were very recently built. Landscaping by use of rock walls will outline the entire area and be very attractive. Dredging of the harbor, installation of floating docks and construction of new public restrooms is expected to be completed this fall. Once done, the Port Austin State Harbor will be one of the finest facilities in Michigan.

The third phase of the Waterfront Development, improvements at Veterans Waterfront Park, is well under way. This area will have a new pavilion overlooking the water, beach expansion, picnic and playground areas, new parking and a scenic vehicle turnaround. Walkways will once again flow throughout the area to accommodate those wishing to view the water and harbor.

Many questioned spending a combined amount of $5.4 million dollars for this project but it needs to be remembered — much of the work has been in the planning stage since 1992. A total of $ 3.7 million of MDNR/Waterways funding, collected as fees paid by boaters, was allocated over the years to be spent on Port Austin’s harbor. The balance of $1.7 million to complete the three phase project was raised by gathering grants and providing matching funds through loans and money in hand.

As I observed activity at the harbor area, I was dismayed to note although at any time there were as many 15 large pieces of equipment at work, no young boys were watching. I guess they don’t do that anymore because they are all closed in at home, playing with their electronic games.

As I see it, that may be just as well. I noted a news item that told of a 7-year-old girl who opened a lemonade stand without a license and she was threatened with a $500 fine by an overzealous inspector.

Note: I spoke with Lisa representing the Bad Axe AAA office yesterday. She was understandably upset about my column posted July 31st regarding phone response irritations. I apologized and explained my comments were not directed at the Bad Axe AAA office. They were directed at an 800 customer service number I called that appeared on the back of my now canceled card. The number, 800AAAMICHIGAN, was also printed in bold letters on my statement.

To those customers of the Bad Axe AAA branch — I’m truly sorry for any confusion and please don’t take my opinions expressed out on our local people. I did learn while chatting with Lisa she too was discouraged with big utility companies and their answering systems. She regrets not having a public forum to express her views. I reminded her by registering and providing your name you may have a public forum on the Huron Daily Tribunes online issue, and they also welcome signed letters to the editor.


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