By Jessica Mathews /

An agreement has been worked out to address management at fees of Scofield Park and the Thompson Lake boat launch in the City of Howell.

The City has contracted with Howell Area Parks & Recreation Authority or HAPRA for years to manage the beach, park, and boat launch for around $45,000. The Authority is responsible for manning the guard booth and handles pavilion rentals, which goes on year-round. It also manages the distribution of annual park passes for City residents and other participating municipalities that include Marion, Howell, Oceola, and Genoa Townships. Separately, the City pays around $160,000 for maintenance and various other activities. Since the City is dealing with exceptional budget challenges, it began looking at moving management operations in-house.

Recent meetings between City staff and HAPRA staff led to two scenarios being drafted. At Monday night’s virtual Council meeting, the first scenario was deemed the preferred option among HAPRA officials and City staff as it was a stepped approach that would prevent serious shock to the system.

Council unanimously approved a letter of understanding with HAPRA for the 2021 season that stipulates all member households get one free season pass, but have the ability to purchase one additional pass for $40 per household. Non-HAPRA member households will be able to purchase a maximum of two passes for $60 each. The letter of understanding is contingent on HAPRA accepting a $45,000 management agreement and working with the City to assist with trash pickup and minor maintenance.

Season passes have been a point of contention as HAPRA member households previously received two each. It was initially proposed that non-members could purchase passes for the same $40 each it was ultimately bumped up as overcrowding and safety issues have also been of concern. Councilman Bob Ellis suggested making the cost higher to reduce traffic and congestion at the park and boat launch and minimize disruptions, which others from HAPRA and Council and City staff agreed with. He said that would make sure people participating in HAPRA had had better access and not as crowded conditions.

In addition to budget concerns, there have also been safety concerns raised from Council members. Jan Lobur was unanimously voted to serve as Council’s new Mayor Pro-Tem and lives by Thompson Lake. She’s raised various concerns related to too many people using the beach and boat launch – saying people come to set up tents early in the morning on the beach. Many agreed last summer was likely an anomaly with no one going anywhere on account of the pandemic but there has more use over the years. Meanwhile, Lobur also raised safety issues about boats anchoring near the volleyball and beach areas at the park, which it was noted would be under either the jurisdiction of the MDNR or Livingston County Sheriff’s Office. However, there was talk of possibly putting up some signage to deter anchoring in those areas.

City Attorney Dennis Perkins commented that people from surrounding neighborhoods visit the park and beach but there are also others who park blocks away and then walk in without a pass, which adds to the population of the beach and he’s not sure how to fix that.

Both HAPRA Director Tim Church and Board Chair Sean Dunleavy were in favor of the proposal approved by the Council and thanked members and staff for their collaboration in exploring things and taking a stepped approach.

Two resolutions related to the changes are expected to be introduced at the April 12th meeting for boat launch administration rules and park and boat launch fees.

Photos: HAPRA & Google Street View.