Dangerous Lakeshore Drive Washout "A Fire Hazard" & Worse, Say Area Officials
Identified as a fire hazard by the local fire department at a recent meeting, the washout section of Lakeshore Drive in Saugatuck Township—that breach of the road a few blocks south of Wiley Road and just south of Mazzie Lane—“could potentially be a hornet’s nest” trying to address it, said Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan during Wednesday’s board meeting.
The township will be notifying affected neighboring property owners for input, hosting a public meeting to discuss the matter, officials resolved Wednesday night.
At the very least, township officials want to make “some determination of what is going to happen on that road,” said Sheridan.
Running along Lake Michigan, Lakeshore Drive is an Allegan County primary road in the township. Many homes are located east of the road, and across the road on the west side those property owners have stairs going down the steep dune-bluff taking them down to the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The washout section isn’t that long, spanning about three or four properties, but, according to township officials, it’s been a washout since the mid-1980s.
The road was never reconstructed after it’s collapse during that time.
The major concern for township officials and the Saugatuck Township Fire District is what officials Wednesday characterized as the possible “silent majority” of folks residing south of the road breach who would be affected if emergency vehicles can’t get to them in adequate time in case of any emergency.
“We’ve been lucky all these years (no major emergency situation has occurred). We are operating on borrowed time,” said Saugatuck Township Trustee Roy McIIwaine, who has recently been to the site with Allegan County officials for a pre-evaluation of the situation.
McIlwaine is a member of the Saugatuck Township Fire District Board and brought up the issue during his report about that board, saying the fire department deems it a fire hazard.
It’s an involved problem. “This is potentially a huge project, maybe a 10-year schedule,” said Sheridan, about the time and expense that could be involved.
Then there are other factors that exacerbate the situation if indeed the township and the county take this project on. Things have been built on what otherwise would be a public road primarily because of the washout, according to officials.
“It’s evident there’s been encroachment on the right-of-way by two property owners; they built a gazebo and stairs. The site plans (for the constructions) show that they are not located where they (should have been built),” said McIIwaine.
He did concede, however, “We need an official survey to make sure.”
“Are they even aware the project they built is encroaching?” asked Sheridan.
There are also signs and fences that have been erected at the ends of the washout that could be unauthorized.
“If neighbors refuse to look at it and if somebody dies of a heart attack, for example, the blood is not on our hands,” said Saugatuck Township Supervisor Bill Wester, referring to the township’s endeavor in reaching out to neighbors about the matter.