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By Louie Stout

DNR Shuts Down Eagle Lake Parking Area

The Michigan DNR has blocked access to its Eagle Lake access parking property, prohibiting boaters who use the older boat ramp north of the area from parking there.

According to Gary Jones, the move was made when Cass County Ontwa Township officials complained of overcrowding of people and traffic along Eagle Lake road near the parking area.

The DNR bought the property more than three years ago and has allowed public parking there ever since. The grassy area is part of a new proposed DNR boating access site that has been tied up in litigation for nearly four years.

Boaters were using the property to park their trailers after launching at the existing launch along the roadside north of the parking area. That changed late last week when the DNR placed large boulders along the roadside to prevent people from parking there.

Jones said township officials expressed safety concerns for people crossing the road to access the lakefront beach, noting it was creating traffic issues and people were grilling and cooking on the property. He said they also expressed concern that some people were launching boats off the backside of the parking area into the channel that leads into the Juno Chain and causing the bank to erode.

“People can still use the property to carry in kayaks and launch along the channel, but we can’t let anyone park there,” Jones added.

Jones emphasized that the parking ban is temporary until something else can be worked out. It was his understanding that boaters could still park their vehicles along the west side of Eagle Lake Road.

The Eagle Lake Improvement Association has fought the site ever since the DNR announced its development plans in 2014. Construction has been on hold ever since.

In 2014, the association challenged the township’s approval for the access site and lost in Circuit Court. The group continued to fight the access which has been tied up in more litigation all summer. The association now is disputing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) approval of environmental permits and the case awaits hearing before a DEQ judge. That case is supposed to be resolved this fall. If the DEQ judge rules in the DNR’s favor, the association likely will appeal to a higher court.

Oddly enough, the DNR’s proposed development would limit parking access to fewer than 20 vehicles with trailers and a few non-trailer vehicles. Because of the halt in construction and litigation, the grassy field was attracting considerably more. Most of the congestion issues along Eagle Lake road were caused by non-boaters who used it as a parking area to access the sandy east shore of the lake.