Update – There has been little development in residents’ efforts to restore the public access point at Huron County’s Oak Beach County Park. Several residents have been in contact with county officials who seem not to know who’s in charge. Mark Moine, a person who is actively trying to restore the site, noted on the Facebook Page, Oak Beach Boat Launch Supporters, “I have talked to both the County Commissioners, and the Road Commissioners. Both groups want to point the finger and dump responsibility on the other group.” He and others will be reaching out to Huron County’s attorney to try to break up this impasse.
August 2020 – This year, a new issue in the Upper Thumb popped that honestly kind of surprised me. The county has placed huge concrete barriers at the end of Oak Beach Road. A historical lake access boat ramp. This ramp and access point have been in existence for over 50 years. While neglected and mostly forgotten, the paved road that went right into the beach still served to get small boats out on the water for fishing and sailing. It was also an exit of last resort for small craft during a storm. It was the only access point between Port Austin and Caseville.
Oak Beach Access Has Been a Topic For Over 35 Years
In 1982 a study was conducted assessing the condition of access to Saginaw Bay and improvements needed to handle future demand. The study observed that the exposed nature of this area’s shoreline is a significant reason no other public access sites exist along the shore. However, because there are no good public boat launching facilities and its proximity of productive fishing grounds, this was the area mentioned most often by Saginaw Bay public access site users as the place where they would most like to have a new site constructed.
The study concluded is a definite need for a public access site in this area and strongly urged the construction of an adequately protected launch site midway between Caseville and Port Austin. It was proposed to dredge a channel and install a break wall to protect it from the bay’s wave surge.
Source: Current Condition of Saginaw Bay Public Access Sites and Improvements Needed Based on Present User Activity and Anticipated Future Demand. December 1982. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land Resources Division Coastal Zone Management Program
32 Years Later Another Study of Lake Access at Oak Beach
In 2014, the Huron County Commissioners commissioned a study to examine the feasibility of improving the “dysfunctional” boat launch. It was hoped that the study results would show if it is feasible to construct a boat launch at the park. Over $10,000 was spent on the effort.
Two years later, the study’s final estimate came in at $258,000 to improve the Oak Beach Access Ramp. The county said there was no money for such a project, and a new funding source would have to be found. Yet in March of 2020, the Huron County Board of Commissioners worked with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to make some big improvements to Lighthouse County Park to the tune of a $300,000 grant. Clearly, there is funding available for Oak Beach if the county worked on a grant to apply for it.
Remnants of the Boat Launch Remain Under Water and Sand
High lake water and erosion have overtaken the boat launch area. Late in 2019, the metal grating, long since buried and deteriorated, was removed. This grate assisted small trailers in getting jet skis and small fishing boats into the water. Rock and boulders, placed to prevent erosion, have encroached on the launch area. Nature has taken over.
Yet the access point was still used. The spot is also a designated landing point for the Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail. The trail is a 103-mile water trail on Lake Huron that winds around Michigan’s Thumb into Saginaw Bay.
County Blocks the Boat Ramp Right in the Middle of the Boating Season
On a beautiful day on Friday, July 24th. The Huron County Road Commission showed up with heavy machinery and concrete barriers and blocked the access point. No Notice. No Public Comment. One reader commented that this work was all likely on an overtime basis due to the shortened workweek.
Oak Beach Boat Access Point Now A Sore Spot on the Shore
Within days of the concrete barriers going up. The protests began. Someone spray-painted a famous quote from President Ronald Reagan, who urged the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “Tear Down This Wall.” Referring to the post-World War II Berlin Wall erected by East Germany in 1961. The Huron County Road Commission was forced to send someone out to sandblast the graffiti and replace the signs.
At this point no further activity has taken place. A group has formed, Oak Beach Boat Launch Supporters, to petition the county to remove the barriers and improve the boat ramp.
The group is striving for the restoration of the Oak Beach County Park Boat Launch. The historical access point is located almost in the middle between Caseville and Port Austin.
This is by no means a new issue. It seems that the Huron County Parks and the Road Commission are not coordinating. This site is listed as a lake access point in numerous publications and still listed by Huron County. It now seems long overdue to take steps to improve Oak Beach Boat Launch as a strategic spot from both a recreational and safety aspect.