By SARAH MANN Daily News
RICHFIELD — The Bark Lake boat launch is going to look better than anyone expected.
After years of new plans, revised plans and canceled plans, Richfield Trustee Bill Collins announced at a meeting of the Bark Lake Association on Thursday that the state’s Department of Natural Resources has committed an additional $29,000 to build a boat launch on Bark Lake in order to make sure the area is more than a concrete ramp with a gravel parking lot.
“It was through no fault of the village. It was through no fault of the (Bark Lake) Association,” Collins said. “We were getting caught between the DNR and the federal government in regards to the grants.”
Then Collins got a bit of luck; late last year, he was attending an event and ran into DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “I took the opportunity to introduce myself and tell her about the situation,” Collins said.
Stepp stepped up and put Collins in touch with Eric Nitschke, the DNR’s southeast regional director, who began working with the village to find additional funding sources to upgrade the project.
“I said, ‘My expectation is I want to make this project whole again,’” Collins said. “What I’m happy to report is that the state is going to kick in an additional $29,000.”
That money will be used to pave the parking lot, stripe it and add lighting to the area, as well as a fence around a set of trash bins. “That part was originally going to be removed from the project,” Collins said.
That’s not to say that the village doesn’t have to make some sacrifices; due to a lack of funds, the boat launch on the southeast side of the lake will be a temporary, rather than permanent, structure. It will have to be installed and uninstalled each year by the village’s Public Works Department.
But, said Interim Village Administrator Jim Healy, by scaling back the project, the village has so far remained within its budget for the boat launch.
Adding a launch comes with a set of problems, though. “We know that this project obviously comes with some reservations from the Lake Association,” Healy acknowledged.
Residents who live on Bark Lake are worried that an influx of boats could also mean an influx of invasive species if boat owners aren’t conscientious about cleaning their crafts as they visit different lakes as they will be required to do before launching into Bark Lake.
One resident asked about zebra mussels, an invasive species that has, so far, failed to appear in Bark Lake. The association is worried that they’re coming.
“How can you possibly police every boat?” One member asked. “It’s going to happen. … It’s inevitable.”
Healy said that he will work with the association to figure out ways to educate boat owners about the lake’s regulations.
“I’ll be looking to set up meetings … to discuss how we can do that sort of outreach,” he said. “At least we can do a better job communicating to these people who are going to be using our lake our expectations.”
Healy did make association President Vito Marchese a little happier when he revealed that the village is considering a per launch fee of $7-$8.
“Originally, we wanted $25,” Marchese joked. “$8 sounds really good. … It looks like a nice plan. Paved and the whole bit.”
Site preparation off East Shore Drive began in November. Healy anticipated the project will be completed by June.