“Road Ends,” or unimproved street rights of way, have increasingly become a topic of conversation and concern. A “road end” is that portion of a County Road Commission owned right of way that terminates at a lake, stream or other water body. The Road Commission may own outright the property within the right of way or it may only have an easement for road purposed over private property. The right of way may also vary in width and length. Note that the ownership of these unimproved road ends is with the Ottawa County Road Commission and NOT with Park Township.
Park Township has nearly 50 unimproved road ends within the township with most terminating at Lake Macatawa. The widths vary from 7 feet wide to 66. The lengths vary from 30 to more than 800. The use of these also varies from active water access to very obscure and barely discernable. Some residents and visitors have considered some of the road ends as beaches.
To be clear, road ends, by state law and via years of legal case law and court rulings, are not “beaches.” Unimproved road ends, certainly on inland waterways, are only to be used for “water access only.” While some of the unimproved road ends may have been used historically as beaches the legal status of these is for access to the water only.
Allowable uses include access to the water, swimming, fishing, sightseeing, kayak (small boat) launching and similar activities that can be done either at the water’s edge or in/on the water. All uses must remain within the legal right of way width, of course, as uses outside would be trespassing on the adjacent private property.
To be clear Park Township has not taken any action to close or restrict the use of any road end within the township. Park Township has taken action to provide greater safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists via the expansion of no-parking zones. From observations at several road end locations there were many reports of random parking that even prevented emergency vehicles from accessing the area. Some locations have limited sight distances due to the topography which, when combined with higher speeds, presents problems for pedestrians crossing busy streets.
The number one source of complaints by both visitors to the road ends and by the nearby private property owners involves dogs: being unleashed and not being picked up after.
Other major complaints include alcohol abuse, loud after hour uses and, since no road end has restroom facilities, visitors often use the private property as a public restroom.
The township encourages visitors to the road end to use these sites as legally permitted and to also respect the private property rights of the immediate neighbors. In order to promote the legal use of these sites the Township has taken steps to increase enforcement of existing laws and ordinances that affect road ends and other township owned and controlled properties. Here is the list:
Township/State Enforced Rules and Ordinances
- Parks and Road Ends are closed from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am (28-86,28-62)
- All fires are prohibited(28-87)
- No alcohol or illegal drugs may be consumed or possessed (28-63, 28-88 and State law)
- No littering (28-89,28-60)
- No animals are allowed at any Road End/Township owned parcel terminating at Lake Michigan (28-90 and 6-3(h)
- All dogs (at Road Ends other that those terminating at Lake Michigan) must be on a leash (not running at large)(6-3)
- No dog allowed to soil any public property; any waste shall be promptlyremoved and disposed of in a sanitary manner.(6-6)
- No injury to (defacing, damage, etc.) any property(28-58)
- No injury to plants or trees(28-59)
- No injury (trapping, killing, annoying, etc.) any wild or domestic animals(28-61)
- No violations of the noise ordinance permitted or breach of peace (22-122, 22-102, 22-103)
- No urinating or defecating in any public place (street, park, etc.)(22-110)
- Trespass offenses (statestatute)
- Other state statutes regarding public nudity and lewdness will also be enforced.
**The Township hopes that the visitors to the road ends will “follow the rules” so all may continue to enjoy the opportunities for water access that these sites provide.
Please respect private property and be a good neighbor.