The Allegan County board in western Michigan backed off plans Thursday (April 12) for a new campground at West Side County Park after lakeshore residents filled the commission chambers to oppose the plan, the Holland Sentinel reported.

“This is a phenomenal treasure for the people in the county,” said John Gottlick of Ganges Township. To change its use would cause “major, major problems,” he said.

About 50 people attended the meeting, with nine people speaking in opposition of the proposal during the more than two hour discussion.

Allegan County Parks Director Kevin Ricco proposed applying for a state grant to fund improvements at the 15-acre park, including the creation of 20-30 modern campsites that are paved with electric and communal washrooms with showers.

The park now has a playground, picnic pavilions, a restroom and 650 feet of Lake Michigan frontage. It is also the oldest county park, the first parcel having been acquired in 1921.

Residents said camping would destroy the park.

“Open space is important to the residents,” said John Pearch. “The scenic view of the lake should be protected.”

Others were concerned about the problems of fire and police coverage for 30 campsites that could mean more than a hundred people on the property.

“Before you get into this type of operation, take a good long look and get a risk assessment,” said George Corsiglia, a former Allegan County judge who lives along the lakeshore. “Don’t do something that will make a mess in the future.”

For the past several years, the county has been charging $5 per car to enter the park on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Attendance has dropped, with many people heading to nearby Pier Cove, a small, free Ganges Township park, causing parking and overcrowding problems.

“West Side needs improvement. I hear people use it but don’t want to pay $5 to go in,” said Commissioner Steve McNeal, who represents Fillmore Township and Holland.

Ricco would still like to use the $125,000 in the parks department’s capital improvement fund to improve the park, the county’s only park with Lake Michigan access.

“West Side, in its current state, while a nice facility, has outdated restroom facilities, outdated picnic facilities,” he said.

The county will redevelop the plan for West Side park with the assistance of interested parties including the Ganges Township board, Allegan County Road Commission and parks officials.

Campgrounds will not be included in the plans, the board agreed.