TRAVERSE CITY — Chazz McCall refers to North Twin Lake and the wilderness surrounding it as “pristine” and “God’s country.”
He’s owned land on the Long Lake Township body of water for more than 25 years and he treasures the area. For years, McCall planned to give his property to Grand Traverse County after his death, but he revoked that offer during a county commission meeting last month.
“Twenty years ago I said, ‘When I die, I’m going to leave this land to the county,’” McCall said. “I informed them at the meeting that will no longer be on the table because of their lack of stewardship.”
McCall said he’s witnessed growing problems in recent years — chief among them illegal hunting and alcohol and drug consumption — at the county-owned park that wraps around the north and east edges of North Twin Lake, across the water from where McCall lives.
”Somebody likes Busch and somebody likes Coors Light,” McCall said while pointing to discarded beer cans near a makeshift bonfire pit at the county park this month.
Violations of posted rules outlining park hours and vehicle prohibitions also concern McCall, as do violations of state fishing regulations. But his biggest concerns remain the hunting, which McCall said occurs in areas of the park crisscrossed with hiking trails, along with the partying.
”Young people, alcohol and water don’t mix,” he said.
McCall said he’s repeatedly brought his concerns to county officials in recent years but nothing has changed.
Grand Traverse County Commissioner Christine Maxbauer has talked with McCall about the park several times since he spoke before the commission last month. She said the misuse of Twin Lakes Park needs to stop.
Maxbauer, a member of the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission, said Parks and Recreation Director Jason Jones needs to address McCall’s concerns.
”This is just unacceptable,” she said.
Constructing a gate at the park entrance and closing it after hours would help, Maxbauer said. So would fencing off the back area of the property and hiring a part-time county park ranger to patrol the park in the summer.
Maxbauer also contacted the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department about the park.
Undersheriff Nate Alger said deputies are stopping by the park more frequently now, but their ability to deal with issues there is limited. They can’t easily patrol the park’s expansive back woods, for example. Constructing gates, fences and additional signage might help but won’t solve all the park’s problems, Alger said.
”Somebody who does not respect signs and hours, it will not deter that problem,” Alger said.
Jones said larger signs about rules, including the prohibition on alcohol, have gone up at the park recently. But, like Alger, he said there is only so much signs and gates can do.
”We’re doing what we can, but we have to rely on our citizens to responsibly use our parks,” he said. “These are issues at nearly every park in Michigan.”
McCall and Jones met this week at McCall’s lakefront home to talk about the park.
Jones called McCall “a good watchdog” for the park, but he disagreed with his opinion on the county’s lack of stewardship.
”Chazz has every right to his opinion, but I don’t share that opinion,” he said. “We are doing the best we can to steward all of our parks.”
McCall this week stood by his decision to not leave his property to the county when he dies. But he hopes some good comes from his efforts to notify officials about what’s going on at Twin Lakes Park.
”I try to always be positive and I hope that we can honor this place, and the people who come here and the people who left it for us,” McCall said.