Grand Traverse Parks and Recreation officials would probably love to be rid of Twin Lakes Park and in particular North Twin Lake. There have been three drownings at North Twin in the past four years, including the death of 17-year-old Owen Williamson last May.
But despite the park’s recent bad history and the potential for problems it poses going forward, a far better approach would be to fix what’s wrong and make better use of a valuable public asset.
Grand Traverse is hardly awash in parks, and Twin Lakes is unique in that it has a lodge for groups to meet, lots of land and is relatively close to Traverse City. There is great potential but no plan for how to tap it.
Until some long-term proposals are worked out, the county does have to address the danger North Twin represents. Parks board member and county commissioner Christine Maxbauer is right to suggest the county prohibit swimming. There are already warning signs and life-saving equipment, but more must be done to warn off swimmers. Enforcement may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean the county shouldn’t try.
Leasing the property to a nonprofit as a healing center for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder sounds nice, but it’s just kicking the can down the road. Transferring liability to someone else isn’t a solution.
The county must find creative ways to use the park - and possibly fix the North Twin beach - before giving up. The public will never again be gifted acres of land and lake like this property; not using it to its full potential can’t be an option.