County board approves increase of mooring fees at Big Bay Harbor of Refuge

Perkins Park in Big Bay is pictured. The Marquette County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved the 2019 rules and fees for Perkins Park and the Big Bay Harbor of Refuge, increasing the seasonal mooring fees at the harbor to match the lowest tier of state rates. Fees at Perkins Park were not changed. (Photo courtesy of Marquette County Planning, Community Development, Forestry and Recreation)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting approved the 2019 fee schedules and rules for Perkins Park and the Big Bay Harbor of Refuge, which included an increase in the cost for seasonal mooring at the harbor that brings rates up to the state minimum.

“This year, we’re not proposing any substantial changes whatsoever to the rules or the park fees for the Perkins Park,” said Thyra Karlstrom, Marquette County senior planner. “However, we are proposing a slight increase to the seasonal slip rate at the harbor.”

While the county has requested reduced rates for the Big Bay Harbor of Refuge in the past from the Michigan State Waterways Commission, which sets transient and seasonal rates for harbors, the county began a phased approach in 2016 to reduce the gap between the state’s rate and the county’s by starting to gradually increase the local rate, board documents state.

“This has been a process that we’ve been following for several years now, trying to bridge the gap from having a rate fee that was below the lowest state-recommended level, since we have a waiting list,” Karlstrom said.

With this year’s approved increase to $35 per foot of boat — an increase of $3.50 per foot from 2018 — the mooring fee is now on par with the lowest level of state rates, Karlstrom said.

No change was made to the seasonal launch pass rate, which will remain at $20, officials said. Furthermore, county planning staff is working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the waterways commission to establish a commercial/charter slip at the Big Bay Harbor of Refuge. If approved, this would designate a transient slip for a commercial charter on the bulkhead of the dock, board documents state.

There were no substantial changes to the rules of the harbor nor the park, Karlstrom said, noting the only changes were in the language used within specific rules.

The camping fees at Perkins Park were not changed, as county staff found the rates “fall within the spectrum, but are less than other campgrounds in the region” after they surveyed camping fees throughout the Upper Peninsula, board documents state.

Furthermore, county staff is working to evaluate the feasibility of establishing WiFi service for users of the park, but “an adjustment to the camping fee schedule may be necessary in the future to implement the project,” board documents state.

Karlstrom also gave commissioners an update on the park’s activities during its most recent season.

“Last year, we had one of our best seasons at Perkins Park ever,” she said. “Very high revenue. I attribute this to the great park staff that we have there. We also implemented an online reservation system a few years ago so people are able to easily reserve sites, they can reserve them up to a year in advance. I believe you’re aware that we had a harvest festival last year that was a big success. And we’ve had a pretty strong promoting and marketing campaign going for the last few years as well.”

Commissioners commended Karlstrom and county staff for their work at the park and with harvest fest.

“I know that fall fest was the biggest hit in Big Bay in a long time,” Commissioner John DePetro said. “So kudos to everybody involved at Perkins Park. Thank you very much.”

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.