Presque Isle Park should be enjoyable for all — and safe

Without a doubt, Presque Isle Park is one of the crown jewels in the region.

Not just the city of Marquette, but Marquette County, the Upper Peninsula and maybe the state of Michigan.

The peninsula park, surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, has many attractions, including a gazebo. a playground, a pavilion that’s well used for public and private events, MooseWood Nature Center, several picnic areas, and Black Rocks, a popular jumping-off-into-the-lake recreational site.

Of course, the park interior is a wildlife haven, with trails winding through scenic wooded areas. Hikers also can walk along the west side of the park to get a closer look at the lake.

Not everyone, though, is a hiker, and many residents — and tourists — choose to drive around Peter White Drive to see the sights.

As with many popular attractions, problems can arise, and that’s what’s happening at Presque Isle.

The Marquette City Commission and the Presque Isle Park Advisory Committee have been mulling the extension of walking hours as a result of heavy motorized use. Current walking hours, when motorized vehicles aren’t allowed in certain sections, are limited to 22 hours per week.

The main problems are traffic and illegal parking.

The parking issue is particularly acute around Black Rocks. A small parking area leads to Black Rocks, but during the warm-weather months, it can fill up pretty quickly. That leaves the option of parking along the already narrow Peter White Drive, which can make it difficult for motorists to drive through safely and easily.

PIPAC voted in 2018 to place “no parking” signs near Black Rocks, which apparently often were ignored.

However, the park is there to be enjoyed, and understandably, Marquette Police Chief Blake Rieboldt said writing tickets is not the answer to alleviate a problem, a belief he expressed at a Monday work session of the city commission and PIPAC.

Regarding the walking hours, some people are concerned reducing them will make it more difficult for the elderly and disabled to enjoy the park. Commissioner Jenn Hill, though, stressed the issue centers on managing the parking problem.

Then there’s the issue of dealing with food trucks. The present ordinance for the permit allows a food truck to go anywhere on city property, including on Presque Isle. PIPAC’s suggestion is for mobile food vendors to obtain permission from the parks and recreation director on a case-by-case basis, although Commissioner Jenna Smith believes that would hinder the trucks, which typically don’t operate on schedules set up far in advance.

Other actions have been taken in recent years to address problems on Presque Isle, such as not allowing hammocks to be placed between trees to prevent damage, and addressing erosion concerns near Black Rocks.

With such a crown jewel, ecological concerns have to be taken into consideration as well.

We believe Presque Isle should be available as much as possible for the public to use, whether it be walking, driving or just sightseeing. However, that accessibility has to be tempered with providing a safe place. Were an emergency vehicle, for example, not be able to drive to an accident because of a blocked road, that could have tragic consequences.

Public feedback should continue, though, to find a reasonable solution to the issues facing Presque Isle Park.