Friday, October 15, 2010

Letter to Hancock Recreation Commission

From Joe Kaplan

Dear Hancock Recreation Commission,

Government Lot 5, which includes the mouth of Swedetown Creek at the Portage waterway near the Hancock Campground and Beach, has been used and enjoyed by the residents of Hancock for almost 70 years. This 50-acre property was deeded from the State of Michigan to the City of Hancock in 1941 for "park and recreational purposes" only.

As you may know, beginning in 1996 the City of Hancock Recreation Commission developed a five-year recreation plan to outline the management and goals for park and recreation land within the City of Hancock. The initial report in 1996 did not identify the city-owned property at the mouth of Swedetown Creek on the inventory of City park properties. In contrast, the 2001 plan listed the Swedetown property as a "DNR boat launch" (as it has been used since 1956) but mistakenly placed the location of the site in "Hancock Township" and misidentified the State of Michigan as the owner of the property. The 2006 revised Plan again dropped reference to the Swedetown Creek property including the DNR maintained boat landing. The 2006 Plan also omitted the five-acre Sylvan Nature Park that was listed and discussed in both the 1996 and 2001 plans and was included in the "draft" of the 2006 plan. No reasons were given to why these properties were omitted from the Commission’s inventory, though in 2007 a proposal by the City to sell a portion of Government Lot 5 for residential development failed because of negative public reaction.

Since the Commission’s Recreation Plan is by de facto the only written document that provides information on park and recreation areas enjoyed by Hancock residents, it is important that the inventory accurately reflects all City property that is used for park and recreational purposes. Certainly, with the long history of continuous public use the Commission would be remiss not to include Government Lot 5 in the revised 2011 Recreation Plan, especially in light that some of the sites the Commission includes in the Plan are not owned by the City and/or are located outside of City limits. The Commission should also consider again recognizing the five-acre "Sylvan Nature Park" found in previous Recreation Plans and describe another city-owned waterfront parcel (below Dakota St.) deeded to the City in the same 1941 deed that gave Hancock ownership of Government Lot 5.

I appreciate your attention to this important matter and commend you on the important work you do on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Hancock.


Joe Kaplan

Author's Note: Citizens who wish to send written comments on the 2011 Draft Recreation Plan by email can write to City Manager Glenn Anderson at, with a cc to Clerk Karen Haischer at

Members of the Recreation Commission are John Diebel (Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club Representative), Dennis Hagenbuch, Doug Hayrynen, Bonnie Holland, Kevin Kalinec, John Slivon (Council Representative), Thomas Gemignani (Council Representative), Ron Studer, and Mary Pekkala.

Editor's Note: For background on the Government Lot 5 / Swedetown Creek issue, see our May 20, 2008 article, "Hancock's Swedetown Creek 'issues' include mineral rights," and our Dec. 16, 2008, article, "Hancock City Council to hold public hearing on land sale, hear report on sand / gravel survey Dec. 17."

See the Public Notice announcing the Public Hearing on the Draft Recreation Plan at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010, preceding the regular monthly Hancock City Council Meeting.

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