FRIENDS OF REEDS LAKE
The described interactions were shared with several individuals. These testimonies were the instigation for further research and we ultimately formed an organization called the “Friends Of Reeds Lake”. Given the degree of reported harassment, we have withheld our personal identities. The individual initially involved was the only name they did have and we are aware of repeated occurrences of hostilities he received over subsequent months by various WPA members. FRL formed a non-profit interest group called “Friends of Reeds Lake” to offer people a collective forum by which this issue can be resolved fairly and effectively. An informative web site was formed to solicit interest and membership grew quickly on a facebook site: The WPA was contacted by a lawyer with demands that their private use of the park cease and that all forms of harassment and intimidation stop. They were notified that the only recourse would be to petition for “declaratory and injunctive relief” in the Kent County Court. The initial communication can be read in its entirely:
[Please refer to Letter of Complaint]
Our attorney requested that the WPA remove the gate, private membership signs, and cease further intimidation or harassment. Barring this simple path to resolution, he noted he would proceed to seek from the Kent County Circuit Court “declaratory and injunctive relief” (a “declaration” that the park is public followed by an “injunction” for them to clear the public area of privatized occupation.”. From a legal perspective, the following violations were noted:
-No State of Michigan/ DEQ license for operating a marina.
-John Bonnell Park is registered wetland as documented in the Kent County Wetland Inventory. Drainage systems, fill and sand placement, marina activity, foliage removal and a parking lot as well as manicured lawns along the entire wetland waterfront on Reeds Lake Boulevard place the township – as owner- at risk for substantial fines.-
-An Electric utility exists in the park without code or permit documentation
-Illegal placement of permanent structures- docks, swings, fences, gates, utility poles, signs, drainage fields, sand, brick grill structures, and storage racks on public property
-There is no documentation that the WPA has permission from any municipality either past or present to govern, improve, maintain, or utilize this area of John Bonnell Park. The WPA engages in Illegal impersonation of a regulatory authority
-Threatening and intimidating other persons venturing into the area.
-Fraudulent inflation of home values by offering a private park to new residents.
-Financial gain on public property from annual membership fees and dock fees.
There was no response to this letter for some time. Eventually, a response came from the lawyer that represents the WPA- Mr. Bowie. Mr. Bowie is himself a Woodcliff Park member. There was initial talk of possible negotiation and settlement between the WPA and FRL. Our lawyer conveyed our suggested terms of negotiation in a letter.
In short, it notes that the suit would be dropped if the WPA would remove the gate and stop privatized use of the park. It allowed for further discussion regarding how the park might be jointly managed and how a jointly managed marina might be used to generate income for upkeep and maintenance. It further responded to the suggestion that the WPA has claim to the property by “adverse posession”. Our lawyer notes that this argument fails from a factual and legal perspective – a position acknowledged by the Grand Rapids Township supervisor as well. Regardless, the WPA was not interested in engaging any further settlement discussions and we were informed they would respond to the complaint by arguing “adverse possession”. He claims the WPA had adverse possession rights prior to 1988 when the current Michigan law was enacted (As of 1988, Michigan law does not permit adverse possession claims against government owned property).
ESCALATING THREATS: At about this time the individual who had the initial interactions with the WPA received notice of a spreading rumor that he threatened to withhold professional services from members of the WPA community. A previous friend from the WPA neighborhood was willing to meet with him and he learned that certain WPA members voiced intent to bring this rumor to relevant authorities. He was advised that the only way this might stop is if FRL were to abandon their current suit. This rumor was a fabrication as there were never any conversations in which his profession was discussed in any manner. He reports that on his drive home, he was followed by a car from the WPA to his own neighborhood. This person pulled alongside him at a traffic light, verbally assaulted him, spit on his car, and drove away. This rumor, the threat of harm, and the physical encounter came to the attention of FRL officers. Given previous reports of harassment and physical threat, the active members had been careful to withhold their identity from the GR press and Cadence. These new escalations led to discussion regarding the physical safety of the current active members in the event their identities became publicly known. There were at this point approx. 100 active facebook members and 8 acting governing members of FRL. The future of FRL based on these threats and behaviors was uncertain but no definite decision was made on how – or how not- to proceed.