INITIAL EVENTS: June/ July 2010
In June 2010 an individual brought his dog to John Bonnell Park on Reeds Lake and was approached by a man who identified himself as a Woodcliff Park Association (WPA) member and advised him he was trespassing. He told him he must leave the park and was challenged to inquire with the Township if he had any boundary questions. He was told he was not permitted past the locked gate and was offered the muck waters south of the parking lot to swim his dog.
After this encounter the supervisor of Grand Rapids Township confirmed by phone that although the WPA does own a small parcel adjacent to the park, the park itself is public property and access is not prohibited to anyone.
Subsequently several people tried to visit and various forms of intimidation were employed by several different WPA members. On one occasion there was a threat of physical violence when a group of five or six WPA members came to the park shortly after the original individual arrived to swim his dog. False claims of explicit permission granted by the current township supervisor to occupy, govern, and improve this area were made by a WPA spokesperson. On different occasions there were repeated requests to leave the premises and multiple photographs (for reasons unclear) were taken from arms length distance.
After further uncomfortable encounters a letter was sent to the township supervisor.
[Please refer to Initial Letter to township supervisor]
It is available to read but in brief it simply expressed a desire to have unimpeded access to the already acknowledged public park and identified the intimidation and obstacles employed by the WPA which they state is by permission of the Township Supervisor. This letter was followed up with a personal meeting in which he was again assured this was public property and there were no arrangements for exclusive use. The supervisor was explicitly asked if there were plans for an exclusive use agreement either by sale, lease, or other means. Mr Devries stated neither he nor his board were interested in any lease or special use arrangements. He denied that there were any special arrangements for exclusive use by the WPA and further indicated that he had no intention of forming such agreements and would be disappointed if his board would propose or endorse such an arrangement.
Several days later, he and a friend visited the empty park and were immediately approached by a WPA member who accused them of acting “stalkerish”. Furthermore she stated that children were afraid to come to the park because of them, and that they had disrupted the entire community. They were advised that their identity and place of employment was known and that an effort to “embarrass them” would ensue. They did not return to the park feeling they had been successfully and finally intimidated and harassed.