This week, a whirlwind of activity took place in connection with the Bluff Road tree removal and roadwork scheduled to begin Monday in Peninsula Township.
After the Grand Traverse County Road Commission marked pink dots on the trees designated for removal, a group of Old Mission Peninsula residents organized by Jim Floraday gathered enough signatures (51 physical signatures and 37 electronic signatures) on a petition to have the Township Board pass a resolution designating Bluff Road as a “Natural Beauty Road.”
At a special meeting on March 30, the Township Board passed the resolution, which was then hand-delivered to the Road Commission by Township Supervisor Rob Manigold.
After accepting the documents, however, the Road Commission indicated that by the time the designation of Bluff Road as a “Natural Beauty Road” is complete, the roadwork will have been completed. The work is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 3.
OMP residents then reached out to County Commissioner Dan Lathrop, who arranged a meeting on March 31 with Road Commission Manager Jim Cook and Road Commission Board Member Bill Mouser, as well as OMP residents Jim Floraday and Bob Bevier, Township Supervisor Rob Manigold, Township Planner Gordon Hayward and Tom Grier, an attorney representing Floraday’s group. The project engineer was also present.
Per Jim Floraday, here is the information learned at the meeting, as it relates to trimming, removing, and clearing:
- The trees with pink dots on them are scheduled to be removed (total of 318 +/-)
- The areas where there is a pink line on the road with the word “trim” means those trees will be trimmed.
- The areas that have a line with an arrow to another line and labeled “clear” means that the brush and trees with a diameter less than 4″ will be trimmed based on MDOT guidelines, which could be cleared from three to five feet deep.
- There are a total of 590 trees in the road right of way. Of these trees, 318 are being removed for either safety purposes or to aid in preserving the roadway bed due to shading.
- The Road Commission participants believe they have already compromised, as they are only removing 318 of the 590 trees.
- The cost of the project is around $780,000, of which $615,000 is being paid for by OMP residents through the millage tax.
Also, the trees tied with a yellow ribbon are those designated by Peninsula Township to be saved.
The Road Commission is concerned that delaying the start of the project will result in additional cost, as the contract allows for the contractor to charge for administrative cost, as well as mobilization and remobilization of resources (tree removal/maintenance equipment has already arrived on Bluff Road at the intersection of Center Road).
Discussion took place regarding the tree removal helping to preserve the roadway bed, although the project engineer has stated that there is no study or data other than his personal observation that shade causes “icing” of the roadway, which results in deterioration of the roadway. Both Jim Cook and Bill Mouser support the position of the engineer, despite the lack of actual data.
Manigold suggested that tree removal activities begin with only those trees that have a pink dot, as the trees with a pink dot AND a yellow ribbon are trees that the township wishes to save. Additionally, the township would assemble a group of specialists to complete an independent study to assess the marked trees.
Road Commission attendees said they did not have the authority to stop or delay the project without the approval of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission Board. They did, however, agree to attempt to call an emergency meeting of this board.
After some discussion regarding how many trees the township had marked to be saved, the Road Commission indicated that they would need an actual count of the trees identified by the Township to be saved. Based on that number, they would decide if they could instruct the contractor to not touch the trees marked by the township.
Additionally, the Road Commission indicated that they would need evidence pertaining to why each tree identified by the township should be saved. Without this evidence, the trees would be removed and, in fact, may still be removed, despite the evidence.
As there are 153 trees marked to be saved, the township residents attending the meeting feel that the Road Commission will reject the request to save those trees. Should this be the case, Floraday said they will instruct the group’s attorney to file an injunction to stop the destruction of the 153 trees designated to be saved.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you are directly impacted by this situation (residents of Bluff Road from Center Road to Blue Water Road, as well as individuals who live in subdivisions with water access via Bluff Road), and would like to be named as a party of the injunction, email Jim Floraday, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, address, email address and phone number. The more names, the better, as it is an indication of the number of people impacted by the situation.
As the OMP group headed by Floraday is starting to incur legal expenses, he hopes that folks will contribute to the cause. He is asking for $75 per residence, noting, “I am hopeful that all of us on OMP understand that this is more than Bluff Road that we are fighting for. Based on the present course and views of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, they can take a road like Smokey Hollow, where we have that beautiful tree canopy, and cut down all the trees in the road right of way, as they ‘shade the roadway and thus cause freezing which causes deterioration of the roadway.'”
He adds, “If we do not win this one, then it will be much more difficult to win the next one. Therefore, anyone who reads this and wishes to preserve the beauty of our roadways as it relates to our trees, this may be our best chance.”
Floraday has contacted the longstanding group “Protect The Peninsula,” headed by Mark Nadolski. They will assist in the collection of funds and provide an account for those funds to be deposited in, to move quickly in having a retainer.
Make checks out to “Protect the Peninsula.” Mail to Protect the Peninsula, 10 W. McKinley, Traverse City, MI 49686.
Include a note that these funds are for the Bluff Road Account.
Also include: your phone number, the address of your OMP property, your existing address, if different from your OMP address.
CONTINUING THE CAMPAIGN
The correspondence and actions of Peninsula Township residents are being noticed. Floraday noted that Lathrop said he called the meeting because of the many emails, phone calls and messages from township residents.
Floraday says he hopes OMP residents can muster an additional campaign directed towards the board members of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission. “They are the ones who can vote to not only delay this project, but also rein in those who believe, with no specific evidence, that shade causes deterioration of the roadway bed.”
In your correspondence, include your name and address. Indicate that you’re contacting them regarding the Bluff Road project, and that there are 153 trees identified by township representatives that you would like to see saved.
Indicate that you understand that the G.T. County Road Commission is responsible for maintaining a “safe roadway,” however, they have overstepped their bounds in that they are clearing trees due to shading of the roadway when there is no evidence that supports this claim and that the engineer on the project has admitted it is based on his own observations.
Also include that you are being assessed a special millage to aid in the improvement of roads of Grand Traverse County, but that it appears this special millage may not be in the best interest of all, and that when and if a millage proposal is placed on a ballot in the future, it may be in jeopardy of being passed, as you are not sure you can support a Road Commission that acts based on personal invalidated observations.
Ask for immediate intervention to stop the mass removal of 153 shade trees on Bluff Road, scheduled to begin on Monday, April 3, 2017.
Send correspondence to the Grand Traverse County Road Commission Board:
Chair Carl J. Brown, email@example.com, (231) 499-6394
Commissioner Jason Gillman, firstname.lastname@example.org, (231) 929-2067
Member Andrew Marek, email@example.com, (231) 218-9175
Member Marc S. McKellar, firstname.lastname@example.org, (231) 590-4132
Member William D. Mouser, email@example.com, (517) 420-2386
Floraday adds that township residents should feel free to contact anyone who has property in Grand Traverse County and ask for their assistance. “The wider this becomes as relates to county residents, the more apt we are to succeed in getting the attention of the Road Commission Board,” he says.