park commission, Bowers Harbor, Bowers Harbor Park
Bowers Harbor Park | Jane Boursaw Photo
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter by Marilyn Elliott, dated May 13, 2016, was submitted to Monica Hoffman, Peninsula Township Clerk, and Michelle Reardon, Director of Planning & Zoning for Peninsula Township. It was included in the packet for the May 23, 2016 meeting of the Township Board, and references the May 9, 2016 joint meeting of the Township Board and Park Commission. – JB

Dear Monica and Michelle,

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I respectfully request you forward this to all Township Board and Park Commission members.

History and facts seemed to be of little value and importance in the discussion and decision at the Township Board and Park Commission meeting Monday night, especially for the first 20 minutes of the meeting. Besides the lack of knowledge of how and why the concept drawing for the Bowers Harbor Park addition came to be, and the lack of desire to learn the reasons and facts, it became clear that some believed that it would be better to have input from unknowledgeable people rather than those familiar with its history. I am grateful to Anne Griffiths for revealing the appropriateness of keeping experienced, knowledgeable and willing nearby residents involved, and I am glad Mary Swift, John Snow and David Foote of the Conservancy agreed to serve on the ad hoc committee.

One issue, in particular, was neither germane nor helpful. Wendy Witkop’s pronouncement that Peninsula Township needs more active parks because as she looks out her window at her job as Assessor of Blair Township she sees active park, and as she takes her grandchildren to active parks in Blair Township because Peninsula parks are inferior, was counterproductive to the discussion at hand. As you eventually learned from audience members, there were and continue to be very good reasons why the expansion of Bowers Harbor Park needs to be all, or mostly, a passive park. That doesn’t mean work should not be done to improve play structures (probably on the original park acreage), but her plea for that was lost in her hurt feelings tirade because she didn’t like the way the decision to purchase the additional park land came about. It is important to also remember that more money to acquire the Park came from residents than from the Township when the preliminary work to make the case in front of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is added together with their contributions through the Conservancy.

Beyond that, Blair Township is not Peninsula Township by any comparison other than they are predominantly white populations. Peninsula Township population in 2014 (according to the U.S. Census) is estimated at 5,500, while Blair’s is 8,209. Blair Township is nearly 50 percent larger in population than Peninsula Township. Also, since 2000, Peninsula Township grew at 4.5 percent (from 5,265 to 5,500) while Blair Township grew at 4.5 percent (from 6,448 to 8,209).

Further, Peninsula Township’s median age is 53.4 years while Blair’s is 34.2 years. 75 percent of Blair Township is under age 50, while Peninsula Township has 44 percent under age 50. Forty percent of Blair Township’s households have children under age 18, while Peninsula Township has only 27 percent. Blair Township is not surrounded by the Great Lakes, which are nature’s splash pad. So, we are not Blair Township, and that is not the benchmark to determine park needs for Peninsula Township.

Finally, I find appointing Wendy, in spite of her own obvious reluctance, to the committee to determine plans for the Bowers Harbor Park addition disappointing, as she spends so little time in our Township, often missing Township Board and other important meetings such as last October’s ZBA meeting. It would be more appropriate to appoint a Township Board member who lives here, spends time here enjoying our parks, and wants to constructively improve them instead of bad mouthing them.

Marilyn Elliott
Old Mission Peninsula

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

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To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Must be a typographical error. Blair Township grew 27 percent compared to Peninsula Township growth of 4.5 percent since 2000.

  2. No, we DON’T need a splash pad; we desperately need maintenance on existing play structures to ensure safety of the children using them. There isn’t a single piece of play equipment that isn’t broken!

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