bluff road, trees, tree, grand traverse county road commission, road work, peninsula township
Bluff Road Tree Marked for Removal | Jane Boursaw Photo
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If you live along Bluff Road or drive that route regularly, you may have noticed some pink markings on some of the trees along the road. These trees are marked for removal by the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, as it prepares to widen Bluff Road’s right-of-way, from the intersection of Center Road to the intersection of Blue Water Road, about 4.29 miles. Work will commence in April.

The cost of the roadwork is $739,758, but if additional funds become available in 2017, the project may be extended north of Blue Water Road, says Jim Johnson, County Highway Engineer for the Grand Traverse County Road Commission.

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In a Nov. 30, 2016 letter to Peninsula Township Supervisor Rob Manigold, Johnson notes that the preliminary scope of the project includes hot mixed asphalt (HMA) wedging with an ultra-thin overlay, approximately 5/8″ thick, which will provide additional structure to the existing pavement and seal the surface. Wedging will be performed to help provide more structure to the roadway, as well as some correction to the cross slope.

The project also includes drainage improvements. “Anytime we do a road project, we do a complete road project, which means we need to address drainage,” said Johnson at the Dec. 13, 2016 Township Board meeting where the roadwork was presented. “Trees that hang over the road are bad for asphalt, because of their root system. If limbs are over the road, that means the roots are over the road. We have to keep the roads drained. We’re going to re-establish any ditches that have been filled over the years.”

He added, “We do this in the best interest of the public – we want roads that last 20 to 30 years. We’re trying to get water off the road, not ponding in people’s yards.”

The roadwork also includes the removal of trees, which doesn’t sit well with some Bluff Road residents. “It looks like they will have no mercy and go on a rampage,” says Liz Bevier, who resides on Bluff Road with her husband, Bob. “We are struggling to understand the sense of removing so many trees and are literally sick about the possibility of removing our age old oak tree, among others.”

But Johnson notes that removing the trees will benefit the roadway by increasing the life expectancy of the asphalt. The shade from trees also prevents the asphalt from drying, resulting in deterioration of the road surface, and may also saturate the sub-base, which can cause structural failure.

Trees can also create obstacles for the motoring public and cause safety concerns with falling trees and branches, notes Johnson.

After marking of the trees, Johnson and the Road Commission’s Maintenance Supervisor will review and provide approval to the contractor, Elmer’s Crane and Dozer, Inc. During the review, additional trees may be added or deleted.

All wood from the trees is the property of the land owner, who may choose to keep the wood or have it removed. If kept, the wood will be stacked in long lengths in a pile adjacent to the removal location and placed outside of the right-of-way. If removed, Elmer’s will do so at no expense to the land owner.

If you live along Bluff Road where trees will be removed, expect a letter from Elmer’s seeking written consent for either option. Land owners need to return these to Elmer’s by March 31.

Residents may also obtain a separate agreement with Elmer’s for removal of trees outside the right-of-way. All costs and coordination efforts associated with this work will be borne by the land owner.

For trees larger than 18 inches in diameter and within a manicured lawn, land owners will receive $100 for each tree. The Road Commission and Peninsula Township will share in this cost, each providing $50. This money is intended to go towards the purchase, planting and maintenance of a new tree that will be placed outside the right-of-way. The Road Commission or Peninsula Township will have no further obligations for these trees, but the Road Commission may trim branches that extend into the right-of-way in the future.

At the Dec. 13 Township Board meeting, Johnson said they hoped that informing residents of the roadwork will alleviate some of the issues associated with the Peninsula Drive work done in 2016.

“We learned some things on Peninsula Drive when we did that project,” he said. “We had driven the project with the supervisor, and we were under the assumption that the Township still had a newsletter and that it would inform residents that trees were
being cut. Notices were sent out and hung on doors, but a lot of people leave the Peninsula for the winter, so when people came back, we had issues.”

Johnson said that when residents returned in May, June and July, they were surprised to discover the trees gone. He hopes that providing the cost for replacement trees on Bluff Road will help with those concerns. “We’re talking about select trees – 18” and larger – that are in the yard area. We think this will be a good solution.” About 60 trees fall into this category.

Jennifer Coleman, a Peninsula Drive resident, said the change to the landscape was devastating, including the loss of a 150-year-old Civil War tree. She hopes the Road Commission has learned from that project. “The people working on the project were fine, but the job got a little out of control,” she says, adding that some of the trees identified for removal were changed at the last minute.

She’s also concerned about erosion and stability on the beach side of Peninsula Drive where trees were removed, and misses the tree canopy that was lost. “We can’t get that back anytime soon,” said Coleman. “There’s a reason everyone lives on the Peninsula. Its charm and history is an important part of that.”

For more information, contact Township Supervisor Rob Manigold at (231) 223-7322 or [email protected], or Jim Johnson, G.T. County Road Commission Highway Engineer, at (231) 922-4849 (ext. 216) or [email protected].

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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  1. […] 1. Cutting trees along Peninsula Drive and Bluff Road in order to prevent other townships from believing GTCRC treats Peninsula Township differently from them. Note: Peninsula Township has some 42 miles of Great Lakes shoreline experiencing record high water levels, and tree roots help stabilize steep banks, reduce the effects of erosion, and help motorists identify areas where steep banks are within the shoulders of shoreline roads. Read more about the Bluff Road tree-cutting here. […]


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