lathrop, Letters, Opinion, Old Mission Gazette, Old Mission Peninsula
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Dr. Dan Lathrop
County Board of Commissioners
April 1, 2017

I regret not being able to attend the meeting at the Road Commission on Friday afternoon. Many offer thanks to you for setting the meeting, including Peninsula Township Supervisor Rob Manigold and the well-rounded group who attended.

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It feels that all are committed towards doing the right thing as each sees it.

It’s only been about 13 days since the 318 trees on Bluff Road were marked for removal by the Road Commission, and developments are occurring quickly.

Our reaching out to the County Board of Commissioners and the Road Commission is a very serious concern, based upon experience, foreseen for the removal of trees along the steep and very steep slopes immediately adjacent to the East Bay shoreline.

Please consider these comments from the perspective of a 25-year community planner and supervisor, who along with expert consultants developed Environmental Standards for site and planning review, in main part focusing on protecting steep slopes. These principles were discovered and introduced to our community and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in late 1983, and the principles contained were subject of awards by MDNR and the regional Planning Commission, and have been adopted by many communities in our state.

In sum, living tree root systems are proven very effective in managing stormwater run-off and supporting the soil base due to their density.

Subsequent to significant tree removal activity along steep slopes (greater than 10 percent) and very steep slopes (greater than 20 percent) with rocky/sandy soils, natural sciences have shown stormwater velocity increases by a factor of 2000 times along with irreversible and relatively sudden soil erosion.

The mechanical and hydrogeological benefits which trees and other vegetation provide to maintain steep slope stability and reduce erosion are well documented. Most of the wooded bluffs rimming East Grand Traverse Bay are in a delicate equilibrium. For example, natural events such as an unusually intense winter rainstorm or human activities like a concentration of upland runoff or careless logging on the bluff can reduce stability, even trigger minor landslides into the bay. Due to increased residential development over the past few decades, more and more fertilizers often used are washed into the bay, given the proposed absence of trees that slow and help the soils absorb these nutrients.

The natural elevations and tree cover of ridgelines should be disturbed only if there is a minimal slope and lengthy crest of a ridge. Otherwise, the existing tree line at this ridge should remain uninterrupted.

This practice adds up to soil stabilization which protect soil and the bay from the erosive forces or raindrop impact and flowing water containing unknown amounts of fertilizers and other nutrients.

Given that the ridgeline along Bluff Road contains steep slopes (slopes about 15 percent), and extremely steep slopes (slopes above 25 percent), combined with dominant sandy soils, rock formations, and a Lake Michigan shoreline, this is an extremely fragile system. We hope the Road Commission recognizes that this should be carefully managed and protected from unnecessary disturbances and logging activities.

In view of the guidelines of sound slopes and soils management, Peninsula Township and Watershed experts with a long history in planning for natural features conservation marked trees for saving with yellow ribbons along Bluff Road last Thursday.

We were informed that the Highway Engineer’s comments yesterday about removing tree canopies to help the icing thaw in the sunlight is a major argument in favor of removing many of the trees marked with pink dots.

Looking out the window today at this beautiful sunshine makes me recall how grateful I am when I see a day with sunlight and above freezing temperatures during our winter and spring months.

Today, we have heard indirectly from Bill that the Road Commission is completely unmoving in their position, and work will proceed in the killing of all 318 trees they marked in pink. Period.

We hope the County Board and the Road Commission will pause to consider the proper route to take from this point. We are at the brink of seeing a path that may prove harmful for generations to come.

We hope the spirit of cooperation expounded in the County’s Mission Statement, of working to protect beauty and resources and working to collaborate with local units, will prevail and prosper.

Joe W. Gorka
Peninsula Township

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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Bay View Insurance of Traverse City Michigan


  1. It saddens me greatly to see how many trees have been lost that are not being replaced. We are a farming community and we have the resources and knowledge to preserve our tree lined roads. Unfortunately we did not start 20 years ago but now is better than later.

  2. Seeing that you and your department are so committed to the removal of viable trees along Bluff Rd.How about taking a look at something that is a SAFETY ISSUE,Why not evaluate the abundance of LARGE,DEAD OAK TREES along Eimen Rd.between Peninsula Dr and Center Rd.?These large trees that are well within your “33 ft”right of way are a danger and menace to public safety.I travel this road frequently and have had to stop my vehicle several times to drag large fallen limbs from the roadway,many times in heavy winds and other weather.How about leaving a beautiful road alone and focus on real problems?

  3. As a plant ecologist I can’t find a plausible reason to remove these trees if you do a benefits versus cost analysis. This editorial clearly outlines the benefits versus the cost of removing a living forest. Its terribly difficult to replicate or bring back the lost ecosystem services that the tree removals will bring in this specific area. Road runnoff, water conservation, carbon sequestration, and many more.

    Cant your resources be used more wisely?

    Tim Boland


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