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Bluff Road | Jane Boursaw Photo
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The Grand Traverse County Road Commission Board will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 18, at 7 p.m. at the Peninsula Township Hall to hear citizen comments regarding the designation of Bluff Road as a Natural Beauty Road.

No board action will take place during this meeting, and those unable to attend are welcome to submit written comments by July 26, 2017 to:

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Grand Traverse County Road Commission
1881 LaFranier Road
Traverse City, MI 49686

The Road Commission Board held an informational meeting about Natural Beauty Roads at the Peninsula Township Hall on June 20 (this was not, as previously reported, a public hearing, but rather an informational meeting).

Discussion took place regarding a draft of the Natural Beauty Road guidelines, as the board has not previously dealt with this designation in Grand Traverse County. The draft was approved two days later at their June 22 meeting, and when I later spoke with Road Commission board member Andy Marek, he said there were only minor changes to the guidelines.

Download a copy of the Road Commission’s Natural Beauty Road guidelines here.

The idea of designating Bluff Road as a Natural Beauty Road came up during the Road Commission’s recent improvements to Bluff Road, when more than 300 trees were marked for removal just weeks before the road work was scheduled to begin (read more here). This prompted several Bluff Road residents, led by Jim Floraday, to organize and circulate a petition to designate the road as a Natural Beauty Road.

At a special meeting on March 30, the Peninsula Township Board passed a resolution to designate Bluff Road as a Natural Beauty Road; the resolution 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 Natural Beauty Road designation would be complete, the roadwork would have been completed.

Liz Bevier, who resides on Bluff Road with her husband, Bob, noted at the time, “It looks like they will have no mercy and go on a rampage. 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.”

Work began on Bluff Road on April 3, and Floraday’s group, working with Peninsula Township, was able to save some of the trees marked for removal.

A similar situation occurred last year when the Road Commission worked on Peninsula Drive and inadvertently believed that the Township would inform residents of the tree removals via a Township newsletter, which didn’t exist at the time. As Jim Johnson, Road Commission Engineer Jim Johnson noted at the Dec. 13, 2016 Township Board meeting, Peninsula Drive residents returned home after being away for the winter to discover the trees gone.

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. “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.”

In summary, Peninsula Township has lost some 600 trees to Road Commission projects within the last two years. With more roadwork planned in the next few years, Floraday’s group, now known officially as Save Our Trees, is circulating a petition that would require the Road Commission to adopt MDOT’s less aggressive tree removal guidelines and give residents 60 days notice of intended removals.

The petition is available to sign at Peninsula Township offices, as well as local businesses. For more information, contact Jim Floraday, (231) 735-8352, or Mary Beth Milliken (231) 590-5880.

READ ALSO…

LETTERS: An Open Letter to Commissioner Dan Lathrop About Bluff Road

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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