Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · ‘Sacred’ Land or a Fair...
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‘Sacred’ Land or a Fair Swap?

Word of a state park land deal worries some Charlevoix neighbors

Patrick Sullivan - May 19th, 2014  

Talks between the state and a cement plant to swap land at Fisherman’s Island State Park near Charlevoix have some neighbors on edge.

They’ve formed an opposition group and Facebook page called “Save Fisherman’s Island” to rally support against the trade.

A spokesman for St. Marys Cement Inc. says that the company is working with neighbors to come up with a plan for the park that could benefit everyone.

They are currently forming a committee of residents to evaluate and make recommendations about the plan.

HUNDREDS OF ACRES INVOLVED

St. Marys has not submitted a proposal to the state, though they have held two meetings with the Department of Natural Resources about a land trade since 2011.

They also received permission last year to conduct test drilling to determine if the land they want is suitable for a limestone quarry.

The swap would involve 190 acres in the north going to St. Marys in exchange for 220 acres to be added to the south of the park, according to preliminary plans.

St. Marys wants the swap because it would consolidate their land, reduce fuel costs for work in the quarry, and create a larger buffer between them and neighbors.

Opponents say the swap would relocate the park entrance miles further away from Charlevoix, that the offered land is less pristine than the existing land, and that it would represent a corporate takeover of a public park.

The controversial tone stems from an accidental discovery of a test drilling operation, which was spotted by a park visitor last fall and led to allegations from opponents that a secret deal was in the works.

Anne Zukowski, a Charlevoix resident and member of Save Fisherman’s Island, recalled becoming alarmed after she happened upon the drilling rig.

“We saw people drilling out there and they wouldn’t talk to us at all,” Zukowski said. “They wouldn’t tell us why they were drilling or anything.”

GROUP WANTS TO KEEP WATCH

Cox said St. Marys was not trying to sneak something through.

Indeed, a secret land swap wouldn’t be possible, said Rich Hill, Gaylord district supervisor of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. Hill said it is not unusual for talks to take place between a company and the department prior to the submission of a formal proposal.

Once submitted, one of this magnitude would require an extensive process that would involve public participation, he said.

“The folks that were worried that we were trying to do this and trying to fly under the radar, that’s absolutely not true,” Hill said.

Still, Jo Anne Beemon, one of the leaders of Save Fisherman’s Island, doesn’t put it past the state and a private company to conspire to push a real estate deal through quietly.

She believes it’s up to groups like hers to keep watch.

“It used to be that state parks were sacred,” Beemon said. “What is sad is that those who are in charge of protecting the public trust haven’t been as responsible as they were in the past, so more and more citizens have to step up to the plate.”

MUST BE AN EQUAL TRADE

For a swap to occur, it would have to be approved by the DNR and, because the park has received federal funding, the National Park Service.

A provision in the Land & Water Conversion Fund Act says parkland that has received federal funds can be traded for other land, but it needs to be of equal value.

That’s the point the sides are unlikely to disagree on.

Asked if he thought what’s being offered is equal to what would be taken away, Cox referred the question to the Code of Federal Regulations, which lays out the definition of what’s considered “reasonably equivalent.”

“Someone other than us is going to have to decide that,” Cox said.

There’s lots of fine print. All practical alternatives have to be ruled out. Federal appraisal standards have to be used.

Ultimately, the land traded for must be “of reasonably equivalent usefulness and location as that being converted,” according to the federal language, which attempts to make a subjective process as objective as possible.

Swap opponents say there is no comparison between the two parcels. The existing parcel is forested, attractive parkland, and the swap parcel is “scrub,” Beemon said.

“It’s laughable, when you look at what they want to give and what they want to take,” Beemon said. “Basically, what this comes down to is there are 450 acres of Fisherman’s Island State Park land in Charlevoix Township, and a company is looking at that and it’s licking its chops and they want to quarry that land.”

FURTHER FROM CHARLEVOIX

Opponents also worry about how a swap could force the entrance to the park miles south from where it is today.

The history of the park is one of further and further separation from the residents of Charlevoix, Beemon said.

When it was opened almost a hundred years ago, the park was a short hike from Charlevoix’s southern neighborhoods. Since the cement plant opened, that operation has been a growing obstacle between the park and Charlevoix residents.

If the park entrance were moved several miles further from Charlevoix, that would mean the park would no longer be a comfortable bike ride from town for families with children, Beemon said.

Also, an already in-the-works bike path is planned to end at the current park entrance, not several miles south in Norwood Township.

Although it wasn’t part of the original land swap plan, it’s possible the park’s current entrance on Bell’s Bay Road could remain a park entrance or a bike path entrance, Cox said.

He said St. Marys is open to considering the objections of opponents and making changes.

Opponents remain weary, however.

Beemon believes St. Marys could promise one thing to get the swap through and then deliver something else once it’s done.

ST. MARYS A GOOD NEIGHBOR

Not everyone sees it that way. Nancy Ferguson, president of WATCH, or Water and Air Team for Charlevoix, an environmental group that looks out for the county’s water and air quality, said she believes residents should listen to St. Marys’ proposal with an open mind.

She’s been involved with WATCH for 15 years and said St. Marys has been a better neighbor than previous cement plant operators.

Years ago, under a different operator, WATCH received several complaints a month from neighbors. Today, Ferguson said, it’s been years since WATCH received a complaint.

Currently WATCH is officially against the land swap.

“However, we are in favor of a committee to look at it with other groups,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson attended a Charlevoix Township meeting about the swap where she said some people strongly opposed it and others appeared to believe the park could be improved in a swap.

“Will it be as aesthetically pretty as it is now?

Probably not,” Ferguson said. “There are good reasons why there might be no change and there are good reasons for there to be change. And it might be good for Charlevoix.”

She said the goodwill St. Marys has created for itself in the community doesn’t mean they should automatically receive support for the swap, however.

“They’ve been very good neighbors,” Ferguson said. “But does that mean we owe them this change? It doesn’t. This is a very different thing.”

 
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