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E-M:/ Dearborn Bike Trail Opposed by Environmentalists
- Subject: E-M:/ Dearborn Bike Trail Opposed by Environmentalists
- From: Smileysmlc@aol.com
- Date: Fri, 17 Jun 2005 11:33:19 EDT
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- List-name: Enviro-Mich
- Reply-to: Smileysmlc@aol.com
Enviro-Mich message from Smileysmlc@aol.com
DETROIT AUDUBON SOCIETY
Rochelle Breitenbach, President, Detroit Audubon Society
Jack Smiley, Vice President, Detroit Audubon Society
Bill Craig, President, Holliday Nature Preserve Association
Christopher Graham, Chairman of the Board, Michigan Environmental Council
Andrew J. Hartz, MDEQ-Land and Water Management Division
Beverly Watts, Director, Wayne County Parks
Environmentalists Gear up to
Derail Bike Path
Environmentalists generally support bike trails in a community. They provide
healthy transportation and recreation opportunities and reduce our reliance
on fossil fuels. But the bike path proposed to dissect the Henry Ford Estate
in Dearborn is gathering a storm of protest.
Wayne County and the University of Michigan-Dearborn are the principal
proponents of constructing a paved bike trail from Ford Road to Michigan Avenue,
linking the bike path along Hines Drive to West Dearborn. Two new bridges are
proposed to be constructed across the Rouge River, and much of the pathway is
proposed to be built in the forested river floodplain.
?From an environmental and historical standpoint, this is the most
significant natural area remaining in the Rouge River watershed?, states Rochelle
Breitenbach, President of the Detroit Audubon Society. ?As proposed, this bike
trail would needlessly destroy a great natural habitat which is essential for
wildlife, especially for resident and migratory birds. We need to do our utmost
to preserve this area for future generations.?
The land in question has long been a protected wildlife preserve. All of the
land over which the bike path is proposed was owned by Henry and Clara Ford
as part of their Fair Lane Estate. ?Although Henry Ford is most known as a
great industrialist, he also shared a strong passion for wildlife,? said
Breitenbach. According to U of M-Dearborn publications, a number of bird baths and
bird houses were featured at Fair Lane, and the Fords regularly observed bird
life through a telescope on their porch. ?Henry Ford was such an avid bird
watcher that he also played a major role in the passage of the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act, which was the cornerstone of bird protection efforts in the early
1900s,? said Breitenbach.
The wildlife preserve assembled by Henry Ford continues to serve as an
important refuge for deer, fox, amphibians, reptiles, and bird life. Jack Smiley,
Vice President of Detroit Audubon, is also concerned with what he calls
?needless destruction?. ?Thirty years ago, I was involved with a group which
successfully fought back Wayne County?s attempt to extend Hines Drive from Ford Road
to Michigan Avenue, and to channelize the Rouge River north of Michigan
Avenue,? said Smiley. ?Citizens overwhelmingly opposed the destruction of this
irreplaceable habitat and we were hopeful that this area would be preserved for
all time as it deserves to be.?
Bill Craig, a noted activist for the Rouge River and President of the
Holliday Nature Preserve Association, questions the ability of Wayne County to
properly maintain more trails. ?We have dilapidated bridges and facilities
throughout Wayne County parks, and now they want to build more? They should fix up
what they have and use the existing road bridges for the bike path.?
Hopes were fading to protect the forested floodplain after Ed Begale, Vice
Chancellor for Government Relations at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, was
recently quoted in a newspaper article stating that ?The bulldozers will be he
re next week.?
That spurred Jack Smiley to call the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality (MDEQ) to check on the status of the project?s permit. Smiley was
surprised to be told that a permit had not yet been issued for the project.
Andrew Hartz, MDEQ Field Representative for Southeastern Michigan, indicated
that Wayne County Parks applied for a permit for the bike path in April of
2004, but never replied to a request for more information in a letter sent to
them in June of 2004. Mr. Hartz said that the permit file was closed in March,
2005, after they failed to respond.
?This may be our lucky break?, exclaimed Smiley. ?Proponents of the bike
path have avoided our call to work out a compromise at every turn, but maybe now
we can get their attention.? Rochelle Breitenbach echoed Smiley?s hopes.
?We don?t want to stop the bike path--we want to make sure that it doesn?t go
through the sensitive floodplain forest. The cyclists I know care about the
environment and would prefer to bike along, rather than through, the woods,
knowing that critical and sensitive habitat had been spared.?
Christopher Graham, Chairman of the Board of the Michigan Environmental
Council and Treasurer of the Michigan Natural Areas Council is familiar with the
perils of bike paths. He is among a group working to prevent a bike path
proposed to be built through a mature floodplain forest in Hudson Mills Metropark.
?To construct some sort of bike roadway across an intact and healthy
floodplain, at the confluence of the Main and Lower branches of the Rouge, seems
completely counterproductive not only to the overall goal of protecting and
sustaining what very little is left of the region's high quality natural features, but
to the goal of NOT increasing flooding and erosion in the Rouge.?
Graham has also served for many years on Ann Arbor's Natural Features
Ordinance Committee and has served as an Ann Arbor Planning Commissioner. ?This
project would NOT be approved in Ann Arbor,? said Graham. ?Damage to highly
valued natural features would be considered way to great in relation to the public
benefit that would be derived from the project.?
Graham is also concerned about the immediate impact the proposed bike trail
will have upon bird populations. ?A long running and very important piece of
bird research goes on within the confines of this property,? said Graham.
?Fragmentation via this sort of proposal will unquestionably degrade and diminish
bird life there -- and the value of this very important project.?
?There is no reason to enter the undisturbed portions of this property with
machinery to build a bike trail, roads, fish ladders, or anything else,? said
Graham. ?I would, of course, be quite supportive of a bike trail in a location
which does not infringe upon valuable natural features.?
Opponents of the bike trail?s location see protection of the rare, high
quality natural habitat as the highest priority, but they also feel it is a matter
of common sense. ?Rerouting the bike path could save a ton of money,? said Sm
iley. ?If Wayne County officials want our support for the parks millage
renewal this fall, they should listen carefully to the people who care the most
about our parks and natural areas.?
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