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SG-W:/ Proposal B & Dicken Woods

Dear Kristen (and interested others): 

I'm sorry to hear that you formed your opinion of 
Dicken Woods (DW) based on your Planning Commission 
experiences, because there is so much more to DW, 
and story of how and why it was preserved.  I'm also 
sorry to see the DW story has been reported in such 
a negatively biased fashion in the Ann Arbor News.  
Many readers will have a very inaccurate understanding 
of what transpired, how, and why.

For openness, I should report that I am one of two 
vice-presidents of Friends of Dicken Woods (FoDW).  
I can report that FoDW put an enormous amount of work 
into learning about the city's master plan, the Allen's 
and Malletts creeksheds and their respective management 
plans, the city park system master plan (PROS plan), 
and most importantly, about the land in DW itself and 
how it relates to these other issues.  We have made 
very strong arguments showing why preserving DW as 
open space is the most appropriate outcome for that land.  FoDW welcomes

discussion of the issues we've raised, but unfortunately 
so far most "opponents" of DW have focused only on 
inaccurate statements that FoDW is nothing more 
than a NIMBY movement.  If you believe it is possible 
that some particular properties would be better used 
as open space than developed, then you owe it to 
yourself to look at the real story of DW, and not 
just assume it was a NIMBY effort. Much more about DW is 
available at http://dickenwoods.org.  That website 
focuses on 1) why the original Crosswinds Communities 
proposed development was inappropriate on DW, and 
2) why the best land use of DW is as open space.

In fairness to Kristen, I vaguely recall *one* speaker at 
one of the Planning Commission meetings say something 
along the lines of what Kristen reports below.  However, 
I assure you that was not representative of the larger 
neighborhood's views.  In fact, it was a totally isolated 
view of one person.  The comments made by neighbors at 
those Planning Commission meetings are available for 
review from the Planning Dept. at

FoDW has grown to include over 260 members, but was 
not in existence when the individual neighbors addressed 
the Planning Commission back in February 2003 and 
November 2002.  Please don't let the "one bad apple" 
sour your opinion of what FoDW is all about.  In fact, 
the preservation of DW has been a wonderful example of 
how our parks can have a great and positive impact on the 
*social* quality of life.  The FoDW experience has been 
a great example of creating social capital.  The Dicken 
neighborhood has been revitalized by this experience, and 
that is a healthy outcome for the city.  Many new civic 
relationships have been born of this experience, and 
new bonds between the neighborhood and the school have 
also been created.

For those who are interested in considering why 
preserving Dicken Woods was appropriate, I encourage 
you to read the independent environmental analysis 
(conducted by a highly respected local consultant) at:

and the FoDW analysis of how DW fits into the PROS Plan at:

Please also note that the preservation of DW was supported 
by the Huron River Watershed Council, the Allen's Creek 
Watershed Management Group, the Sierra Club Huron Valley 
Group, the Superintendent of Ann Arbor Schools, the past 
and current Principals of Dicken Elementary (DW abuts 
Dicken Elementary, and that is another significant reason 
for preserving the woods as FoDW will work with the school 
to integrate the woods into the environmental curriculum and 
wider school experience), and state Representative Chris Kolb.

Thank you for considering these points.

-Tom Ivacko
 741-9484 (h)
 647-4164 (w)

> Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 09:02:23 -0500 (EST)
> From: Kristen A. Gibbs <kgibbs@umich.edu>
> To: Smart Growth Washtenaw <smartgrowth-washtenaw@great-lakes.net>
> Subject: Re: SG-W:/ Proposal B
> Catherine,
> I formed my opinion of Dickens Woods based on my experiences 
> on Planning Commission. I am sad to say that if the project 
> that was proposed for that area had been single family 
> detached housing, the neighbors probably wouldn't have had as 
> much of an issue. But because it was proposed to be more 
> affordable attached condominiums, many people came out 
> against it, some going so far as saying that they didn't want 
> "people like that" living near them. I like the woods - I 
> used to live quite close to them - but I must question the 
> motivation of the group when I saw that reaction. All that 
> said, I'm sure that the Parks Advisory Committee goes through 
> a good process to make their decisions.
> As far as I know, that property is probably at the headwaters 
> of Allens Creek, but this has not been confirmed. Does anyone 
> know this for certain?
> And I don't expect one single proposal to fix all the ills 
> that Ann Arbor faces. What I had hoped for was a more 
> cohesive, comprehensive plan that could generate many ballot 
> proposals. I wanted the right means to reach this end, not a 
> single ballot generated with a few people. Of course, that's 
> just my opinion, and what I want in my ideal world. :)
> -Kristen
> ------------------------------------------------------
> "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
>         - Mahatma Gandhi
> ------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 29 Oct 2003, Catherine Riseng wrote:
> > Kristen,
> >
> > If you are forming your opinion of the purchase of Dickens 
> Woods based 
> > on reporting in the Ann Arbor News, think again because 
> that reporting 
> > was very biased.  No one on the Parks Advisory Committee was ever 
> > contacted to report on the thorough and objective process that PAC 
> > goes through in deliberating about purchasing properties.  Only one 
> > aspect of this purchase was ever presented in the News and other 
> > recent purchases were never even mentioned. While it is 
> true that PAC 
> > listened to the concerns of a very large, organized and 
> active group 
> > from the larger neighborhood it was by no means the 
> deciding factor. 
> > Perhaps you  might like to know that Dickens Woods is one 
> of the few 
> > remaining undeveloped properties that lies in the 
> headwaters of two of 
> > our degraded urban tributaries to the Huron River, Allens 
> and Mallets 
> > Creeks, both of which have been targeted for study and 
> restoration.  
> > Perhaps PAC is looking at the bigger picture and trying to purchase 
> > properties whether they be for open space, natural areas or 
> play areas 
> > that improve the overall quality of the city.
> >
> > Also, it does seem that you are asking for one relatively 
> small, local 
> > initiative to solve many large and very complex problems such as 
> > affordable housing and urban density that occur in all our cities.
> >
> > Catherine Riseng
> > PAC
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