Three years ago, I wrote 2/3 of a blog “trilogy” about area residents’ efforts to restore some of the beachfront park land along Traverse City’s westernmost shoreline. Strong community support, coupled with near unanimous city government approval for the project, appeared to bode well for reclamation of this beautiful, but abandoned, beach.
Three years later, there is virtually nothing to show for it.
Invasive species, broken concrete, and over-grown brush remain.
I have been awaiting the opportunity to proclaim the combined success of the community and our local government to “pen” the final part of this blog. The community has been awaiting the chance to address the storm sewer runoff which currently empties directly into the base of West Bay along this stretch, while they await the installation of a second universal access ramp so that everyone can enjoy this beach firsthand. The community has been awaiting the opportunity to commune with each other, beach blanket to beach blanket, or standing knee-deep in the cool bay after a hot day at work or school, at a beach they can walk and bike to, by design. The community has been working for the restoration of the beach where many grew up learning to swim, playing in the sand with their friends, kibitzing with their neighbors, or wading out to throw a ball for the dog.
Years have passed and still, the abandoned beach looks the same – invasive species, broken concrete and over-grown brush.
Kudos to the City of Traverse City for listening, and specifically to Mr. Tim Lodge, city engineer, the city engineering department, along with the planning and parks departments, for their very thorough and professional applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to restore a stretch of this beachfront parkland, build the universal access to the beach, the stormwater filters and retention areas, the pedestrian-safer crossing of the Parkway, and the recreational trail extension. City government listened to the community and saw the value of this project: environmentally, economically, and socially.
In perfect bureaucratic irony, the Army Corp. of Engineers approved Part A of the city’s proposal, but denied Part B, while the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality denied Part A of the city’s proposal, but approved Part B. Naturally, both agencies have only the public’s best environmental interests in mind.
But years have passed and still virtually nothing has been accomplished. There have been changes in many tiers of our city government in the last five years while a generation of city residents grows older without the benefit, enjoyment, and safe, non-motorized access to this beach.
Changes to Michigan law concerning beach maintenance, both public and private, mean that the City of Traverse City can mow as much of their beaches, as often and extensively, as they see fit. Although the city has repeatedly committed to mow this abandoned beach in the “short term,” while they continue to work on the larger TART Trail extension/Grandview Parkway pedestrian crossing/beach reclamation/handicap access/invasive species control/leftover industrial waste removal aspects of this project, nothing has happened yet.
Lately, the Watershed Center of Grand Traverse has taken to opposing even any mowing of any of the vegetation along this (or any) of the city’s beachfront. It seems that none of the other factors involved, even in concert, have any affect whatsoever on their extreme, “don’t touch a blade of grass” mentality. Literally: Don’t touch a blade of grass.
In stark contradiction, the Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay is seeking ownership of (some reports suggest they want the city to give them) the 300+ feet of shoreline, pilings, pier, and marina across from their local office. Preliminary plans suggest dredging of Grand Traverse Bay bottomlands in addition to the construction of hundreds of feet of marina infrastructure which will most certainly affect the West Bay shoreline.
I wish I were making this stuff up …
Bureaucracy aside, the extreme parties involved in opposition to this project seem to be either completely missing, or completely ignoring, much of what is really at issue here, to the detriment of our community and all of our efforts to ensure the health and quality of our shared environment.
We have already discussed the scientific, quantitative, environmental ramifications of this beach restoration project in earlier Ask the Realtor blogs (Click HERE and HERE for a refresher). In summary, arguing that mowing or grooming a stretch of public beach along the base of the West arm of Grand Traverse Bay will somehow degrade the water quality of the nearly nine cubic miles of water in the system, is, well, ludicrous.
Argue all you like — it won’t change the fact that short of using this little stretch of shoreline for an industrial dumping ground, (like it was used by too many generations in the past) there is no scientific, quantitative means of registering any water quality change to the Grand Traverse Bay system based on this abandoned stretch of beach, which makes up less than 0.00028 of the Grand Traverse Bay shoreline.
The parties in opposition seem to be completely missing one of the key environmental points of restoring this beachfront. Having readily (particularly universally) accessible, publicly-owned and maintained parkland beach for the whole community’s use and enjoyment is an excellent argument for limiting the grooming and mowing on the thousands of privately-owned stretches of beach around the other 132 miles of Grand Traverse Bay shoreline. There is less need for grooming each and every foot of privately owned shoreline (which make up the vast majority of shoreline affecting the ecosystem) when outstanding public beaches, accessible to everyone, exist.
Also, nothing educates and includes like awe-inspiring natural wonder. I would argue that the best way to increase value awareness of, and care for, water quality is to expose as many as possible to its grandeur. The potential injection of public involvement and enthusiasm for the Grand Traverse Bay, and its water quality, is boosted by providing the absolute best “convincer” of its importance – personal exposure and use.
Restoring this beachfront park jibes with our basic zoning principles of concentrating usage intensities, particularly in urban locations. It meets the broadly created and repeatedly voiced community goals of increased parkland, parkland usage, and water access in our area for the benefit of many. It reasserts the notion that local government is both attentive, and able, to meet the wishes of the community. It recognizes that in a water-centric, tourism-based community, shared enjoyment of the gorgeous natural world is an important common thread that joins us all.
Just not yet …
The invasive species, broken concrete, and over-grown brush remain, but for how much longer?