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Springfield parks millage would save world class fen, advocates say

Jennifer Tucker and Marc Burnnett, Sr. look out over the prairie. Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
July 28, 2010 - Springfield Township Parks and Recreation has never been supported by a dedicated millage, but Parks and Rec along with Friends of the Park are asking residents to get to the polls on Aug. 3 and vote for it.

"We believe this is such an integral part of our community that the only logical conclusion was a millage that way it's planned for and it's something that's invested in from the community," said Marc Burnett, Sr., spokesman for Friends of the Park. "This is really something worth protecting and keeping, not just the land the activities for the kids and the adults. Even though it's something people don't want to hear. If we didn't address it, a finger would be pointed back to us later saying 'hey you guys dropped the ball and it's on you.'"

Township residents will vote on a .75 mills proposal for four years. If it passes, the millage will raise an estimated $428,360.68. Based upon the average home value of $204,000 in Springfield Township, the millage would cost about $75 a year.

Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Tucker said Parks and Rec. has tried to save money by cutting staff from 30 people down to 10, cutting back on aquatic weed and harvesting, reducing mowing by half, and getting $770,000 in grant money.

The millage would help preserve more than 553 acres of parkland, including the Shultz Park, Mill Pond Park, Shiawassee Basin Preserve, and Green Lake Park.

"We have a big responsibility and we're trying to belly up to that responsibility, by trying to give our folks the best bang for the buck. By no means are we unconscious to what's around us," Tucker said. "Everyone knows the timing is rough, that's no secret, but that's exactly why it's so important. I think the people need us as much as we need them."

Tucker also pointed out that Springfield has the largest prairie fen

"If our native plants, animals, and bugs, don't have anything to eat or lay their eggs on, or a place they want to live, they're going to go away. Wetlands of this quality only exist in Michigan," she said. "Michigan has the most in the world and this could be the highest quality fen anywhere worldwide."

Burnnett said he honestly believes the millage is the only way to ensure the safe keeping of what makes Springfield so special.

"I don't think there is anything else you can do that is going to take care of this problem now and in the future," he said. "It's a renewable millage, that way the people can analyze it three years from now and ask 'has this been supervised and the stewardship to the point where we agree it needs to be renewed?' The power is still with the people and the people get to say 'yes we'll vote for it.'"

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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