Saline Township Remains Unconvinced on Saline River Preserve

 12/21/2015 - 13:03
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Members of the Saline Township Board of Trustees remain worried about potential costs associated with the Saline River Preserve proposal. 

The December meeting of the Saline Township Board began at 7:30 p.m., the last to do so. Starting in January the meetings will begin at 7:00.

Although Bob Prehn could not make the meeting due to illness, the rest of the board was present, as well as about seven in the audience. The agenda included discussion of the bridge closing on Willow Road, a contract with Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering and a discussion of whether to sign the Memorandum of Understanding concerning a new nature preserve at Saline-Milan and S. Maple roads.

During citizens comments Jim Peters came forward to update the board on plans for the preserve. It involves formation of a 5013c non-profit organization.

“This will add no cost to any taxpayer,” said Peters. “It will be managed by a 501c3, ‘Friends of the Saline River.’ It will be paid for by donations. Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation has already pledged $50,000 to the effort.”

“Washtenaw Legacy Land Conservancy has also made a pledge, but I’m not sure of the amount yet. Of course there will be private donations. Should we succeed in formulating this 5013c, we will start to do fundraising shortly, probably after the holidays.”

The plan is for the preserve to be a partnership of the City of Saline, the City of Milan, York Township and Saline Township. The other three have already signed onto the project.

During discussion of the preserve, Robert Marion had many questions for Peters. As Jim Marion stated, the board had been hearing mostly negative feedback from township residents.

“I know as far as hunting goes, there’s a 450-foot setback from any home,” Robert Marion said. “You are going to have a walking trail along there. Is there any setbacks for that?”

Peters said he did not think there was any such requirement, but he would look into it.

“I just don’t want to take any rights away from another property owner that adjoins it,” Robert Marion said, explaining the reason for his concern.

Many questions related to the entire stretch of the Saline River from Saline to Milan, while, as Peters explained, the Memorandum of Understanding only pertained to the 16-acre property formerly owned by Charlie Burg.  

The bicycle and walking paths envisioned are within that land. There is a plan to eventually make a connection with Salt Springs Park and Curtiss Park to the north, but no plans for a riverside trail toward Milan.

Nevertheless, the Saline River Greenway Alliance (SRGA) has discussed the possibility of clearing logjams so that canoe and kayak enthusiasts could more easily travel on the river.

“Don’t you have to have permission from property owners to go in there and clean?” Robert Marion asked.

Again Peters replied that this is a separate issue from approving a partnership to form a nature preserve, although the preserve could include a canoe launching area. SRGA is exploring the legal issues that arise in clearing logjams and property rights are certainly among them.

Renee Luckhardt was concerned about possible hidden financial obligations, particularly with regard to the cost of maintaining trails.

“The trails already exist,” said Peters. “Dave Rhoads has already purchased a tractor and he’s been mowing the trails.”

 “We figure it will cost $600 to $800 a year to keep these trails clean. This will fall under the responsibility of the 501c3 to make sure that money is raised.”

Robert Marion felt that until all questions are answered, any decisions should be tabled. After ascertaining that Peters could attend the next meeting as well, the board voted to put off the decision until the next meeting. Attorney Fred Lucas would also be present at that time.

Willow Road Bridge Closed             

The county recently discovered that the bridge on Willow Road over the North Branch of Macon Creek is too deteriorated to risk using it any longer, not even with a decreased load limit. Roy Townsend from the County Road Commission told Jim Marion, “the iron underneath the beams is just totally rusted out.”

This is troubling since the township has had to address reconstruction of two other bridges in the past year. The county has also closed a few bridges in other townships recently.

“That’s the bad news. Jim Marion said. “The good news is that it’s a primary road so there will be no cost to Saline Township.”

Surveyors were already at the Willow Road site this week in preparation for a reconstruction plan. Jim Marion said he expects work to be underway by mid-summer, but the bridge on Hack Road will be worked on first.

Marion also said that the final cost of the Arkona Road Bridge would be only about $200,000, not the $250,00 expected. This was more good news.

Board Approves Engineering Contract

The board voted to approve a contract for continuing general engineering services with Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering. Township engineer Dan Cabage joined the company this year and is now their representative to Saline Township.

Township Driveway Repaired

Darryl Zink of Hammer Trucking came with a load of gravel and repaired a washed out area on the west end of the driveway at Township Hall. This was done at his own expense.

Next Meeting Jan. 11           

The next meeting will be on January 11, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Robert Conradi
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.