News Articles


Charlevoix Council votes for resolution opposing Fisherman’s Island land swap

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 3:50 pm

Jordan Spence (231) 439-9397 – jspence@petoskeynews.com

Charlevoix City Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution for Fisherman’s Island, opposing a potential land swap with St. Marys Cement.

“The township has voted unanimously for a solution similar to this. Hopefully, we would have some influence in the process. I think it’s time the city council weighed in on this,” said council member Jeff Porter.
The resolution states:

“The City of Charlevoix hereby supports the continued access to Fishermans’ Island State Park on Lake Michigan from Bells Bay Road and retention of the 416.3 acres of Fisherman’s Island State Park as forest and wildlife habitat within Charlevoix Township.”

Council member Shirley Gibson also voiced her support for the resolution.

“It’s time we take a stand on this. It’s not in the least bit negative,” she said. “For anyone who thinks this is not a local issue, St. Marys made it a local issue by appointing local (people) to their secret committee. I’m happy this is coming before us.”

Before voting on the resolution, new council member Luther Kurtz — who is also a member a citizen’s advisory committee created by St. Marys Cement to discuss any potential land swap issues — wanted to add an amendment to take out the 416.3 acres specified in the resolution.

Other council members, including Gibson, voiced concern over this change.

“Why would you want to take that out?” she said. “I’d prefer to not have that changed.”

Council member Leon Peron added the township felt the 416.3 acres was very important to include.

“That’s the part that is in Charlevoix Township and the rest of it is in Norwood Township,” he said.

Before voting on the final resolution, the council voted on whether to leave in the language specifying the 416.3 acres.

Council members Kurtz, Shane Cole and Bill Supernaw voted to take out the 416.3 acres. Gibson, Porter and Peron voted to keep the 416.3 acres in the resolution. Newly sworn-in mayor, Gabe Campbell, broke the tie to keep the 416.3 in the resolution.

Gibson said she felt the amendment Kurtz created was very irresponsible.

Kurtz said he campaigned on the idea that they should respectfully consider all ideas, even ones people don’t like. Passing a resolution against something that hasn’t been proposed yet seems contrary to that ideal, he added.

“However, if the words about the acreage were removed then it would not be an ‘anti-swap’ resolution. It would, instead, be a resolution that tells the State of Michigan how much we value the North Entrance along with the forest and wildlife habitat in the northern part of the park — a resolution that is not contrary to the ‘respectfully consider’ ideal that I campaigned on and that the citizens seemed to support by electing me,” he said.

After his proposed change to the resolution was considered and rejected, Kurtz still felt it was important to support the original resolution so the council would act as a united Charlevoix.

“I don’t think this should have been a big deal. At this point I have only been to two meetings, but I am really enjoying working with the other council members. I believe we are already working well together for a more positive and united Charlevoix,” he said.


Citizens advisory committee members refute St. Marys Cement report

Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2014 10:55 am | Updated: 11:00 am, Thu Nov 13, 2014.

Mark Johnson mjohnson4@gaylordheraldtimes.com (989) 732-1111

CHARLEVOIX — Citizens advisory committee members examining a possible land swap between St. Marys Cement and Fisherman’s Island State Park, have come forward with concerns they were misrepresented in a recent meeting and press release.

Two members of the committee, created by St. Marys Cement of Charlevoix, to examine land swap talks between the company and neighboring Fisherman’s Island State Park said facts in a recent document released by St. Marys Cement are all but a lie.

The press release from the company stated there was a recent citizens meeting, which culminated in an 11-1 vote in approval of the statement “some sort of land swap would be best for the community.” Two committee members stated they do not recall any such vote taking place.

Ann Zukowski, a member of the committee, acknowledged there was a vote for those who opposed any type of land swap between the cement company and state park, a total of one vote. After those votes were taken, however, there was not a vote for those in favor.

Zukowski said committee members voted in support of viewing a complete proposal from St. Marys Cement before making any kind of decision as to whether or not they would support any kind of land swap.

“Committee members felt uncomfortable voting on a proposal, because they did not know what St. Marys was willing to do,” Zukowski said. “So that third option was put forth.”

Dan Myers, water resource specialist for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, held a spot on the committee and said Zukowski’s description of what happened was accurate.

“That sounds exactly like how I saw it happen,” he said.

From what he remembered of the meeting in question, most committee members did not want to vote until later, when a formal proposal was supplied by St. Marys Cement, following Zukowski’s description of events.

He said he and others in the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council were surprised to hear about the press release claiming the committee to be in approval of a land swap.

“I do not want to represent others on the committee, but to my understanding, that did not happen,” Myers said. “My understanding was there were a lot of committee members who wanted to see a plan from St. Marys before taking a vote.”

He added the sole reason he was on the committee was to represent the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and to see if any land swap scenarios would have an impact on water quality.

When the voting began at the meeting, Myers said he abstained from the vote because St. Marys had not yet provided information to him regarding possible impacts on water quality, if a swap were to occur.

Nancy Ferguson, recently elected Charlevoix County Commissioner, also was a committee member but declined comment until a later time.

Luther Kurtz, recently elected Charlevoix City Council member, is another committee member who sent an email response on his perspective as to what happened.

“I can’t comment on what the group did, but I know that I personally did not vote in favor of a land swap,” he said, in an email. “I did, however, vote about suggestions concerning what community projects St. Marys should include in its proposal, if it ever makes a proposal. I learned a lot while working with this committee, and I’m glad that I was involved, but I am disappointed about the confusion regarding the recent article.”

But, St. Marys as well as the facilitator of the meeting, Bill McGinnis, a consultant as a professional meeting facilitator, hired to assist the committee, both claim the press release to be accurate.

Cortney Schmidt, environmental manager for St. Marys, acknowledged the release could have been written more clearly, but stood by the information in the release nonetheless.

“I was not specific,” he said. “But it does say there was an 11-1 vote and if it was crafted well, (a land swap) would receive support.”

McGinnis also stood by the release, saying it was correct to the best of his knowledge.

The release also included other information and alleged facts about the possible swap, including:

— No beach or shoreline would be affected.

— No campsites would be lost.

— All trails would be preserved and new trails would be added.

— Park would gain access to 4,000 feet of trout stream and McGeach Creek.

— Park would gain wetland and natural habitat area.

— Cement trucks would travel shorter distances, reducing impact on nearby roads.

— Groundwater impacts from mining operations would decrease.

To review further information compiled by St. Marys Cement and others, visit www.landswapfacts.com.

Any decision made by this committee is only advisory. Any proposed land swap would have to go through the state of Michigan for approval.

In a previous story in the Petoskey News-Review, Ron Olson, DNR parks and recreation division chief, reminded those in the Charlevoix community Fisherman’s Island is a state park, not a local park.

“We’re not just going down the road assuming we accept this and then figuring out how to make it happen. That is not the case,” Olson said in the previous story.

Follow @Mark_JohnsonGHT on Twitter.


St Marys Cement November 10 2014 press release Click here


CITIZENS COMMITTEE SAYS ‘YES’ TO LAND SWAP
PETOSKEY NEWS REVIEW

Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 8:01 am

Mark Johnson (989) 732-1111 mjohnson4@gaylordheraldtimes.com

CHARLEVOIX — After weeks of meeting and reviewing various pieces of information, a committee comprised of local citizens agreed a land swap between St. Marys Cement in Charlevoix and Fisherman’s Island State Park would benefit the community.

According to a recent press release, a citizens advisory committee met six times over the past four months to look at the proposed land swap between St. Marys Cement, 16000 Bells Bay Road, and nearby Fisherman’s Island State Park, which borders the cement company.

During the review period, the committee looked at possible benefits for the park and the community, as well as concerns and protection for the park if the project were to move forward.

The committee voted in favor of a land swap by a final tally of 11-1, according to the release. A list of recommended improvements was also created for the park, if the swap is executed.

“As one of the county’s largest employers and taxpayers, we at St. Marys cement were impressed with the committee’s thoroughness, debate and scrutiny of the proposal,” said Cortney Schmidt, St. Marys environmental manager, in a release. “Clearly, committee members want Fisherman’s Island State Park protected and improved as a community and state resource. The committee proposed specific ways to protect and improve the park, and we are grateful for their diligence, thoughtfulness and work.”

Sometime over the next few months, a final report summarizing the actions of the committee will be released.

Within the next year, St. Marys Cement will make a decision on whether or not to ask the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to approve such a land swap.

DNR officials were not immediately available to speak on the issue.

According to the release, if the swap were to be approved, St. Marys Cement would trade a portion of unmined land at the south end of the property, for a portion of unmined state-owned land, at the north end of Fisherman’s Island State Park.

The release included some facts about the possible swap, including:

— No beach or shoreline would be affected.

— No campsites would be lost.

— All trails would be preserved and new trails could be added.

— Park would gain access to 4,000 feet of trout stream and McGeach Creek.

— Park would gain wetland and natural habitat area.

— Cement trucks would travel shorter distances, reducing impact on nearby roads.

— Groundwater impacts from mining operations would decrease.

To review all facts compiled by St. Marys Cement and others, visit www.landswapfacts.com.

“Given the amount of misinformation that has made its way into the community about the land swap, citizens advisory committee members now fully understand the facts about what we are considering,” Schmidt said in the release. “At the end of the day, St. Marys Cement will simply not support a land swap that does not benefit the community, the park, the environment and the company.”

A group of approximately two dozen people met a number of times over a meal in a private room at Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant in Charlevoix, to review what St. Marys Cement would be willing to pay throughout the community in creating an equitable trade.

These talks have worried some, as this is more than a local issue.

“It’s like a bribe and it’s just wrong,” Anne Zukowski, citizens advisory committee member, told the Charlevoix Courier recently. “People need to remember, this is a state park, not just a local park.”

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Charlevoix

Fisherman’s Island meetings to come in rapid succession

Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 5:23 pm

Sheri McWhirter-O’Donnell Courier editor

CHARLEVOIX — There will be several meetings regarding Fisherman’s Island State Park’s future in coming days, but they won’t all be open to the public.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will on Monday, Nov. 3 host two open-door meetings to inform the public about the start of a general management planning process for the locally beloved and Charlevoix-based state park situated along the Lake Michigan shoreline. But five days prior to that, on Wednesday, Oct. 29, St. Marys Cement will host its last private, closed-door meeting with its company-created committee to discuss a widely debated concept to swap some of its business-owned land for some state parkland.

And before any of that happens, the nonprofit group Friends of Fisherman’s Island State Park will host an open house from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Oct. 25, in Community Room A at Charlevoix Public Library, 220 W. Clinton St. Representatives of the organization will distribute yard signs that convey opposition to any such parkland swap with the mining company, plus share pertinent information with attendees.

State-hosted sessions

The DNR-hosted meetings will be from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, in Community Room B at Charlevoix Public Library. Each session will provide an overview of the department’s general management plan process, including a timeline and future opportunities for stakeholders and public involvement.

“It’s long-term goals for us to aim for in our state parks,” said Debbie Jensen, DNR park management plan administrator.

The 2,678-acre Fisherman’s Island State Park includes more than six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in Charlevoix County, with 80 rustic campsites, a picnic area and abundant foot trails. But it’s not all about recreational amenities, Jensen said.

“What we also struggle with is balancing natural resources protection with recreational demands,” she said.

Ultimately, the management plan process launched by the DNR about eight years ago is intended to — for each state park, one by one — clearly define what areas within park boundaries should be listed as important for natural resources protections, and in which areas recreation is a more important goal, Jensen said.

“The DNR is excited to have funding in place to start the general management plan process for Fisherman’s Island, which has been a priority for many years,” said Gaylord DNR parks district supervisor Rich Hill. “These meetings will provide an opportunity for members of the public to be fully informed regarding the upcoming planning effort.”

Each meeting will begin with a short presentation to describe the planning process, but members of the public are encouraged to attend at any time during either of the two-hour meetings to review the planning material and talk to DNR employees.

Additional information on the state’s general management plan process is available online at www.michigan.gov/parkmanagementplans.

Private land swap talks

The last in a series of private, closed-door meetings of a “community committee” chosen by St. Marys Cement officials is set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 29, once again in a private dining room at Stafford’s Weathervane restaurant in downtown Charlevoix. The topic of discussion is meant to be whether the company should abandon plans to exchange any land with the adjacent state park, said one committee member.

Anne Zukowski is a company committee member who repeatedly and publicly expressed her opposition to any such land swap between St. Marys Cement and the state park. She, in past weeks, revealed the company committee spent considerable time talking about what St. Marys would be willing to pay for throughout Charlevoix in order to create an equitable trade — perhaps even from $2 million to $5 million in state park upgrades, or money spent toward other projects around the community.

That knowledge prompted top official Ron Olson, DNR parks and recreation division chief, to last month remind those in the Charlevoix community how Fisherman’s Island is a state park, not a local park over which local officials can barter. He also said the outcome of the general management plan process would determine whether the company’s idea would even be feasible.

“We wouldn’t do anything — no matter whether (St. Marys Cement) submitted a land exchange proposal — until that management plan is updated,” Olson said in September.

St. Marys Cement officials began in 2013 to publicly discuss an exchange of some of its acreage for some state park land after park users questioned why test drilling occurred in October last year along some hiking trails within the state park. Then, a series of public meetings about the land swap concept began in March, spurring widespread community concerns that resulted in petition drives, an issues-driven Facebook page, public hearings and, in Charlevoix Township, a government resolution standing opposed to any official application for just such a trade.

The state parkland stretches across Charlevoix and Norwood township boundaries.

Courtney Schmidt, who is St. Marys Cement’s official point person for the land swap concept, could not be reached this week for comments.

Zukowski also reported only about a dozen members of the company committee attended the recent Oct. 15 company committee meeting, down from the more than 20 members with which the group began in July.

Grassroots opposition

Zukowski said the nonprofit Friends of Fisherman’s Island State Park will host its 10 a.m.-noon open house on Oct. 25 at the library not only to distribute land swap opposition yard signs, but also to share information about the coming DNR general management plan meetings.

“It will be a good process and will raise awareness of the issues going on with the state park,” she said.

Charlevoix resident JoAnne Beemon said anyone who wants a land swap opposition yard sign but can’t make it to the open house can call her at (231) 675-6045. Otherwise, a lot can be learned at the group’s planned open house, she said.

“We want to let people know that the DNR is going to be working on the management plan for the park and that’s the appropriate time to have input on what will happen with the state park,” Beemon said.

The cement company committee’s efforts seem pre-mature before there even is a management plan in place for Fisherman’s Island State Park, Beemon contended.

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Charlevoix
Last private session for land swap
St. Marys to share outcome with public; state reminds parkland not local

Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 5:01 pm

Sheri McWhirter-O’Donnell Courier editor

CHARLEVOIX — Michigan’s top state park official said the outcome of a series of behind-closed-door meetings in Charlevoix of a committee created by St. Marys Cement to explore a land swap with the local state park may very well be all for naught.

Ron Olson, parks and recreation division chief for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said officials at the state level are mindful of the happenings here in Charlevoix, the home of the beloved and rustic Fisherman’s Island State Park along the Lake Michigan shoreline. And just because St. Marys Cement spends plenty of money on expert facilitators and hosting fancy dinners at the Weathervane to convince its self-created “community committee” that a land exchange might benefit Charlevoix, Olson said that doesn’t mean state regulators will swallow those arguments, too.

“We’re not just going down the road assuming we accept this and then figuring out how to make it happen. That is not the case,” Olson said.

An expected outcome

St. Marys Cement officials began last year to publicly discuss an exchange of some of its acreage for some state parkland after park users questioned why test drilling occurred in October 2013 along some hiking trails within the state park. Then, a series of public meetings about the land swap concept began in March, spurring widespread community concerns. That resulted in petition drives, an issues-driven Facebook page, public hearings and, in Charlevoix Township, a government resolution standing opposed to any official application for just such a horse trade.

The state parkland stretches across Charlevoix and Norwood township boundaries.

“We’re very aware of the deep concerns, and in my view, that’s good. People have passions and they care about the state park and that’s great,” Olson said.

But from within the company’s private committee, it seems dissension also exists. At least, that’s what one member said.

“I’m the only one who has said I do not want to swap under any circumstances,” said Anne Zukowski.

Zukowski said she is one of nearly two dozen people who regularly gather over a meal in a private room at Stafford’s Weathervane in Charlevoix to discuss what the cement company would be willing to pay for throughout the community in order to create an equitable trade. She said the latest discussions are for between $2 million-$5 million in state park upgrades, or not even improvements to Fisherman’s Island State Park, but for other projects around town, whatever they may be.

“It’s like a bribe and it’s just wrong,” Zukowski said. “And people need to remember this is a state park, not just a local park.”

Olson echoed that very sentiment, nearly word-for-word.

“I must emphasize this is a state park, not a local park,” he said.

Zukowski said the company committee’s entire process is rather presumptive, and perhaps so are those participating in the group.

“They want to have the facade of community support,” she said. “St. Marys thinks these people are representing the community and I’m the only one there who doesn’t think they are representing the community.”

Despite that, St. Marys Cement’s hired meeting facilitator, Bill McGinnis from Milwaukee, will again fly in to direct what is expected to be the last of the company’s committee meetings at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1, once again at the five-star Weathervane restaurant in downtown Charlevoix.

Another member of the company committee, Bill Gnodtke of Norwood Township, said it’s worth remembering that “it’s not over.”

“It’s really been an interesting dialogue,” he said. “It’s just getting people to talk about what they might be interested in.” Some ideas include bike paths, upgraded campsites, a shower house, a different entrance road, and more, Gnodkte said.

“We’re a long way from any recommendation, though.”

Both Gnodtke and Zukowski confirmed the group is meant to reach some sort of consensus, or at least develop a report of the various opinions and land swap options generated from within the company’s committee. The report, or white paper, is meant to be distributed to the public and press.

Company officials said Courtney Schmidt is the current point person for the company’s committee and he could not be reached for confirmation of such a final report, despite repeated efforts. Likewise, McGinnis also could not be reached, despite repeated efforts.

However, in July, McGinnis explained why this company committee must be conducted without an audience or media allowed to observe, beyond it being a group organized by a private company not beholden to state or federal Open Meetings Act or Freedom of Information Act regulations.

“There is so much material to get through, we want to be able to control the emotion in the room and who is talking at any given time,” McGinnis said. “It can make it more difficult for the people participating to concentrate.”

Examples of distractions he gave includes witnesses going to the bathroom or noise from mobile phones.

“There is a tremendous amount of information and ideas … we have to get through in a reasonable amount of time,” McGinnis said, further arguing that the meetings are private, but not secret.

Next steps

As St. Marys Cement’s Dirk Cox explained in his presentations to city and township officials in March, the goal of the company’s committee would be to identify the real issues surrounding this land swap concept, challenge all assumptions about the situation, and conceive practical solutions. An issue paper is expected to be distributed.

But for now, there is nothing on the books, Olson confirmed.

With many proposed state land exchanges, officials within the DNR do all of their investigations into property deed restrictions, geography, topography, stewardship and various other elements to be considered, then decide whether to accept the deal or not. Then finally officials take public comments or host public hearings on the matter before rendering a decision.

Not in this case, Olson said.

“This is different than somebody with a power line easement or something,” he said. “In a case like this, we would have a public meeting to allow public input.”

Olson further confirmed state-sponsored public hearings would not be scheduled after the fact, but as part of any decision-making process regarding any Fisherman’s Island State Park land exchange proposal, should one ever be filed by St. Marys Cement or otherwise.

What the public should be aware of, Olson said, is the pending state park management plan update scheduled to begin for Fisherman’s Island State Park within the next 10 months, or so. It’s something done for each and every state park in Michigan on a rotational basis, and now it’s Fisherman’s Island’s turn.

The idea is to explore what officials might do to make the state park better for those whom use the parkland.

“It’s rustic. Is that good? Or should we add rustic cabins, yurts, or a shower facility?” Olson said.

And the public gets to have input on that process, too. There will be an online survey, a website designated for the specific park management plan, a stakeholder input meeting and a public input open house, according to DNR guidelines.

That process comes first, Olson said.

“We wouldn’t do anything — no matter whether (St. Marys Cement) submitted a land exchange proposal — until that management plan is updated,” Olson said.

And until then?

The public is always welcomed to comment on issues that impact Michigan State Parks, Olson said. In fact, his office already receives written comments, emails and telephone calls from citizens concerned about Fisherman’s Island State Park’s future.

Olson said he doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon.

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Share your opinion with the MDNR:

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Parks and Recreation Division
P.O. Box 30257
Lansing, MI 48909-7757


St. Marys hosts closed-door land swap meeting

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:06 am | Updated: 1:13 pm, Thu Jul 17, 2014.

Sheri McWhirter-O’Donnell Courier editor
CHARLEVOIX — Nearly two dozen people gathered Wednesday night to discuss the controversial Fisherman’s Island State Park land swap proposed by St. Marys Cement over a Stafford’s Weathervane meal of prime rib, planked whitefish or chicken breast with pear and cranberry compote — all behind closed doors.

The private, closed-to-the-public-and-media meeting was the inaugural session of St. Marys’ community advisory committee, an internal effort within the multi-billion-dollar cement company to address the widespread and overwhelmingly negative reaction from the public when the land swap suggestion first became known.

“It’s not a public body that’s meeting, so from that standpoint there wasn’t anything illegal about it,” said Larry Sullivan, Charlevoix County commissioner and member of the St. Marys committee. “People should know the committee has no public standing.”

Sullivan said the session amounted to a group of people getting together to discuss something, and the company may not even take any offered advice in the end. He confirmed that he didn’t pay for his meal, though.

“Somebody else picked up the tab, but I can’t be bought for a piece of beef,” Sullivan said.

“I want to see the issues identified and we are a long ways from that,” Sullivan added.

Dirk Cox, the company’s operations manager, in previous months discussed the park land swap idea with both the Charlevoix City Council and Charlevoix Township Board, which then took ample public comments about the hot button issue. The township board last month adopted a resolution stating its position against any possible land swap between the company and state parkland.

Cox could not this week be reached for comment about Wednesday’s private session at the local restaurant.

Additionally, some members of the group refused to speak about the meeting at all.

“I’m sorry, but I signed a contract that I wouldn’t disclose to the media what the committee talked about,” said Dan Myers, of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and committee member.

Bill Gnodtke, of Norwood Township, confirmed that he also signed such a contract as part of the St. Marys community advisory committee.

“It was a voluntary signing, which I did do,” he said. “We agreed we would do this and there will be an issue paper that comes out with the pros and cons of it.”

However, Gnodtke did say he stood impressed with the way the meeting was organized and how the professional facilitators — Bill McGinnis and Ann Chastain — conducted the session.

Other listed members of the company’s committee include: Alec Amstutz, Douglas Bergmann, Bill Crook, Nancy Ferguson, Bob Klein, Luther Kurtz, Jonathon Mauchmar of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Nancy Rajewski, Patrick Rajewski, Marc Seelye, David Skeel, Pat Whitley and Anne Zukowski. Committee observers are park supervisor Tom Copenhaver, state parks and recreation district supervisor Richard Hill, and state forest land administrator Kerry Wieber, all from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The two company observers include Cox and Cortney Schmidt, environmental manager for St. Marys Cement.

Sullivan said he expects the committee must meet at least one more time before a complete list of issues is even compiled.

Officially, there is no proposed land exchange on the books between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the company, but St. Marys officials have for years been working on an idea to swap land with the nearby state park for future mining purposes. The company last fall paid for soil borings along well-used hiking trails within the park, completed an archeological study and a biodiversity study is under way to catalog the area’s flora and fauna.

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EXCLUSIVE: St Marys Cement land swap citizens advisory committee facilitator talks


Benjamin Gohs

News Editor
A wide range of ideas was shared during the first meeting of the St Marys Cement Company land swap proposal community advisory committee on Wednesday July 16.

The day after the meeting, Professional Meeting Facilitator Bill McGinnis of Milwaukee, Wisc., opened up about the process for forming the group, topics discussed, and what is next for the committee.
“We were all over the board at last night’s meeting,” McGinnis said. “The committee discussed environmental issues, park usage issues, economic impact, jobs, tourism, access to the park, health and safety issues like traffic and sharing roads with large trucks.”
He added, “We’re not only looking at concerns, we’re also looking at opportunities. There are two sides to every coin and we’re thoroughly exploring risks and opportunities … so we didn’t really discuss details about much of anything. What we did was to understand what the community advisory committee is interested in talking about and in moving forward last night creating a very large list of those items so we can pull them together and make a logical progression in exploring them in future meetings.”
The committee was formed to consider the Charlevoix-based cement producer’s proposal to swap a nearly 220-acre parcel of its land with 190 acres of Fisherman’s Island State Park.
According to McGinnis, there will be a total of three to five meetings of the 20-member group.
Two of those chosen to sit on the committee did not attend Wednesday’s meeting at Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant of Charlevoix.
The members of the committee are Ray Bier, Dave Juilleret, Alec Amstutz, Douglas Bergmann, Bill Crook, Nancy Ferguson, Bill Gnodtke, Bob Klein, Luther Kurtz, Jonathon Mauchmar, Dan Myers and Greneta Thomassey, Nancy Rajewski, Patrick Rajewski, Marc Seelye, David Skeel, Larry Sullivan, Pat Whitley and Anne Zukowski. McGinnis’ co-facilitator is Ann Chastain.
Committee meeting observers, who are allowed to offer input if asked for such by McGinnis, include Fisherman’s Island State Park Supervisor Tom Copenhaver, DNR Parks and Recreation Division Gaylord District Supervisor Richard Hill, DNR Forest Resources Division Forest Land Administrator Kerry Wieber, St Marys Cement Operations Manager Dirk Cox and St Marys Cement Environmental Manager Cortney Schmidt.

Selection process
St Marys Cement Company representatives reached out to various governmental boards as it was presenting its land swap concept over the last few months, asking members of the public and public officials interested in sitting on the advisory committee to contact them.
“If we want to know the opinion of the community—and not just somebody who’s a supporter or somebody who’s against it—you need a wide range of people,” said Cox. “It just seems to be the right thing to do. If you’re going to be in the community a long long time, why not take a couple extra steps and see if this is valid? And, the best way to do that is to get an opinion from a diverse group of people.”
According to McGinnis, only one of the 21 people who applied to be on the committee were rejected.
Long-time environmental activist JoAnne Beemon of Charlevoix, who has worked on community advisory boards for both Big Rock nuclear power facility and the Bay Harbor clean-up effort, was not chosen.
“From the beginning, our goal was to have a broadly diverse group of people,” McGinnis said. “The one person who wasn’t selected happened to be involved as a member of an organization that a person already selected for the group was also in and we didn’t want overlapping interests.”
Beemon said she was saddened at the decision not to include her.
“I’ve studied the law and history and I’ve become an expert on the park,” Beemon said. “They’re trying to appeal to people to compromise … but people love our state park because it’s a globally rare and diverse ecosystem. We want to keep that treasure.”

Transparency
Beemon said she was concerned that the advisory committee meetings were not open to the general public or the press.
“If we want to educate the public and have all voices heard, they need to be open and transparent,” she said. “Bureaucracy loves secrecy. If you want to have a democratic discussion, the meetings need to be open.”
McGinnis said the committee is not trying to be secretive.
“It’s only closed to the public so members of the committee can stay focused and not be distracted by … people in the room watching,” he said. “And, we want them to have the opportunity to freely express their opinions without thinking reporters are quoting them verbatim… We just want very open and honest dialogue.”
According to McGinnis, advisory committee members are allowed to discuss meetings with the press, but they have been discouraged from stating that their opinions are representative of the group.

Why use a facilitator?
Cox said the decision to hire a professional facilitator was simply the right thing to do in this situation.
“Professional meeting facilitators get them talking in an organized fashion, keep them on track, make sure people are being heard and stay on theme,” Cox said. “And, after looking at some examples of more successful companies, it just seemed like the right thing to do to bring in people who do this for a living.”
The hope is that providing a structured environment free of rumor and emotion will help committee members focus on determining whether the proposed option—or any other option, for that matter—is worth pursuing.
“It seems there has been a great deal of misinformation in the community,” McGinnis said. “St Marys doesn’t have a specific plan in mind. They proposed an option … but they remain flexible on what the boundaries are and what the structure might be.”
While St Marys will not be bound by any recommendations which may be made by the committee, the cement company does plan to weigh the advisory board’s findings.
“The company has turned this entire process over to us—from determining how the committee would be constructed to running meetings, to selecting community members, to what goes in the report,” said McGinnis. “They put all that under our control because they want quality impartial meetings to take place.”

the committee’s stance?
When asked how the committee members fall in terms of supporting or opposing the proposed land swap, McGinnis said the matter is not that black and white.
“I actually don’t know who is for and who is against,” he said. “I have not heard anyone say this is great and that we should just do it. I can assure you all 20 are highly concerned about the park and want to thoroughly explore what the impact of such a transaction might be.”

The end game
McGinnis said the goal is not to reach a consensus but to gauge the community’s overall feelings on the proposed land swap concept.
“The objective of the committee is to decide whether and, if so, how an application by us to the state would be an overall benefit to the communities, the plant, employees, the environment,” Cox said. “That’s the objective, to kick that around. And, I think they did very well last night pointing stuff out that I never would have thought of.”
The report could be ready by fall.
“One thing I promised the group is that the report will summarize the major issues and how the committee felt about them—positive or negative,” McGinnis said. “The report will express the minority views as well as the majority.”
He added, “The company has been quite clear: if the community advisory committee feels the land swap would not be in the community’s best interest, they won’t move forward with it … and that’s why it was important to have a fairly large group of people discussing these rather sensitive topics.”

The Proposal
According to St Marys Cement’s tentative proposal:
• Some rezoning and changes to Charlevoix Township’s Master Plan would be necessary to make the swap legal;
• None of Fisherman’s Island State Park’s shoreline would be affected;
• The contact boundary between the park and St Marys would be reduced from 3.8 miles to 2.2 miles;
• There are no archaeologically sensitive sites on the property St Marys seeks to utilize;
• The swap would add 4,000 feet of McGeach Creek;
• There would be no abandoned mine on the property given to the park;
• And, there would be no negative tax impacts on Charlevoix Township.
• According to St Marys’ plan, there would be no reduction in the number of campsites in Fisherman’s Island State Park; a new road, welcome station, turnaround and parking area would be erected at St Marys’ cost—and with no interruptions of service to park users.
St Marys would benefit from the land swap by decreasing fuel costs, since part of their mine is in Norwood Township, on the other side of Fisherman’s Island State Park, and by eliminating the mine’s operational exposure to residential neighbors.

Where things stand now
There are at least two more three-hour citizens advisory committee meetings planned. One is set for July 30 and one for Aug. 13, with an optional additional meeting tentatively slated for Wednesday Aug. 27.
St Marys has not applied for the proposed land swap with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It has, however, completed phase two of an archaeological study related to the proposal.
The biodiversity index study—which looks at plants and animals in the proposed swap location—is ongoing and could be completed as early as this fall.


Charlevoix Township
Township first to take land swap stand
Officials send resolution to Michigan DNR

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 5:00 pm | Updated: 5:14 pm, Thu Jun 19, 2014.
Sheri McWhirter-O’Donnell — Courier editor

CHARLEVOIX TOWNSHIP — The five members of the Charlevoix Township Board are the first elected officials to take an official stand against any possible land swap between Fisherman’s Island State Park and adjacent St. Marys Cement.

The board members unanimously voted June 6 to adopt a resolution that “supports the continued access to Fisherman’s Island State Park on Lake Michigan from Bells Bay County Road and the retention of the 416.3 acres of Fisherman’s Island State Park as forest and wildlife habitat within Charlevoix Township.” That document will be forwarded to state authorities.

Officially, there is no proposed land exchange on the books between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the company, but St. Marys officials have for years been working on an idea to swap land with the nearby state park for future mining purposes. The company last fall paid for soil borings along well-used hiking trails within the park.
The issue spurred widespread community debate about the pros and cons of such a land exchange, often pitting loyal park users against business growth advocates. Company officials in recent months pitched during public meetings their idea to both city and township leaders, who in turn received an abundance of public feedback on the point.
Charlevoix Township even hosted a public hearing to record official testimony.
“It was important we make a good decision. It was important that we hear from our constituents,” said Nancy Rajewski, a township trustee who said she formerly cross-country skied at Fisherman’s Island State Park in her younger years.
“There is a high usage level out there,” she continued. “You have to think of everybody who would be impacted.”
Chuck Center, township supervisor, said the impassioned comments from the public about preserving the state park as it is now obviously is born from the community’s collective love of the park. He also acknowledged Charlevoix Township is the first municipality to choose a side of the fence in this case.

“We felt that we were knowledgeable of the subject and could give our opinion,” Center said.

However, Center underscored how the ultimate decision — should a land swap proposal ever be submitted to the state by St. Marys — will not be made by local leaders.

“It’s only a resolution and we’d hope it has some sway with the DNR director, but it’s ultimately up to him,” Center said.

Dirk Cox, of St. Marys, confirmed the company has not yet submitted a land exchange proposal to the DNR because “we haven’t even finalized any kind of a concept,” he said.

Cox said he is not surprised by the township board’s approval of the resolution.

“I think everybody is entitled to their opinion and they made theirs clear,” he said. “I think it’s premature, but they are entitled to their opinion.”

Meanwhile, Cox said the company completed the second phase of an archeological study, while currently a biodiversity study is under way to catalog the area’s flora and fauna. Finally, the community committee to study the issue which the company wants to establish is expected to be facilitated by Michigan State University Extension, he said.

Follow @sherimcwhirter and @ChxCourier on Twitter.


St. Mary’s claims benefits of land swap

April 2014

 

St. Mary’s Cement Inc. says a land swap between the company and Fisherman’s Island State Park in Charlevoix County would benefit the community.
Opponents, however, say the public stands to lose much more than it would gain. The company would pick up a more consolidated “quarry footprint,” officials said, which means a shorter property boundary that is more isolated from residential areas. That means less fuel would be consumed hauling materials to the main plant, they said. There would be less of an environmental impact, the company told Charlevoix-area residents during recent public meetings, and a shorter perimeter to repair once quarrying is completed and the quarry is eventually turned into a lake. The impact on the Norwood
Township neighborhoods of Clipperview and Cedarview will be “substantially reduced,” they said. Fisherman’s Island State Park, meanwhile, would have a net gain of around 40 acres of land, they said, as well as about 4,000 feet of a trout stream known as McGeach Creek, including a diverse habitat with fields, woods and wetlands. In addition, company officials said, there would be a new public access road to the park that would not pass through an industrial setting. Additional improvements could include a new ranger station and other infrastructure improvements close to the “day area,” they said.

Anne Zukowski, Friends of Fisherman’s IslandState Park co-chair, said the community needs the north end of the state park and Bells Bay Road. “This is part of Charlevoix the Beautiful,” she said during a recent meeting of the Charlevoix City Council. “This portion of the park is the most popular and contributes to our tourism-based economy.” Ultimately, Zukowski said, it’s up to the Department of Natural Resources to defend the rules and guidelines under which the park
was formed and turn down the swap. “However, we need to let them know how important this park is to us,” she said. “We need to tell them to honor their obligations to protect the park the way it was intended to be protected.”

“We recognize that our area is a community with a certain character and charm that we all must work to preserve and protect,” said Dick Cox, St. Mary’s operations manager, in a concept paper prepared by the company. “For a concept as broad and long-term as the land swap, a meaningful conversation is needed where real issues can be identified, then discussed by objective people working together for the overall benefit to the community, the park, our company and our employees. That kind of dialogue has not yet occurred. As a result, St. Mary’s has not yet prepared, or submitted an application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for a land swap.” To that end, the company has proposed that a “working committee” be formed to objectively challenge existing assumptions and determine if practical solutions can be crafted. The findings and conclusions could then be reported to the broader community, according to Cox. Such a committee would include people from Charlevoix Township, Norwood Township and the City of Charlevoix, he said.
“An open, direct and fact-based dialogue which leads to a constructive solution is the best way forward,” Cox said.

“Such a committee based on compromise starts from the premise that St. Mary’s has a right to this state land,” Zukowski said, “and we must bargain to see what perks and ‘improvements’ to the park we can get in return. This is the wrong premise. Taking of Fisherman’s Island State Park land should be non-negotiable.”

Although a vote was not taken during the recent discussion, Charlevoix City Council member Shirley Gibson reportedly said the proposed land trade sounds as if the public would “get a bone with no meat on it.” Fellow council member Leon Perron is quoted as saying, “It’s an unbelievably valuable piece of the earth and we’re
gong to take it away from generations if this goes through.” Meanwhile, Water and Air Team Charlevoix (WATCH), an advocate for the Charlevoix County environment since 1983, expressed concern for a proposed lake-to-lake trail that has been in the works for years and is scheduled for construction this spring. “We ask that the Charlevoix
City Council and the Charlevoix Township Board oppose the land swap,” said Bill Henne, vice president of WATCH.
“The public is always the last to be informed in deals such as this,” Zukowski said, “and by the time public comment periods are formally established, the deals have already been formalized. This is wrong. This is why we created the Facebook page—Save Fisherman’s Island State Park—to let the community know what is
happening and to give the residents a voice. Over 1,300 people have ‘liked’ the page [so far]. We are asking St. Mary’s to withdraw their conceptual plan and stop the swap.”

St. Marys officials said it is premature to ask anyone to make a final judgment at this time. No formal application for the swap has been submitted, they said, so that a meaningful dialogue can occur before any binding decisions are made. “It is just a concept,” the company said in its paper, and public input is important.

“We are not the first ‘Save Fisherman’s Island’ group,” Zukowski said, “and this is not the first time the park has been threatened by development.

“This was written in the Charlevoix Courier in 1971: ‘The land varies from rolling sand dunes to areas strewn with huge boulders from another age and limestone slabs, excellent beach sand and—behind the lake shore—forests which vary from cedar swamp … to high ridges covered with hardwoods … University students conduct archeological digs on the tract and have uncovered valuable early Indian artifacts. Petitions are presently being circulated in an effort to obtain
some action from the DNR to save the land for the public.’ “This land was important to save back then,” she said, “and it is important to save today.” A current petition to save the park can be found at the group’s Facebook page.


Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 7:40 am

 

Sheri McWhirter-O’Donnell

Courier editor

More of the same arguments for and against a potential land swap between a major local mining company and a treasured local state park took upwards of two hours Monday to get through — and officials didn’t even intend to vote.
Officials from St. Marys Cement attended the regular Charlevoix City Council meeting to present their land exchange concept that would trade with the state more acreage on the southern end of Fisherman’s Island State Park for less acreage on the northern end of the park, including the Bells Bay Road entrance. But first, said operations manager Dirk Cox, the company wants a good faith discussion with the community about the idea, including plausible solutions to community concerns.
“I’m not going to listen to popular opinion only,” Cox said.
St. Marys does not currently have a land exchange proposal under review with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the reason it doesn’t is the company wants some dialogue with the community first, Cox said.
Some in the room spoke up in favor of such a discussion with St. Marys on what it proposes as a community working committee in order to identify the issues, challenge assumptions and work toward practical solutions.
“I totally agree with it being a beautiful park,” said David Skeel, of Marion Township.
But Skeel suggested this situation may be a time to “think outside the box” and look for ways to improve the long-standing rustic campground and park along the Lake Michigan shoreline. What if, he asked, an improved state park in Charlevoix turned into greater tourist numbers?
Most who spoke from among the three dozen in the audience, though, expressed serious concerns — or outright objection — regarding any land swap between the mining company and the state park. Their reasons came on principle or otherwise.
Bill Henne, vice-president of WATCH (Water and Air Team Charlevoix) said the organization remains “strongly opposed to the land swap,” but conceded it favors dialogue among a stakeholder’s committee — so long as no state park property is given up, including Bell’s Bay Road.
Anne Zukowski, of the Save Fisherman’s Island group, argued federal grant dollars used to buy the land for the state park preclude it being used for anything other than conservation and land protection in perpetuity. She said the working committee St. Marys suggests is designed to create compromise and on this matter, there should be no compromise, Zukowski said.
“Taking any part of Fisherman’s Island State Park should be non-negotiable,” she said.
LuAnne Kozma, of Hayes Township, said she abhors “grandiose schemes to take our parks away from future generations.”
“Do people really want cement companies taking over parks, in general?” Kozma asked.
Among the many public concerns about such a land swap is how a new park entrance likely would be required, along with worries about lost or degraded amenities, convenience and public access.
Charlevoix City Council members did not vote on the issue, but some commented.
Shirley Gibson said the land trade sounds as if the public would get “a bone with no meat on it,” while Leon Perron took more of a legacy perspective.
“It’s an unbelievably valuable piece of the earth and we’re going to take it away from generations if this goes through,” he said.
Meanwhile, company officials said anyone who is interested in participating with the community working committee it intends to establish is asked to send a letter of interest via email to landswap@att.net.
It is expected this land swap concept will continue to face public review as it is presented around the community, and as the planned working committee conducts its work. However, the ultimate decision on any such land swap lies with Michigan DNR director Keith Creagh, should a land exchange proposal ever be submitted for consideration.
Anyone who wishes to participate with the community working committee of St. Mary’s Cement is asked to contact the company with a letter of interest via email sent to landswap@att.net online.
Also, questions, ideas and other comments may be submitted to the company through that email address.


Our View – Land swap not a good deal for park users, community, state

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014 8:11 am

While we understand St. Marys Cement’s desires to trade some of its land with the State of Michigan for land at Fisherman’s Island State Park, we don’t think this is a good deal for those who enjoy that park.
However, we do applaud the company for its proposal Monday during a Charlevoix Township board meeting to have a community working committee look at the plan and agree to abandon it if it is found to have no merit.
From what we have seen so far of the plan, though, we are confident it will be, or should be, abandoned.
The company has proposed trading the state for 190-acres of land on the northern end of the park, including the Bells Bay Road entrance to the park, for a 220-acre tract of land the company owns near the southern end of the park.
The swap would not impact Fisherman’s Island’s shoreline, but it would move the entrance to Fisherman’s Island State Park about four and a half miles south. Currently, users access the park along Bells Bay Road, just south of Charlevoix. The swap would move the access road to Norwood Township, along Witmere Road. Further, six campsites would be lost in the swap. St. Marys has said it will pick up the cost of the construction of that new entrance.
The plan has not been officially submitted to the state.
According Dirk Cox, operational manager for St. Marys Cement, the swap would save the company thousands of dollars each year in transportation costs.
The land swap would also move operations closer to the plant’s operations site. The plant estimates this would save about 180,000 gallons of fuel per year in trucking limestone from the Norwood Township land to the Charlevoix plant, when that land would be mined, according to an earlier story in the Petoskey News-Review.
“It’s a real simple long term strategic view of what we need here at the plant,” Cox said in the earlier story.
“One of the big factors for us is not many people want to have a large mining operation or any heavy industry right next door to them,” he said. “We would have no neighbors (if the land swap goes forward), and no neighbors makes no complaints.”
Right now, there are no residential areas that abut St. Marys holdings in Norwood Township, but the land is zoned residential. The land in Charlevoix Township that St. Marys is eyeing abuts just state land and St. Marys’ own property.
But the loss to the community in this initial plan seem to far outweigh the savings for this company.
There are serious concerns about the park losing high quality land and amenities for a tract of less desirable land — even if it is more acreage.
The entrance to Fisherman’s Island contains heavily wooded land, many well-used hiking trails and a popular scenic overlook to Lake Michigan that is breathtaking at sunset. Access to it could be greatly hindered, or lost, under the land-swap plan. The land this highly valuable land would be traded for is of lesser quality and farther away from the community of Charlevoix.
We understand St. Marys’ desires for exploring this land-swap, and we are happy they are moving slowly with any solid proposals and taking more of a cooperative approach with the community. However, the plan just does not seem to be a good one for the community, park users and the state.

‘Our View’ represents the opinion of the News-Review editorial board: Ryan Bentley, Rachel Brougham, Doug Caldwell, Jeremy McBain, Sheri McWhirter-O’Donnell, Babette Stenuis Stolz and community member Bill Collins.


Land swap proposed for Fisherman’s Island State Park

St. Marys Cement Plant is proposing that it exchange the southern chunk of land, outlined in yellow, that it owns with a northern piece of land, within the state-owned Fisherman’s Island State Park.
Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 11:00 am
Morgan Sherburne (231) 439-9394 — msherburne@petoskeynews.com

 

CHARLEVOIX — If all goes to St. Marys Cement Plant’s wishes, the plant will swap a section of state land, part of Fisherman’s Island State Park, for a section of land it owns in Norwood Township.
The section of land St. Marys would like to obtain is the northern tip of Fisherman’s Island State Park — about 190 acres — in Charlevoix Township. The section of land it would like to exchange is about 220 acres, along the southern section of the park. The swap would not impact Fisherman’s Island’s shoreline, but it would move the entrance to Fisherman’s Island State Park about four and a half miles south.
Currently, users access the park along Bells Bay Road, just south of Charlevoix. The swap would move the access road to Norwood Township, along Witmere Road.
St. Marys officials say they want the land swap in order to consolidate their plant’s footprint.
“It’s a real simple long term strategic view of what we need here at the plant,” said operations manager Dirk Cox.
Currently, the plant has about 100 years’ worth of limestone reserves. The swap would give them approximately the same amount of reserves, but it would consolidate the plant’s land.
“One of the big factors for us is not many people want to have a large mining operation or any heavy industry right next door to them,” said Cox. “We would have no neighbors (if the land swap goes forward), and no neighbors makes no complaints.”
Right now, there are no residential areas that abut St. Marys holdings in Norwood Township, but the land is zoned residential. The land in Charlevoix Township that St. Marys is eyeing abuts just state land and St. Marys’ own property.
The land swap would also move operations closer to the plant’s operations site. The plant estimates this would save about 180,000 gallons of fuel per year in trucking limestone from the Norwood Township land to the Charlevoix plant, when that land would be mined.
The potential land swap would change Fisherman’s Island State Park. Currently, state park users enter the park through the northern Bells Bay entrance. The swap would require the southern access road off Witmere to be constructed, as well as a rangers’ cabin at that access road. Six campsites would be lost in the swap. But St. Marys would take on the cost of all the reconstruction, including the access road, a new rangers’ cabin (with the old cabin remaining, if the state desires) as well as six new campsites.
“We have made it very, very clear that this would not cost the state anything, nor would it detract from the value of Fisherman’s Island State Park,” said Cox.
St. Marys first began proposing the swap in early summer, and tested the Charlevoix Township land for limestone reserves in October.
Now, the plant is debating the pros and cons of the swap with the state of Michigan and Charlevoix and Norwood townships. Then, it will complete economic, hydrologic, geologic, archaeological and wetlands impact studies. It will next put forward an application, called a “Michigan Real Estate Division Application” to the state of Michigan to exchange the land. If all goes according to plan, the application for the land swap could take as little as six months, said Cox.
Even so, Cox said the plant doesn’t plan to mine for between 10-20 years.
Charlevoix Township supervisor Chuck Center supports the plan.
“My thoughts are I will do what I can to preserve the jobs at St. Marys Cement. I’d be in favor of what they’re trying to do,” said Center. “They’ve been good neighbors since they’ve been here. They have resolved many of the problems that the neighbors had with them from the prior owners.”
Cox said the plant welcomes feedback to its plan at (231) 547-9971.

Follow @MorganSherburne on Twitter.


-Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 12:27 pm | Updated: 12:28 pm, Mon Oct 21, 2013.

Sheri McWhirter-O’Donnell Courier editor.
A local quarry company gained state approval to investigate the underlying stone at Fisherman’s Island State Park, an effort to find additional limestone deposits. Should limestone be found, a potential land swap may be pitched to state authorities.

St. Marys Cement Inc. in Charlevoix sent workers this week to drill two test holes along a hiking trail at the adjacent state park. The park is along the Lake Michigan shoreline, just south of Charlevoix. State officials granted the state land use permit on Sept. 26 and St. Marys Cement paid $400 in application and use fees.

“A drill rig is used to remove a rock sample for geological analysis. St. Marys wants these rock samples so they can be analyzed to determine if there is any risk of large amounts of Lake Michigan water coming through the underlying rock,” said Dirk Cox, operations manager for the company. “Given the close proximity of our current and future limestone mining to Lake Michigan, the potential for any large water leaks in the rock are a good thing to know about ahead of time.”
Contrary to initial area resident concerns, there is no oil exploration or fracking happening at the shoreline state park, Cox said.
“There is absolutely no oil exploration or gas exploration or fracking going on at all,” he said.
Furthermore, state officials confirmed the workers in the park this week are testing geology, not drilling for oil or natural gas. However, it remains unknown what may unfold if a new limestone deposit is discovered.
“We don’t know what will happen next. It depends on what they find,” said Tom Copenhaver, park supervisor for both Young and Fisherman’s Island state parks in Charlevoix County.
Cox said a potential land swap proposal may develop if the mining company finds stone for which it’s worth digging.
“We’ve conceptualized a land swap with the state, but have not approached the state yet,” he said. “The idea would be to swap some of our southern property with the state for less of their property.”
But that may never happen, he explained, particularly if the test holes don’t turn up significant limestone.
State records show the test drilling is expected to take about three days, weather permitting. Afterward, Cox said they hired Charlevoix-based Landscape Logic to replace some trees removed for the work, each several inches in diameter.
Test results must be completed within 60 days of the work, according to the permit restrictions. Cox said he will provide anyone who requests one a copy of the stateissued permit.
St. Marys Cement can be telephoned at (231) 547-9971.

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