Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 15, 2012

Another View: Weigh in on bridge idea

By the Times Herald, (Port Huron)

---- — Joe Connors said something that seems to illustrate what it means to live on Harsens Island.

"Everyone is so excited about living on the island until the first ice flow comes in," Connors said.

Anyone who takes a ferry from Algonac to the island at the delta of the St. Clair River is almost certain to fall in love with it. The island's natural beauty — especially in the spring and fall — is breathtaking.

But the ferry that essentially keeps Harsens accessible speaks to the challenge of island living. When winter ice effectively cuts off the island, it takes a special person to appreciate the Harsens lifestyle.

You're unlikely to understand island residents if you don't live among them. That's why talk of a bridge that joins the island to Algonac is one Harsens residents should lead.

Clay Township officials wisely passed on a municipal referendum on the Detroit International Bridge reviving its plans for the span that were shelved in 2007. Mainland residents would be affected by the project, but a bridge will change the island.

For decades, Harsens Island residents appeared relatively content with their dependence on Champion's Auto Ferry. Owner David Bryson's announced retirement raises the question of finding another ferry company. A new bridge could change the island's way of life.

Some Harsens residents welcome the bridge idea, and it's difficult to blame them. Depending on a ferry can be problematic when you need to get to a hospital.

It also can become inconvenient when ice jams prevent the vessel from operating.

Plenty of mainland residents couldn't imagine why Harsens residents love living in a place where isolation can be a mixed blessing. The island's residents have a far better appreciation for what might happen if a bridge reduced their seclusion.

Much must be done before the bridge plan is viable. The project should not move forward until Harsens Island voters have their say.

After all, they are the ones who must live with it.

-- Times Herald (Port Huron)