Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

September 18, 2012

Editorial: Renovation will bring improvements

The report was dire: Clinch Park was being clear-cut to make room for the renovation of the bayside park.

Turns out that "clear cut" is, like so many other things, in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, eight trees had been cut down. And five more had been transplanted to different locations in the park. In all, that meant 13 trees, some of them likely 50 years old or more, were gone.

And while that many trees in a relatively small space can seem a lot, there is another side of the story. City Planner Russell Soyring said the city and designers of the $2.8 million park revamp went out of their way to save as many trees as possible, narrowing some sidewalks and reducing the grade of landscaping to protect trees.

The renovation also calls for seven new trees to be planted, a net loss of one tree. The new trees likely won't be as big and old as the ones that were chopped down, perhaps, but they will still be there. In a few years, all will be forgotten.

The downed trees, Soyring said, will be replaced by a terraced wall that will offer seating to park goers and a view of Grand Traverse Bay.

Creating new places to relax and get a view of the bay is at the heart of the renovation. The aim is to make the park more accessible, more welcoming and more usable. There will be more places to sit, a splash pad where kids can play, a revamped concession stand, a better bath house, new restrooms and in general a new ambiance. Creating that new ambiance was a major reason the Spirit of Traverse City mini train had to go, since a steam train isn't a good mix with playing kids and a peaceful park.

The city can expect that the renovation is going to be closely watched — and sometimes criticized — every step of the way. Rick Buckhalter, a regular commentator at city commission meetings, says he doesn't like what he sees so far, and was critical of cutting trees. He also says he's not a fan of how the city received public input on the park. That's fine. Input is what the "Your Bay, Your Say" process, which resulted in the new plans for the park, was all about.

Not all of the thousands who took part in "Your Bay" agreed on everything, but a wide majority voted for a view of the bay, a place to sit and enjoy it and something for the kids. For now, that's the plan.

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