Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 6, 2012

State: Playground infringes on trail

Builder says he got permission in the 1970s


---- — ROCKFORD (AP) — The state wants a West Michigan homeowner to tear down an expansive playground built near his home that encroaches on a right of way for the White Pine Trail.

Paul Golembiewski, a professional landscaper from Rockford, told he got verbal permission in the 1970s to build the playground from the owner of the railroad that used the former rail line. He faces trespassing charges if it's not removed by Nov. 30 from near the trail.

"No one has ever said this is horrifying. All I get ... is 'Wow, I really like your yard," Golembiewski said. "It's more of a work of art for me and it has never done anyone any harm."

The playground north of Grand Rapids includes a swing set and play tower, as well as a 16-foot-by-20-foot deck that doubles as a basketball court. There's also a tire swing near a large Maple tree, a bench swing, a wood pile for his stove and a small vineyard. Most isn't on his land, reported.

Golembiewski said he also had verbal permission from state agencies that oversaw the land, but the state Department of Natural Resources notified him in January about the encroachment and sent enforcement officers last month. The trail runs from the Grand Rapids area to Cadillac, and is popular for walking, jogging and biking.

Christopher Stark, trail supervisor with the DNR, said the agency has safety and liability concerns. He noted, for example, there are relatively large landscaping rocks near the trail.

"That's going to be a pretty hard deadline," Stark said. "It already has been extended quite a bit."

Stark said Golembiewski's playground is "very noticeable." Having also identified nearby properties with a storage shed and tree house encroaching on the trail right of way, which extends 50 feet in each direction through that part of Rockford, the area "seemed like a logical place to invest time in," Stark said.

Golembiewski offered to lease the land for $100 per year and release the state from liability on the playground, but the DNR declined the offer.

"No one that ever goes by has ever suggested that it's encroaching or it's too ostentatious," he said. "It's been down there for 34 years and I just ask for a long-term lease, or to the point that the wood begins to deteriorate."