Metroparks Commission Vacancy

The term of the current Metroparks Macomb Commissioner, Anthony Marocco, expires April 30. A new commissioner would be appointed by Mark Hackel, the Macomb County Executive. It is particularly important at this time that the Metroparks board adds a leader who could strongly support the Metroparks three missions of recreation, education, and STEWARDSHIP. Metroparks Director George Phifer reports to the Metroparks Board of Commissioners and is most responsive to any of their individual/group requests. Comments from individuals are more often not acted upon unless supported by a BOC member.

Commissioners have direct oversight of the Director, and can influence best practices, particularly with regular, consistent, and constructive input. This is an opportunity to provide input on the selection of a commissioner for Macomb who may have long-term impact on the operations of the Metroparks.

Once appointed, commissioners tend to stay for a long time (eg, the retiring Macomb Commissioner, Anthony Marocco, has been on the board since 2005 and John Hertel has been on the board since 1983. The most effective way to influence Metroparks good management is to appoint better BOC members, and to stay in touch with your county commissioner. Because the opportunity does not arise that often, this at least would be the time for Sierra SEMG members to express interest and concerns on good environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility for the next commissioner from Macomb County.

The Metroparks has had two excellent Managers of Natural Resources resign since last August due to conflicts between their professional best practice standards with directives from Metroparks Director George Phifer. Long-time Natural Resources Manager Paul Muelle resigned last August, and more recently, the new Manager of Natural Resources, Eric Ellis, resigned. Both of these professionals were excellent stewards. Both differed from the Director on a number of issues, including the extensive tree cutting and clearing of understory (not all invasive shrubs) at Kensington, Stony Creek, and other parks. Some parkways are beginning to look more like city parks than natural areas.

Kensington Metropark

Kensington Metropark in Michigan (credit:

Much of the mowing being done is interfering with bird nesting and habitat in the parks. Sierra Club’s South East Michigan Group (SEMG), Huron Valley Group (HVG), other environmental organizations, and many citizens have submitted letters of concern and spoken at Metroparks BOC or other meetings regarding excessive and untimely mowing practices and the extent of land clearing. Last year, CM Marans visited Hudson Mills to observe concerns regarding mowing, and he requested a moratorium. More board members are needed who will support good stewardship.

In spite of many public comments, including by Sierra SEMG, HVG, and Crossroads, and other citizens at BOC meetings, the substantial mowing and clearing of trees and understory in the parks continues. Kensington and Stony Creek are some examples. The only thing that stopped the excessive mowing at Hudson Mills was a request for a moratorium from Washtenaw County Commissioner Robert Marans last year.

It would be good if the new board member would also be fiscally astute and alert to Metroparks finances. There have been many very large un-budgeted expenditures proposed by Admin. and approved by the board—most of which are “nice to have” rather than essential repairs. Commissioners are asked to review and approve expenditures for all the parks, not just those in their own county. So while a representation from Macomb is desirable, it’s also appropriate for any member of the community of park users (and tax payers) to comment on the selection criteria for a new commissioner.

Sierra SEMG members can contact Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel (Write to Mark Hackel, Administrative Building, 1 S Main, 8th Floor, Mount Clemens, MI 48043; call (586) 469-7001; email and urge that the next Metroparks Commissioner from Macomb be someone who supports the values of Sierra, i.e., excellent stewardship of our Metroparks natural areas and also fiscal responsibility.

Thanks to Toni Spears (HVG) who alerted us to this news and others who, by email, contributed elements of this article. I did not write it so much as cut and paste from email to assemble it. – Art Myatt


Author: Art Myatt

Retired engineer and environmentally aware activist with Green Party of Michigan, Sierra Club and Alliance to Halt Fermi 3.

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