Metroparks Update April 1, 2017

Metroparks Update April 1, 2017
1.    Natural Resource and Master Planning Meetings
2.    Manager of Natural Resources and Other Staff Resignations
3.    Your opportunity to comment

1.Natural Resource and Master Planning Meetings, Hudson Mills, Saturday April 8, 8:30AM
Quite a few folks came out to Hudson Mills a chilly January Saturday to hear a presentation on natural areas management of the Metroparks and comment. This is a follow-up to that meeting at which the park staff will be presenting plans for comment. The NR department does some very good environmental stewardship, but continuing public participation from the environmental community is particularly needed again in consideration of topic 2 (below).
The meeting for public input on planning and land management is at the Hudson Mills Activity Center, 8:30-9:30 am.
From the announcement:  there will be “a brief update on topics discussed at the previous Natural Resources Western District public meeting from Natural Resources Department Staff.  The remaining time will be open for people to provide input on specific habitat issues, invasive species control, grassland management, or any other natural resources related issue within the Metroparks.” 
The NR meeting will be followed by an update on the Hudson­ Mills Master Plan from 9:30-11am.  From the announcement: “We appreciated all the feedback received from stakeholders through our previous public meeting and online survey, and have incorporated those opinions into our planning process. Your input is important to us again at this second meeting, where we will present proposed projects and ideas for inclusion in the finished plan, and ask for your reactions. This meeting will include a brief presentation as well as time for questions and feedback. 
You are also welcome to share your opinions about the park in our online survey:”
The surveymonkey is typically open for several weeks more until the master plan is approved by the Board of Commissioners.
This Natural Resources meeting is being held for the Western District. Natural Resource meetings are expected to be scheduled for the two other districts, and anyone can attend any of these meetings. The initial NR meeting for the Southern District is Thursday April 20 at Lake Erie Metropark, time tbd, check website. The initial Eastern District meeting was Mar.25.
2.Manager of Natural Resources and Other Staff Resignations
Sadly, the new Metroparks Manager of Natural Resources, Eric Ellis, has resigned. Eric joined the Metroparks just last August shortly after long-time Manager of Natural Resources Paul Muelle resigned. That’s two excellent managers responsible for stewardship of the parks, plus at least three other responsible managers and staff who have left since last August.
IMO, the resignations of Paul and Eric were largely due to conflicts between their professional best practice standards with directives from Metroparks Director George Phifer. Both differed from the Director on a number of issues, including the extensive mowing,  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.
In spite of many public comments, the substantial mowing and clearing of trees and understory in the parks continues. The only thing that stopped the excessive mowing at Hudson Mills last year was a request to Dir.Phifer for a moratorium from Washtenaw County Commissioner Robert Marans.
3.Your opportunity to comment
Your participation in the public meetings and in regular, consistent, and constructive contact with individual Metroparks Commissioners is needed to assure the stewardship mission of the Metroparks is sustained. If you attend a meeting, consider also submitting your comments in writing to your Metroparks County Commissioner. They are:
Washtenaw:    Robert Marans  
Wayne:            Bernard Parker ;
Oakland:         (Ms.)Jaye Quadrozzi
Livingston:       Steve Williams  
Macomb:         tbd*
*The Macomb commissioner’s term expires April 30. A new commissioner will be appointed by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel ( Request the appointment of a commissioner who will pursue best practices stewardship of the Metroparks natural areas.
The ongoing and continued significant loss of highly qualified personnel and the impact on the morale of the Metroparks staff should not be ignored by the BOC.
IMO, it’s quite clear that there is a need for an employee survey to evaluate the working environment at the Metroparks. The survey needs to be done by a highly regarded professional organization, with data collected anonymously and in assured confidence,  to be summarized and reported to each individual Commissioner, unfiltered by either the Chair or the Director, and with a commitment to prompt and sustained follow-up action on observations that need attention.  If you agree, please send an email to your county representative.  The idea of an employee survey was introduced by CM Marans at the March Board meeting, but three more CMs are needed to support (that’s 4 out of seven; 2 are governor appointees).
The April 13 BOC meeting is at Indian Springs Metropark, 10:30 am, at the Environmental Discovery Center, a very interesting building if you have not been there yet, surrounded by prairie. It was the mowing down of the blooming prairie early July 2014 the week before a butterfly field trip that brought many folks out to object to stewardship mismanagement . The board packet is on the website at least a day before the meeting.
Toni Spears

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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