July 9, 2014 at 1:00 am

Mowing at Harrison Twp. metropark angers visitors

Harrison Township — Nature-lovers on Thursday plan to take their concerns to metropark authorities over mowing they say destroyed fauna and flora.

Vikki Jones of Harrison Township was so angered by the mowing last weekend at Lake St. Clair Metropark that she contacted John McCulloch,director of Huron-Clinton Metroparks.

“The wildflower field around the Nature Center was mowed during the first weekend in July,” she wrote in an email. “You could not possibly have chosen a worse time for wildlife. I saw firsthand the dead snakes, frogs and birds. In addition to the loss of life, the habitat for insects and pollinators was destroyed.”

Jones added that the snakes killed are endangered in the state and the eggs of the declining numbers of Monarch butterfly also were destroyed.

George Phifer, deputy director/chief of police of the Metroparks Police Department, said that, in the past, areas that were traditionally mowed remained untouched as a cost-cutting measure. Phifer said the mow at Lake St. Clair Metropark was about aesthetics.

“The Metroparks are about nature and the preservation of habitat,” said Phifer. “That mission has not changed. The intent of the recent mowing was in no way to negatively affect wildlife but to address maintenance concerns that we have identified.”

Ann Gilmore said she heard about the mowing from a Facebook post. Gilmore said countless nests of birds were lost as well.

“I love our metroparks so much and I spend a lot of time at Lake St. Clair,” said Gilmore of Bloomfield Hills, who plans to attend the meeting Thursday. “The birds are nesting this time of year. If they are to mow, it should be done in the fall and not during bird season.”

Gilmore said such mows have also taken place at Kensington and Indian Springs.

Phifer said some park patrons have urged officials to spruce up the metroparks.

For Jones, there was nothing aesthetically pleasing about the cutting.

“The meadows mowed were not weeds or non-native or invasive species,” Jones said. “The cut flowers were left in the fields and now the field looks like a mowed hayfield, waiting for the grasses to dry and to be baled.”

Last month, Lake St. Clair Metropark celebrated the eco-friendly redevelopment of the newly paved parking lot designed to eliminate storm runoff from the parking lot to the Black Creek, and redirects the flow to the Point Rosa Marsh through vegetative filters and detention ponds.

The $3.6 million project ultimately will benefit the beach, officials said.

In 2007, the Metroparks committed $4 million to the redevelopment of the parking lot to address the frequent beach closures due to contamination. Two grants from the Environmental Protection Agency for $1.5 million were used for the redevelopment.

Jeffrey Swider of Shelby Township said with the new storm water management areas resulting from the parking lot re-development, the EPA gave specific instructions about where no-mow areas should be, especially by ponds for filtering.

“Native plants were planted to create buffer zones and then no-mow next to that,” said Swider. “These were just starting to flower and grow. This was an EPA grant for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to improve water quality.”

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