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Little Group Strives For $90,000 'To Save' Park

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Is $90,000 too mucñ money to raise by April 6 in order to "save Bird Hills Park" in northwest Ann Arbor - a hilly, wooded park, described by a resident of the area as "like heaven?" A determined little band of Ann Arborites who have estabished the Bird Hills Park Fund under the auspices of the Washtenaw Land Conservancy Trust, Inc., hope not. For they are firmly convinced that if their fund-raising efforts to buy as park land the 60 landlocked acres adjacent to Bird Hills Park fail, and 240 luxury condominiums are built on that land instead, the park opened in 1968 which they describe as "magnificent" will be irreparably damaged. The group - composed of Mr. and Mrs Charles Stickels, Mrs. Eumce Hendrix, Prof. and Mrs. Marshall Sahlins and Mr. and Mrs. Milton N. Kemnitz - was formed about two weeks ago on March 15. This was the date on which City Council postponed a vote to rezone the land (which would permit construction of the condominiums for three weeks so interested citizens would have a chance to raise money toward purchase of the land for park use. Mayor Robert J. Harris and City Council told the group that if $90,000 ï could be raised, serious consideration would be given to matching the amount if the city's park bond proposal is approved at the polls April 5. The city could then apply for available state and federal funds to complete the purchase price - estimated at $360,000. The fund-raising group thinks the 60 I acres known as the Bowen Subdivisión are an "integral part" of Bird Hills I Park which should be bought by the city to complete the existing 117-acre park. That park contains a stream and a variety of unusual trees. (Parks Department SupT George l Dwers said in February, however, that ;he purchase of the 60 acres is not a high priority in nis department's estimation, apparently because of money problems. Owers added, however, that if the :ity share of the cost would be ,' tially reduced, "then I'd have a different ! perspective.") The fund-raising group is also [ cerned that chopping down many of the trees on the hilly, 60-acre site in order to build the condominiums would trigger serious soil erosión and water run-off into the lower valley of Bird Hills Park and then into Barton Pond, the source of city drinking water. The group concedes that the water could still be treated by the city for drinking, but argües that the additional Chemicals and silt caused by the condominium construction would greatly increase the cost of treating the water. They also argue that the additional silt and chemicals would disturb the ecological balance of the pond, which now contains fish and other types of life. Another argument of the group is that the 60 acres are now the home of fox, deer and a large variety of birds and other wildlife. But they fear that much of this will disappear once 240 families and their pets move into the area. "We really feel the park will be damaged by that many people, pets and cars " Mrs. Milton Kemnitz declared. Her husband, local artist Milton Kemnitz said the fund-raising group is "just a bunch of amateurs. We don't really have professional expertise in this kind of thing. All we can do is present our story and hope people will see the lignt and help piek up the tab." At present, about $26,000 in checks and pledges have been raised - slightly more than 25 per cent of the goal One 12-year-old youth gave half of his $20 life savings to the fund. Another high . school pirl donated one week's wages earned at a local slimming salon: $25. i Still another woman, a student wife with a baby, said she could only afford to dónate $3, but would that help? She also offered to take pledge cards around I I her neighborhood. Pledges have also come in from I mazoo, Saline, Ypsilanti, Whitmore Lake and Brighton. Most of the contributions and pledges have been of the $5, $10 and $25 variety, with occasional donations of $100 and $500. Even $1 contributions have been received. All are welcome. "Every contribution is a vote for the park - no matter how small," one member of the fund-raising committee said. The group is hoping that the campaign will peak in the eight or nine remaining days of the drive. "The first few thousand dollars were easy. We raised $3,000 the first three days. But af ter several thousand dollars, it starts to slow down," according to one member of the committee. The group has printed 1,000 green and yellow bumper stickers designed by Kemnitz which read "Save Bird Hills Park" in its efforts to publicize the drive. Newspaper advertisements and radio programs are also part of the effort. A group of ladies who live in the park área plan a bake sale for Wednesday at the Colonial Lanes Bowling Alley to help the committee with its publicity expenses. And BAsythe Junior High students are even getting into the act. Two of Prof. Sahlins' children (he is a professor of anthropology at the U-M) who attend Forsythe have organized at least 15 fellow students who plan to go door-to-door during the last week of the campaign in the Wines School and Forsythe neighborhoods with fact sheets and pledges for the Bird Hills Park Fund. Naturalist Mrs. Eunice Hendrix, a member of the fund-raising group, argües that "the land should dictate how it should be used, and that land is trying (next page please)]
( nonti miftH I to teil us somethmg." She explains that much of the fragüe Miami loam soil on the 60 acres is inappropriate for building condominiums. Mrs. Hendrix and others on the committee also explained that the land in the 60-acre parcel has been cared for up to now with terracing and diversions to keep it from eroding and to keep the water from running straight down the hills. These would be eliminated when the earthmovers rearrange the landscape, they say. [ Another worry to ecologists is that parking lots in the área could only be I constructed by removing many of the I large trees and grading the hilly terrain, I though the developer has promised that I only 40 of the 60 acres would be deveI looed. and that the trees would be dled with care. Not everyone, of course, is opposed to the building of the condominiums. Thel plan is being supported by a number of residents in the area, who feel the j developer has done "careful planning" I r for the project. In February of this year, a petition I favoring the development was presented to City Council, with some 34 names on it. "We are confident that the council ] will recognize the value of the proposed project to the city of Ann Arbor, the community, and the careful planning which the developer has done in conjunction with its locations ..." the petition stated. Nevertheless, the Bird Hills Park Fund supporters are asking the people of Ann Arbor who feel as they do to ""protect the city's most beautüui parte ■ _ we will never have another chance once the bulldozers and chain saws move in, for the damage would be ersible," they argue. All donations to thei fund would be tax deductible, and the fund-raising mittee has promised that all donations made by check will be immediately returned and no pledges need be redeemed if the attempt to purchase the I 60 acres fails. Pledge forms may be obtained from Mrs Charles Stickels at 2410 Newport I I Rd Ann Arbor, Mich. 48103, telephone 663-2948. The forms or checks may also Bbe mailed to that addreAS_