County commissioners approved a resolution backing the plan for a state game area in London Township, even though a couple of neighbors to the proposed site expressed concerns.
Monroe County commissioners have given their nod to a proposed new state game area in the northwest part of the county that once was mined for sand and gravel.
Tuesday night, the county board approved 6-0 a resolution backing the proposal by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division to acquire about 680 acres at the former London Sand quarry in London Township and to seek a grant application for developing the quarry into a game preserve and recreational area. Commissioner Mark Brant, who owns the property known as Crystal Waters, abstained from voting. Two commissioners were excused from the meeting.
Two weeks ago, the board held a public hearing on the proposal and heard a talk about the plan from DNR representatives.
The site is bordered on the north by Oakville-Waltz Rd., on the west by Tuttle-Hill Rd., on the south by Grames Rd. and on the east by Palmer Rd. There are seven bodies of water on the property that range from 5 to 85 acres. The state is proposing to use the property for hunting, fishing, kayaking and a small-scale public shooting range for hunters to site their guns prior to the hunting season. It also would include a small boat launch, 6.5 miles of hiking trails and deer, turkey, small-game and waterfowl habitat.
Prior to the vote, two London residents voiced concerns about the development plan.
Rosida Burton, who lives near the site, said she and other neighbors didn’t know about the hearing and wanted to attend. She expressed concern about proposed shooting and target practice that would take place and also the effect on property values in the area. She said she is not opposed to hunting and fishing.
Allen Russell, who lives on Grames, said the resolution contained nothing about the gun range, which would impact his property. Mr. Russell said there are several gun clubs within 10 miles of his house and he can hear the gunshots coming from them.
“I can only imagine what it’s going to sound like when” the game area is opened, he told the board.
He added there is no fencing proposed around the site and no one will be managing the property on a full-time basis. He said he would pursue his concerns with the DNR.
J. Henry Lievens, board chairman, said the game area would not become a “wild West scenario” with hunters shooting recklessly on the property. He said the gun range would be on a precise location in a recessed area of the site where the gunshots would be muffled by the land and environment.
“This is a natural depression and backstop to absorb sound,” Mr. Lievens said. “This is basically an abandoned quarry” that has no public use. There would be regulations on the gun range.
He added that parks and schools generally add value to adjoining properties.
Commissioner David Hoffman said he understood the residents’ concerns but would not want to see the county miss out on the game area. He said the proposed gun range would be in an area 30-40 feet below the ground.
“This is a big slice of land,” Mr. Hoffman said. “We can always work with the neighbors. I’d hate to see this slip through our fingers. ... There is a need for this.”
Mr. Brant said after the meeting he bought the site in 2010 from Stoneco of Michigan. “It’s the largest piece of land available in this part of the state” for development, he said.
He noted the DNR’s proposal is one of more than 40 projects competing for $7.5 million in state funds this year. Word on the grant awards is expected this fall.
Concerns about the project can be directed to Jennifer Olson, a biologist with the DNR, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (517) 284-4739.