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DNR: Proud Lake area will not be sold to developers
From The Oakland Press, May 18, 2006


Of The Oakland Press

A state official says there's "more misinformation out there than you can ever imagine," about Department of Natural Resources plans for 564.3 acres of property on the north and south sides of Wise Road in Commerce Township.

Paul Yauk, lands program manager for the DNR's parks and recreation division, said the state is not putting the property - part of the Proud Lake State Recreation Area - up for sale to the highest bidder.

"It's the DNR who
has been talking
out of both sides
of their mouth..."

Save Our State Lands

"No, no, no," he said. "We're not even talking to any developers."

But the state is talking to the Walled Lake Consolidated School District about 80.31 acres - and with Oakland County and the Commerce Township about the rest.

Commerce can't afford the asking price, said township resident Randy Ston of Saver Our State Lands, a grassroots organization concerned about the DNR's plans.

"It's the DNR who has been talking out of both sides of their mouth..." said Ston.

He claims the DNR is asking $13 million for just under 484 acres. By law, the state can seek the price of the highest use of the land - residential property - even though it was rezoned recreational.

"We couldn't afford it," said Ston. "We passed a millage and set aside some of the millage money to pay on time for what we thought was the recreational amount, which would be under $4 million.

He also disputes state contentions that the land would not be developed, noting language in the offer that would allow the township or county to work with local developers.

Proud Lake meeting
The Proud Lake Recreation Area includes a 564.3 acre parcel of property on the north and south sides of Wise Road in Commerce Township, east of the main park. A public
meeting about the property is 7 p.m. tonight at the Multi-Lakes Conservation Club, 3960 Newton Road.

The bottom line, said Kirt Manecke, a Milford resident and founder of a conservancy group called LandChoices, is "it's already our state land and it should not be sold."
Conversion of the property, as the state calls it, is a hot button issue, said Manecke.
"I've talked to many people about it," he said. "I've never talked to anybody who was for it. Most people are shocked."

"The people I've talked to are up in arms about it."

Yauk said proceeds from conversion would be used to purchase recreational land - not to balance a state budget hit hard by a weak economy.

"We are obligate to buy additional land," he said. "There cannot be a net loss of land."
But while the highest priority would be for land in southeast Michigan, according to Yauk, it could be anywhere in the state.

Manecke, Ston and others have problems with that.

"No. 1, I don't trust the state to use that money not to balance the budget," said Manecke. "And No. 2, they wouldn't be able to purchase that amount of property around the main unit."

Residents, he said, "would be out 600 acres of land here in Oakland County."

Ston said looking for open space to replace open space in a rapidly urbanizing area doesn't make sense.

"Because of the critical nature, not only for the environment but also for our water supply - we have wells here - it (the property) is important," he said.

The property was purchased in 1945 using game and fish funds, said Yauk. An anti-aircraft missile site on the property was deactivated in 1974.

"We don't have any formal parking, we don't have any trails, we don't collect fees, there is no formal anything on it," he said.

"We do manage it - we get more vandalism on that site than anyplace else in southeast Michigan."

Manecke, however, said the property is laced with trails and "people use it and it is gorgeous."

The Walled Lake Consolidated School District originally came to the state with a proposal to purchase 155 acres of the property. That was rejected, said Yauk. The proposal has been scaled back to 80.31 acres with access from Commerce Road.

"Before we do anything on that, we, the DNR, are going to have a public meeting on that," he said.

Judy Evola, spokeswoman for the district, said the property would be for a future school. In 2000, she said, voters passed a bond including money to purchase land.

Jan Pung, spokeswoman for Oakland Parks, said the county had been "approached by the state regarding that property. There had been some discussion about it, but there has been no action by the parks and recreation commission."

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