MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Muskegon is set to increase its parking capacity at Pere Marquette Park by 300 spots.
The city will also add a new 20-foot-wide walking and bicycle path. But this development comes at the expense of 11 trees and what some concerned residents call critical dune area.
“We need these trees. We need these trees to stay,” Darlene DeHuey, a concerned resident, said. “As soon as I heard that they were going to redesign the park and put in a lot of more parking places and basically take out all of these trees, I was just absolutely astounded.”
DeHuey has been advocating for the 11 Maple, Cottonwood and Locust trees to stay. She helped organize a small protest near the trees Monday afternoon.
“I’m not against maximizing use of the park, but just do it at a reasonable level and also include the trees because nature supports us. We aren’t going to live if we don’t have nature,” DeHuey said. “We want to preserve what’s beautiful down here and these are the only trees we have and there’s nothing unbeautiful about them. To me, they’re beautiful.”
They’re also beautiful to lifetime Muskegon resident Derek Olsen, who says preserving the trees is crucial for the lakeshore ecosystem.
“The city didn’t do a human impact study, traffic study or environmental impact study,” Olsen said. “I just believe that there has to be an alternative plan that could include saving these old heritage trees because what if we as the citizens don’t want to save money and pave this giant piece of black top? What if we don’t agree with that? I just don’t think the commission has taken an adequate amount of time and taken public input on something that needs to be talked about.”
The city has plans to plant new saplings along the edge of the development, but protestors argue it’ll take too long for them to develop, and the shade that provide beachgoers is crucial.
“The problem is it will be decades by the time they even give anybody any shade,” DeHuey said. “You never cut a mature tree down when you’ve already got one. It’s predicted with the climate change report on Michigan, that we’re going to have 100 degree days. We’re going to need all the shade we can get.”
DeHuey believes the root of the city’s plans is motivated by money.
“That leads to the driving force behind this, which is money. They say it isn’t, but in the first year of them putting in these parking fees, they made over a half a million dollars. If they put in 300 more parking spaces, maybe they’ll approach a million? I don’t know,” DeHuey said. “They will do it. I’m sure they’re just champing at the bit to do it. Because once they’re gone, what do we have to say? All we can do is cry.”
The city commission of Muskegon has already voted and their development plans are scheduled to begin in the near future.
News 8 reached out to the city for comment and they said they were unfortunately too busy to speak.