URGENT REQUEST needed from Oakland Township Parks supporters for April 12th Board Meeting

About 8 years ago there was an attempt by the Oakland Township Board to take away some of the authority, the separately elected, Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission had possessed since its formation in the 70’s. The conflict was resolved by several agreements made during a joint meeting between the groups. Many of the Board members were replaced in the following election.

It appears the current Board has issues with how the Parks and Recreation Commission is managing the property of our Parks properties and the Land purchased through the Land Preservation fund. The Board has not made those issues public. They have a proposal, to be voted on at this Tuesday’s Board meeting, that would increase their control over the Land Preservation funds and the Park’s and Recreation Commission’s management of our parks.

Oakland Township has two major separately elected Boards or Commissions – the Township Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission. These two groups have worked together in a mutual respect manner for many years. The result is that Oakland Township is one of the most desirable communities in SE Michigan, in large part due to the fabulous Park system that the Parks and Recreation Commission has created.

If you are pleased with how Oakland Township Parks system, you can attribute it to the hard work of the dedicated Parks and Recreation folks on the Board and on staff.

If you want to learn more about the current attempt by the Board to take away some of the authority of the Parks and Recreation Commission, you can read the following historical summary from Cam Mannino and Reg Brown.

If you want to help influence the Township Board’s decision regarding their proposed attempt at taking over some of the Parks and Recreation Commission’s authority, please do one of the following:

  • Express your opinion to the BOT members through an email to all of them by using this link:
  • Attend the April 12, 2022 BOT meeting held at the Township Hall and express your opinion.

Richard Michalski

Here is the information referenced above:

Hello to friends of the Oakland Township Parks,

Since January of this year, the township’s current Board of Trustees (BOT) has made repeated attempts to wrest control of the Land Preservation funds and the management of our parks away from the separately elected and funded Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC).  I’m guessing that most of you agree that we elected the park protectors at the PRC to acquire, restore and manage our parks and natural areas, not the Board of Trustees. 

The effort is currently aimed at the beautiful extension of Lost Lake Park which was purchased with a $3 million matching grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) and monies from the Land Preservation Fund. 

The Board’s effort to undermine the PRC’s authority in the last three months are as follows: 

1) Feb.8, 2022:  A resolution appeared on the BOT’s agenda to rename the new extension to Lost Lake Park a “preserve”  and included an assertion that “all expenditures, improvements and authorized activities” in that park be “solely authorized and approved by the Oakland Township Board of Trustees,”  even though for decades we’ve elected Parks Commissioners to acquire, manage and maintain our parks.  And the PRC’s done an excellent job, acquiring and protecting 1500 acres of natural areas, returning them to health and consistently doing so within budget.  When concerned residents arrived at the BOT meeting, they were informed that the resolution was “withdrawn.”  The BOT members did not discuss the resolution as to who proposed it, why it was proposed or who supported it.  The residents spoke in opposition but the BOT did not answer anyone’s questions in regard to this resolution.

2) March 22,2022 The BOT blocked a request by the PRC to pay off a bridge loan from the BOT made to facilitate paying the previous owners of this property as quickly as possible.  The money to pay off this loan had been included in the PRC budget which was approved by the BOT last year.

3) March 29, 2022 A hostile letter from Adam Kline, the township manager and employee of the BOT, to Mindy Milos-Dale, the PRC’s parks director and an employee of the PRC.  In it, the BOT asserted through Mr. Kline that the PRC should stop all work on the new property which had not been approved by the BOT.  It further asserted that any work done without BOT approval would be “considered a trespass.”  

Before receiving this letter, the PRC had already directed invited property owners whose land abuts the new extension to attend an informational meeting on April 7 to learn about the PRC’s previous work from 2004 to 2022.  Kline’s letter also mentions that meeting and asserts that the PRC cannot “represent or take action that creates the appearance of authority over Township owned property” at that meeting.  He warned Mindy that she would be subject to “disciplinary action” if such representations were made. 

4) April 7, 2022 The PRC held the informational meeting on the Lost Lake Park extension even though people calling the township offices were told the meeting was cancelled.  A group of residents from around the park came to hear the PRC’s presentations and then discussed their concerns with the PRC commissioners for well over an hour.  The residents were heard, their questions answered, and they were encouraged to ask further questions of PRC staff or commissioners if anything concerned them about work in the park. 

5) Twice in the last 3 months, the PRC has requested a joint meeting with the BOT to discuss the ongoing conflict and the BOT has completely ignored those requests.  

6) April 12, 2022 The  BOT now has a new resolution on its agenda for next Tuesday, April 12 at 7:00 which further attempts to extend its control over the Land Preservation funds and PRC’s authority over and management of our parks. 

Their resolution asserts that: a) the BOT has chosen the name The Fox Preserve instead of making the new land part of Lost Lake Park as was stated in the MNRTF grant;  b) the “expenditures from the Land Preservation Fund are under the sole authority of the BOT; c) that the land will be “preserved” which seems to exclude the public’s use of the land and any stewardship work to restore it,  which violates the terms of the grant and d) all expenditures that “significantly or permanently affect the property or its structures” be submitted by the PRC to the BOT for their approval and authorization” before any work is done in the park.  This may threaten the grant since PRC needed to do safety work in the parks to make the public access available within the 90 days required by the grant.  It also would mean that the BOT which knows next to nothing about land restoration and stewardship would control decisions about what work is done in the parks.

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

From our perspective, it seems that the BOT is determined to seize control of the Land Preservation Funds and apparently the management of parks acquired with those funds, starting with the Lost Lake Park extension.  This is despite the fact that Land Preservation Funds have been successfully used by the PRC with Board agreement for 20 years to both acquire large parks and then restore and maintain them.  Since many of the BOT’s assertions directly violate the terms of the grant, their actions may result in losing this new park land and also make the MNRTF hesitant to make future grants to Oakland Township.  We need those grants to purchase large parcels and prevent their conversion to large tracts of housing by developers.  

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. Please take a few minutes to express your opinion on this current resolution in a single email sent to the entire Board of Trustees before the meeting this coming Tuesday night at 7 p.m at the Township Hall.  It can be just a few sentences saying you oppose the resolution and want the PRC to continue to use Land Preservation Funds and do its work as it has done so beautifully for the last 20 years.  You can say you elected the members of the PRC to do this work, not the BOT.  Whatever you express, no matter how brief, will be useful.  Here’s the link to the page on the township’s website.  Just click on the link provided above the photos where it says, “Click here to email the entire Board of Trustees.”

http://www.oaklandtownship.org/boards_and_commissions/board_of_trustees/index.php

2. Please forward this information to any township residents that you feel are supportive of our Parks Commission and encourage them to send a letter on Monday or Tuesday before 7 p.m. as well.

3. Attend the Tuesday Night meeting to express your opinion in person.   Again, you don’t need a long speech.  You’re limited to 3 minutes anyway but a simple sentence or two spoken in person can be just as effective. The resolution is at the very end of the agenda so you may want to watch on local access tv (Channel 17 on Comcast/Xfinity cable) and come when they’re getting closer to that item.  Sometimes they are polite enough to move an item closer to the top at the beginning of the meeting to accommodate residents in the audience.  If so, that change will be made and the resolution may be moved up on the agenda.

Thanks so much for taking the time to make a difference.  Our Parks hang in the balance.  Please act!

Cam Mannino and Reg Brown

5 thoughts on “URGENT REQUEST needed from Oakland Township Parks supporters for April 12th Board Meeting

  1. Ron Hornack

    At best, an overreach. At worst, an authoritarian approach to power and control. Why not let the residents know why they wish to make this change from the officials we have elected to perform these duties? What is the current board afraid of?

    Reply
  2. Frank Ferriolo

    My View on the Fox Nature Preserve Issue:

    The Parks Commission manages or maintains Oakland Township Parks through a Parks millage administered through a budget that is approved annually by The Oakland Township Board of Trustees. The Parks Commission or Parks Department owns no property. They are a recommending body to the Board of Trustees on purchases of property or grant applications. Therefore, The Board on behalf of the Township controls ownership of all the Parks and property and decides on which grants to pursue or not.
    The Board has consistently approved Parks budgets and their requests for purchase of land over many years. The Board has also consistently said it does not wish to micro-manage Parks or the Parks Commission activities. This was made clear at a July 25, 2013 Joint meeting of the Board and Parks commission which is available on the website. Further, the subsequent Boards have agreed as well, they do not wish to micro-manage.
    This includes the Land Preservation Millage which Parks Commission has no direct authority over. The Board has granted to Parks Commission the management over Land Preservation funds via the annual budget. However, unlike the Parks Millage, the Board can revoke management rights to Parks of the Land Preservation funds. But again, over and over, the Board has refused to do so.
    Now, with the Fox property purchase the Board has decided to exercise its authority over Land Preservation funds but in a limited way. They are claiming their right to name the land a Preserve and call it The Fox Nature Preserve (the animal as I understand it) and let it stand on its own and demonstrate its own value to the residents independent of its neighbor, Lost Lake Nature Park. Further, the Board chose to have the entire participation of purchase come from the Land Preservation Fund. There are no Parks millage funds involved.
    Also, they are directing that any major plans for development or maintenance of the property be brought before the Board for approval. The indications are that the Board wants to limit in near term any development of this property save for maintenance but to allow safe access for residents. The Board wants to continue to have the Parks Commission maintain the Fox Nature Preserve.
    Earlier this year, Parks Department failed to inform residents near the Fox property area of their plans to kill trees and bushwhack areas of the property. This was a surprise to several of the Parks Commission members as well when a resident brought the activity to their attention at a recent meeting.
    Subsequently, many more residents protested the activity and it was brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees and Township Manager. The Board knew nothing of this as well.
    The Township Manager under his authority had all activity cutting of trees by Parks Department stopped. Parks did stop. However, the Parks Commission refused to acknowledge his authority in an email sent from the Parks Director to the Township Manager.
    Still further, it was determined that as continued bushwhacking of the shrubbery and small trees continued a second Stop Order was issued by the Township Manager. That email also addressed the issue of control and plan for the development as an issue the Board of Trustees and only the Board had authority over since it was a Land Preservation purchase.
    With the uproar, the Parks, now trying to control the issue, decided to have a meeting and sent out 100 cards to surrounding residents asking them to attend. Well, as the Township Manager stated no one but the Board should address this and as a result there was no purpose to the Commission meeting. They met anyway.
    Hopefully, the Board will resolve this issue at tonight’s, Tuesday, April 12th 7PM meeting at Township Hall.
    So, the bottom line as I see it is Parks rushed in and started to work on THEIR park without any discussion of the immediate plans with local residents or the Board. The Board is saying, too fast! Save for safety issues, stop any development and bring your plans to the Board for approval.

    Reply
  3. richardjmichalski Post author

    I assume Linda your are addressing your comment to the Board members, since I, Richard Michalski, the this site manager was not in any Oakland Township election ballot.

    Reply

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