Village council can’t agree on park future

By Shelby Stewart
Staff Writer
Ortonville- On Monday night, the village council had two failed motions in reference to the Ortonville Wildlife Preservation Park.
At issue is about 47 acres of village owed wooded property and just how that parcel would be managed. The impasse for community members is should the trails be natural hiking trials or more developed trials. For about a year council members have been grappling the future of the public owned property.
The first motion was made by trustee Larry Hayden, to form a committee to investigate topics related to the proposed ordinance and postpone action on the proposed ordinance until the committee reports their findings. The motion ended in a tie vote, with Hayden, village president Tonja Brice and trustee Pat George voting in favor of it and trustees Mark Butzu, Colleen Skornicka and president pro tempore Dan Eschmann voting against it. Because it was a tie, the motion failed. Trustee Mark Robinson was absent with notice.
The purpose of the motion made by Hayden was to have a committee to review the current park regulations to verify the existing ordinance, if enforced properly, addresses the issues reported by Trustee Eschmann, compile a comprehensive list of residents’ views on the village park including past surveys and public input, perform an evaluation of how other natural areas and nature preserves in Michigan manage those properties and the human activities in them, create a proposal for performing a formal survey of the habitat and wildlife that currently exists in the village park and any additional topics requested by the council to be investigated.
“This is a special piece of property, it does require some special consideration, but right now we don’t have enough facts about exactly the type of habitat and wildlife in the park,” said Hayden.
The ordinance in question would prohibit any development of the park, leaving it a natural hiking area. A first reading was already approved, though a second reading has not been as of the meeting. Brice also made a motion to create a forestry commission for the village of Ortonville.

Hayden, George and Brice voted yes while Skornicka, Eschmann and Butzu voted no, meaning another tied and failed motion.
“I had a chance to review the ordinance and gather up some information, last Friday I spent some time with multiple people from multiple entities, literally over 100 years of combined experience and education. DNR, Genesee County, Oakland County, National Park Employees, and I’ve had a chance to review that. Big concern for me is the Wildlife Preservation designation,” said Brice. “For a Wildlife Preservation designation, we have not met any of the requirements at all. We don’t have the information needed, which would be our forest management plan, that’s our first step, we also don’t have a forestry commission, that’s another step. It takes multiple decades to be designated as a wildlife preservation area, and our consultation with the DNR is required, and agencies must come out, wildlife management scientists, agency leaders and university researchers and professors are designated to work with us to create that designation. So is our park in compliance? According to the professionals, no. So if this is something we’d like to continue to do, we again have to step back, we have to stop, we have to take the correct steps in order to do that.”
Residents also raised a concern that they had observed hunting blinds on the property, and the council agreed that they would have village staff remove them given that they are on village property and not private residential property.