By Lisa Carolin
Paving on the first section of trail from the roundabout at the intersection of Werkner Road and M-52, north of Chelsea to Green Lake Campground in the Waterloo Recreation Area is nearly complete, and the hope is that the new Border to Border trail segment will open in late November.
The trail will provide access to the DTE Mountain Bike Trail, and will form part of the Iron Belle Trail, Michigan’s longest statewide trail network at 2,000 miles.
If not for the efforts of some Lyndon Township residents, there wouldn’t be a trail there. Instead, there would be a sand mine from which trucks would be making hundreds of round trips through downtown Chelsea six days a week.
Tim and Mary Jane Eder spearheaded the effort to “Deny the Mine” beginning in 2014. The Lyndon Township couple was nominated for their efforts for an award by fellow township residents Bart and Maribeth Hammer.
“Numerous informational public events were planned, phone calls made, yard signs distributed, funds collected and many, many meetings were held with Mary Jane handling the numerous administrative details and Tim leading with his calm voice of reason and leadership prowess,” stated Bart and Maribeth Hammer, in their nomination letter.
It was in January of 2014 that the Eders learned that McCoig Materials, Inc., a sand mining company, had purchased 189 acres across from Green Lake, south of North Territorial Road and submitted an application to Lyndon Township for a special land use permit to create a sand and gravel mine.
“The prospect of a large gravel operation would have radically changed the character of Lyndon Township and severely impacted Chelsea,” said Tim Eder. “Lyndon is a special place with parks, trails, and state lands that support a recreation economy and unique natural features. A special feature of the township is the groundwater movement that supports the lakes, wetlands and a unique fen in Park Lyndon. Gravel mines are notorious for draining groundwater.”
The Eders learned that the gravel pit would have used M-52 as its haul route sending a truck through Chelsea every 4 minutes. Many residents from the Chelsea area came out in force to oppose the mine.
“We created Friends of Chelsea and Lyndon Township and gave it that name because we wanted officials to know we were for something positive–a safe and healthy community–not just opposed to a gravel mine,” explained Eder. “We faced a number of challenges, starting with a state law that favored extraction and was biased against local government decisions. We had to muster scientific and legal arguments that were specific to the factors in the state law in order to convince the township that they had the legal right to oppose the mine.”
The Eders say more than 600 people attended a public hearing in March of 2014 to oppose the mine, many of whom were lawyers, engineers, and experts in natural sciences, and applied their expertise to bolster arguments against the mine because of its effects on natural resources and the economy.
“The alliance with the City of Chelsea was also crucial,” said Eder. “Leaders from Chelsea government and business were aligned and vocal.”
Mary Jane Eder added, “The deny the mine effort stretched the resources of Lyndon Township workers and officials. They were always unfailingly polite to our group.”
In September of 2016, following an invitation from the state, the leaders of McCoy Materials, Inc. withdrew their bid in Lyndon Township, (and later entered a bid to mine a different parcel in Livingston County) and donated the 170 acres of land to the state.
“Instead of having a gravel mine on 170 acres north of Chelsea, now we have a new parcel of state land–one with unique hydrology and geologic features (it is one of the highest peaks in Washtenaw County),” said Tim Eder.
“The land is an important parcel for the state because it connects the Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation Areas. Soon, the parcel will be served by the trail running through the heart of it. People from the surrounding areas will be able to access and enjoy the peaks, ponds and forests,” he said.
According to the Hammers, “We believe that without Tim and Mary Jane Eder so selflessly giving of their time and talents during the long months of working with multiple public agencies, local officials, McCoig Materials, and the many concerned and anxious citizens from the Chelsea area, that the outcome for our Chelsea community could have been very different.”
Tim Eder says that some of the people from the Friends of Chelsea and Lyndon Township group that fought to deny the mine are now leaders of the group raising money and constructing the trail.
“Many of us wanted to use the energy and enthusiasm that was mobilized to deny the mine and turn it to something that will have a positive and lasting effect on our communities,” said Eder. “In the end, it was the voice of the hundreds of residents who came forth and spoke up for the future of their community that was the key ingredient in this effort.”