Still Stopping the Rocket
The Citizens for a Safe & Clean Lake Superior held a well-attended informational meeting at Big Bay’s Thunder Bay Inn last night, determined to keep the fire burning under the opposition to a proposed Spaceport on the Granot Loma property along the Big Bay highway.
At least 60 concerned area residents showed up to hear volunteer president Dennis Ferraro and the CSCLS hired director Cait Sternberg go over the organization’s objections to the project, and what can be done to stop it.
One thing we learned… a safe and clean Lake Superior is just part of the equation. There’s a lot of land at stake too, as well as all the environmental and ecological qualities that go with it.
A quick refresher… the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association, with the blessing of the State of Michigan and the Marquette County Board of Commissioners, is attempting to put a rocket launch site somewhere in Marquette County… preferably along the shore of Lake Superior on the Granot Loma property.
The initial proposal was to use K.I. Sawyer as the launch site but it was decided that vertical rocket launches in such a populated area was too dangerous. Then, somehow, Granot Loma was suddenly, and surprisingly introduced as the new location. How this came about is a question yet to be answered, but that’s where we’re at, just the same.
To go into the politics and profit motives that must have played a part in that decision would take more time and space than allowed here.
Anyway, as MAMA works to secure all the necessary permits and approvals to put one launch site at downstate Oscoda, the opposition here in Powell Township isn’t waiting for the other shoe to drop. They’re working on what they hope will be a damp dose of reality on MAMA’s Spaceport fuse.
More than 25,000 signatures have been gathered on petitions in opposition, to go along with a fine-tuned social and scientific platform that explains in the simplest terms possible, why this is a bad idea.
According to Ferraro, “We want to be prepared and proactive.”
To be sure, a lot of us think the idea of sending rockets into space is cool, and would certainly be a “must see” if it ever came to pass. Kind of like when they reintroduced moose to the U.P. several decades ago and it turned into a western Marquette County watch party.
However, many, if not most of those same people probably also think there’s a better place for a heavy industrial Spaceport than our pristine wilderness. Not to mention, with 13 such sites already operational across the country, many at less than capacity, is it really necessary? As Ferraro said, “This was never a need for Michigan.”
So… why? As former NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer once said, “The answer to all your questions is money.” It appears the Marquette County Board got behind this with the promise from MAMA of thousands of jobs for locals in the exciting world of aerospace technology. As it turns out, that may be overly exaggerated, as in, not nearly that many jobs and most of them in maintenance and security. Other launch sites bring in the technical folks when they actually put a rocket into orbit. And then those folks go home.
The last line of defense, prior to any civil disobedience on the part of the revved up citizenry, would be the Powell Township authorities. They can shut this down merely by denying any changes to their current zoning ordinances. Seems simple enough, but the Citizens for a Safe & Clean Lake Superior aren’t taking any chances. Just when you think you’ve won the battle, you hear 165 decibels worth of gravity-busting firepower and you see the rocket’s red glare and you feel your floor shaking beneath your feet and … well, by then it’s too late.
If I were a betting man, and I am, I’d bet this Spaceport never happens. But, also as a betting man, I know there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
Assuming winter is finally over and it’s now spring, or summer, or whatever season follows winter around here, we’re happy to share the announcement that the road around Presque Isle is now open to vehicular traffic. The latest snowfall delayed the opening a bit, but according to Andrew MacIver of the Parks & Rec department, we’re not that far off our typical schedule for opening, usually early or mid-May.
“The seasonal road opening is determined by City Staff and there are multiple factors that play into this decision. First and foremost, the weather is the biggest factor as snow, black ice, and wet leaves can make for unsafe road conditions, especially on the hills. Additionally, we are also concerned about maintaining the road and ensuring its longevity.”
Of course, whether it’s open to cars or not, you can always go out there and take the long walk around the loop. It’s about a two mile trek, but you’re sure to see something you probably would have missed from your car.
Other than that, what plans are on the table for the upcoming season? Presque Isle Advisory Committee chairperson Tara Gluski says they’ve got a couple issues at the top of their priority list. First, of course, is how to deal with congestion, particularly around Black Rocks. They’ll also be working with city staff to evaluate traffic and parking issues while they “continue to advocate for protection of the park and its resources.”
For those wondering about the future of the band shell… it has no future. According to MacIver, “The greenspace is still available to rent, but the structure has been deemed unsafe for use.” They’re trying to identify grant opportunities and work with interested local groups, like the Marquette City Band, to raise money for replacement.
The archway at the entrance to the park is still down for repair, but they hope to have it back in place for the summer. And you can expect to see some new signage, in the form of educational kiosks placed at strategic locations.
Finally, in order to keep the island a special place for all, there are rules we all have to follow, and here they are:
- No dogs allowed at the island – this protects wildlife and visitors as well as preventing dog waste from accumulating.
- No camping or trespassing – we take fire safety very seriously at the island and we ask that people please respect the park hours.
- Bikes are only allowed on paved paths or roadways
- Parking is only allowed in designated spots. Vehicles cannot obstruct roadways or paths.
- Events or large gatherings are allowed at permitted facilities only. We ask that all patrons please be respectful and share the park with everyone. This includes weddings and other large gatherings that would prevent passive use of the park, especially at Black Rocks.
- Feeding wildlife is strictly prohibited as it can cause dangerous wildlife interactions and mess with the balance of the ecosystem at the island. Feeding the deer can actually hyperinflate the population of the herd, which can lead to over grazing of vegetation that is critical to mitigating erosion the island.
Remember… take only pictures, and leave only footprints.