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Apple feud goes before city council

By Raina L. Baker
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — A local community group and residents of Palmer Woods clashed over apple trees at a May 29 City Council meeting.

Members of People for Palmer Park and Palmer Woods residents packed the council chambers to have their arguments heard.

The issue comes down to Palmer Woods residents unhappy with People for Palmer Park for planting apple trees without their consent or input. Residents asked for the trees to be removed.

Both sides attended the council meeting with their own attorneys.

People for Palmer Park members say they don’t understand why residents would be angry about the beautification project, considering the amounts of litter, drug transaction, prostitution and lack of overall safety around the park.

Sarah James, a member of People for Palmer Park, says she can’t understand why people are against the tree plantings.

“The orchards are not by a stream of homes. There is only one house on Hamilton, directly next to the orchard,” she said. “A privacy fence or wall has been suggested to remedy that situation.”

According to James, there is only a small group of people against this form of beautification.

Prior to the May 29 meeting, City Council had agreed with some residents that planting over 800 apple orchard trees was not a good idea, though groups had been organized years ago to improve the area.

The City Council ordinance allows for gardening, “not a farm,” according to council.

“There are other environmental enhancement programs that have yet to plant a seed for their development because they have not been approved by the City Council,” Councilmember James Tate said.

Tate says they don’t want to send a double message by allowing certain groups to do certain things without going through the proper protocol.

The People for Palmer Park, a grassroots organization, is comprised of people from the surrounding area, which stretches as far north as Green Acres and as far south as Highland Park, but also of people who’ve lived in the Palmer Woods area for decades.

The group says the purpose of the tree planting, along with other endeavors such as Monday bike riding and Saturday yoga in the park, is to transform the park so that it’s not an area of blight, but an area that provides educational and nutritional opportunities for families, James said.

“Transforming the park would make people in the neighborhood connect,” she said.

Some residents said the apple orchard planting may be a great idea, but felt so left out of the process that they are more upset than excited. Residents who live in close proximity to the park say they had no clue about the tree planting.

“The issue is the lack of consent from all residents and violation of the approval process,” said one Palmer Woods resident. “Exclusionary processes do not help to better communication or interdependent work in the city. Great endeavors go unnoticed and unappreciated if not communicated properly.”

During public comment at the council meeting, some residents said they did appreciate People for Palmer Park and other groups for actually getting up and doing something about the issues of the park. However, the lack of discussion has made these efforts counterproductive.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Tate said “no matter what is on the table, nobody is going to be completely happy … There is a 50 percent threshold.”

Council gave both parties four weeks to reach a resolution among themselves.

The People for Palmer Park agreed to remove a row of trees from the park and no additional trees are to be planted.

The issue, Tate says, is not creating a “holistic and comprehensive quality of life” as the tree planters said, but in making sure the people affected are aware and notified about changes to a neighborhood that belongs to them as well.

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