2010-06-26 / Opinions

Tighten Your Laws To Protect the Future of Mackinac

To the Editor:

Years ago, it was my great pleasure to visit Mackinac Island for the first time. It was August of 1978.A friend and I set out for a camping trip to the Upper Peninsula. On our way home we stopped to see the Island. Enthralled and enchanted by its beauty and history, I have returned many times since.

On one of those return trips, I visited Dr. Beaumont’s home. Standing inside and listening to the docent, I was flooded by a childhood memory long since forgotten. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Rathgee, told us all about Dr. Beaumont and his gastrointestinal observations. I remembered the story because it had all of the elements that would pique a little boy’s imagination -- the frontier, a fort, Indians, fur trappers, and traders. And with that realization came more memories. She told us about an island where people rode horses and bicycles and didn’t have cars, and lakes so big that you couldn’t see across them, a concept unfathomable to a seven-year-old boy living in land-locked Indianapolis.

So, my second grade teacher introduced us to Mackinac Island by sharing its history and natural beauty, the Island’s most important assets.

As you contemplate the future of your community -- a place that so many people dearly love -- please consider the critically important role that history has played in your community’s success. Mackinac Island was a headquarters for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, a battleground in the War of 1812, a serendipitous laboratory for Dr. Beaumont, a really great place for America’s second National Park, a landmark for iron ore boats navigating the Straits, a destination for the longest fresh-water sailboat races in the world, a headquarters for the Moral Re-Armament, a spectacular place to view the world’s most magnificent bridge from the world’s most majestic front porch, and a movie set for Esther Williams, Jimmy Durante, Christopher Reeves, and Jane Seymour.

Dare I say it? To not preserve, protect and enhance your history -- which by definition includes your historic structures -- is to throw away your greatest asset.

Please, before you allow someone to bully you into tearing down your history, examine the facts. Contrary to what some will say, the fact of the matter is that Historic Preservation has a decadeslong track record of making communities stronger and more viable. If one is willing to do the due diligence, he or she will find that Historic Preservation Districts actually result in a better quality of development.

Think about it. Developers purposely build communities with architectural and design standards accompanied by covenants, conditions, and restrictions as a selling point for their product. Their message to their customer is that “your investment will be protected here, because no one can do anything less than the minimum standard” -- a bar that is purposely set at a reasonably high level. It’s a good selling point, and it works. And it’s exactly that same philosophy that is put into motion with a viable and well-conceived Historic Preservation District Plan. Everyone in the community is protected from poorly conceived, bad-quality development.

Consequently, why should any developer object to having this same philosophy applied to them as you seek to preserve, protect, and enhance Mackinac Island’s greatest asset?

Please, before you make such an important decision, implement a moratorium on demolition/development. Establish a committee comprised of your fellow citizens that genuinely, fairly, and equitably represents a crosssection of your community. Have them meet with the experts and allow them the time necessary to do their due diligence and carefully examine the facts.

Please, tighten your laws and protect your historic buildings, your way of life, and the future of Mackinac. Please, take the time to learn the truth, and then make your decision.

Finally, I’d be willing to bet that years ago there were people who laughed at and ridiculed the citizenry who suggested that cars should be banned from Mackinac Island. I can hear them now: “What kind of future does a community have that keeps holding onto the past?” So, what do you think? Did your predecessors make the right decision?

Edward English Carmel, Indiana

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2010-06-26 digital edition