Lakeshore News Tonight

Griffith Man Says Project Risks Old Trees, Safety

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October 2, 2013– Dozens of Oak Savannah trees in Griffith’s South Park date back to at least 1913, but most of the century-old environment staples will soon fade away.  When construction stakes and white flags went up in the park, which sits in the back of Jim Hennes’ home, he knew he needed to investigate the fate of the trees.

“It’s very rare.  You don’t find it in too many places and it’s just along a narrow strip of land here,” said Hennes, who moved to the neighborhood in 1979.

Armed with maps of his neighborhood, Hennes marched to Town Hall and discovered the Town of Griffith sold easement rights to Enbridge for its new crude oil pipeline project, a route that goes through Michigan to Canada.  Hennes said the original owner, Joe Kroslack, sold the town the land for a different purpose more than 20 years ago.

“He was appalled that they were going to cut these trees down.  He gave this narrow strip of land to the town to be used as park land specifically so that trees wouldn’t be cut down,” said Hennes about the owner when he learned about the project.

Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said the company has been working with the Town of Griffith for two years.  She said the nearly 48-feet-wide easement has been surveyed, permitted and approved for a project slated for completion by the end of this year.  Hennes contends the pipeline will not only destroy the duneland trees, but is so close to the homes in the subdivision that it places every resident there in harm’s way.

“There are leaks.  There are different types of problems with water.  There are all kind of risks associated with that,” said Hennes.

Hennes, an engineer with more than 30 years of experience who has worked on several major projects, said he already has a solution.  He said there are three existing pipelines, two owned by Marathon and one owned by Buckeye, running through South Park.  He hopes Enbridge lays its new pipeline parallel those the existing lines in order to save the trees.

“If they could put the pipeline on the east side of the easement and then reach an agreement with the park to use existing open space in the park as their temporary workspace then they could save most of the trees.  The town could grant them a different easement that parallels the other three pipelines going through the park.  Either way, it’s only moving it 50 feet to 100 feet to the east, and you could spare these trees,” said Hennes.

Smith said Hennes’ theory of “Oh, we’ll just move it over a few feet” will not work.  She said Enbridge has already compensated Griffith for the work, totaling more than $85,000.  Councilman Rick Ryfa said the decision was made at a public meeting in April.  He said the Town Council will survey the community as to how the dollars should be spent.  Once the project is complete, Ryfa and Smith said trees will be planted in other locations.  Hennes said there’s no replacing what’s been at work for 100 years.

“You have all this special wildlife that is here.  A lot of it is disappearing.  Some of it disappeared with the subdivision.  We kept as much of it as we could.  There are not only oak trees that are here.  There are other hard wood trees that are here.  There are sassafras trees.  All kinds of things that is native to this kind of environment,” said Hennes.

Smith added the company’s land group has been working with Hennes.  She said because of his work, four additional trees will be saved, but about a dozen will still need to come down.  Hennes said Enbridge has not been completely open about the work in progress.

By: Renetta DuBose

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