2014-08-09 / Letters

Silver Birches Project Is Positive Change

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my support for the restoration, rehabilitation, and limited development of Silver Birches as is currently proposed.

Balancing historic preservation with a healthy local economy is very important. The City of Mackinac Island is a living community, not a museum; healthy living communities do not remain static and stagnant. As is the nature of things living, living communities evolve and change, as Mackinac has evolved and changed throughout its long history. As stewards of what has been handed down to us by those who’ve gone before, it is for us to manage change responsibly here on this beautiful Island. While change can sometimes be hard, the Silver Birches project as is currently proposed is very positive change: a careful alignment of responsible historic preservation and sensitive, sustainable development.

Preserving the complex of historic buildings known as Silver Birches is important to Mackinac Island’s historic character. Mackinac has lost many of its historic buildings, and each time the island loses another, the poorer we all become. For years, Silver Birches and its important, contributing buildings have been crumbling and decaying, almost to the point of no return. What is now before us, as a community, is a proposal that has at its center the protection, restoration, and rehabilitation of this valuable historic resource, in a way that is sensitive, responsible, and sustainable for the future. The commitment the Ware family has shown and is showing is commendable and should be encouraged.

Responsible stewardship of property in a historic community is important. Almost by definition, stewardship includes managing change: It is critical to manage change responsibly, keeping an open mind to new and creative approaches and solutions. Sometimes, responsible stewardship is seen through the restoration of something lost, such as was the case when I razed the library from the lawn of Mission Point and restored that open space, removing a building that was an aberration, detracting from the character and ambiance of the island.

Sometimes, stewardship takes the form of adaptive re-use, such as Mackinac State Historic Parks has done so well for many years, in finding new ways to use its historic buildings, enhancing the life of the community for those who live here and those who visit. In the case of Silver Birches, the proposal as before us now preserves the historic complex, and our shared history, in a way that allows it to live on sustainably, not only for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children.

John Shufelt
Mackinac Island property and
business owner

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