Grand Haven Tribune: New SL school construction plan accommodates old tree
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New SL school construction plan accommodates old tree

Krystle Wagner • Jul 22, 2015 at 12:13 PM

On Tuesday night, the district’s school board approved plans to alter the pick-up/drop-off lane in front of Spring Lake middle and intermediate schools. It calls for more space around the 150-year-old tree than what's currently there, but it still requires construction to take place around it.

Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said they looked at how they can do construction around the tree without damaging it.

The new plans call for the two-lane asphalt drive to shift closer toward the building. As a result, one set of stairs into the building will be removed, a retaining wall will be added and the new canopy will be thinner.

Furton said they looked at alternatives such as moving the entrance to another part of the school, including the parking lot facing Grabinski Field. With those suggestions came challenges such as supervision, visibility for traffic and additional costs, he said.

"We tried to find the best compromise we could," Furton said.

Costs for the new plans are yet to be determined.

Jenae Kuipers, project manager for the contractor, Barton Malow, said that timing is tight and time is of the essence for the project to finish prior to the start of the school year in September.

Construction plans originally called for a new pick-up/drop-off location lane with a two-car-width asphalt lane to pass where the tree currently stands along Hammond Street.

Last week, those plans were halted when Spring Lake Village voted unanimously to prevent the oak tree from being taken down.

Previously, arborists determined that construction work too close to the old oak tree could damage its root system and cause it to die. Furton had said that district leaders requested permission to remove the tree because they feared it could slowly die and become a danger to students, motorists and pedestrians.

The tree is on village property, and Furton said the village has been put on notice that the school district is not responsible for the tree’s maintenance, and should there be any loss or injury resulting from it.

In recent weeks, residents rallied to save the tree by speaking at public meetings and holding a ribbon rally.

Prior to the school board's decision, Spring Lake resident Janet Tyson said that she and others in the community appreciated the board for considering alternative plans.

"We're very grateful to your decision," she said.

Tribune reporter Marie Havenga contributed to this report.

Related stories:

Spring Lake school leaders to discuss construction changes to accommodate tree

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