By Loretta Stanaway
Many citizens of Lansing are opposed to the BWL destruction of the historically significant Jenison House and are especially opposed to the destruction and "replication" of the beautiful 1930 vintage Scott Sunken Gardens. BWL chose this dedicated park land to build a proposed power substation with little to no public input.
Lansing has literally torn down too many mansions to build parking lots - and for its shame, the Lansing park board of the time signed off on demolishing the nearby Barnes Mansion for just that purpose. Whether or not someone or some group of people can afford to move the Jenison House to a new location shouldn't even be up for discussion because there is no NEED for the BWL to put the substation on that site - it is a preference, for many short-sighted reasons. Somebody or some group is pushing very hard to move this project very fast with very little opportunity for meaningful public input. That alone should set off alarm bells.
What is the rush??? The Sunken Gardens cannot realistically be replicated, and even if they could on the same scale as the original gardens, would the City properly maintain them in the future since they have a long history, under this mayor, of intentional neglect and ruination of citizen owned park properties? Who would maintain the new gardens and how would maintenance be funded? This doesn't even begin to address the INSULT to the Greater Lansing Garden Club and their investment of time and money and effort over the last 30 years of careful attention to the upkeep of the original gardens.
The substation COULD be built above ground elsewhere and COULD be built below ground on this site. How much do you want to bet the proposed extended stay hotel on an alternate location for the substation is a just red herring and that such a hotel will NEVER come to fruition? It has been reported that the developer only paid $20,000 for an option to build on this site. The $20,000 effectively ties up that property for 180 days, and if the developer changes their mind they still get the $20,000 back? Who does business like this?
Also, what does this proposal say to the value Lansing's administration places on the INTENT of donated lands to the park system??? IF the original deed to the city for the grounds of the Scott House and Gardens doesn't specifically stipulate that the land was to be parkland in perpetuity, it certainly was understood at that time to be the desire of the donor family. It is still the wish of the descendents.
How can the city expect future philanthropists to be willing to make comparable donations if they are not assured their wishes and intentions will be honored? This is a matter, first and foremost, of respect for the donors and their expectations of how their donation would be honored. All of the rest is secondary. If we don't keep our committents to past donors, we won't get future donors.
For more information please read “ History of Scott Sunken Garden and Its Restoration”
The garden can be approached from the South end of Capitol Avenue, and is located at the corner of Washington and Main Street.
Loretta Stanaway is a Lansing, MI resident.
This was printed in the March 20 - April 2, 2016 edition.