Monday, September 22, 2008

Park Protestors Arrested

For Immediate Release

LuAnne Kozma, 248-473-5761
Michigan Director, Defense of Place

Cindy Arch, 707-395-0438
Executive Director, Defense of Place

Julie Weiss
Protect Jean Klock Park


Park Protestors Arrested in Standoff with Police
Injunction Filed in Federal Court

(Novi, Michigan) - September 22, 2008 Under the pretense of "improvements" to the Jean Klock Park bath house, the Whirlpool Corporation-backed Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc. started destroying the natural resources of Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor today, removing 90-year old trees from the Lake Michigan shore and destroying some of the park's dunes to create an asphalt parking lot.

Residents of Benton Harbor and Benton Township, Michigan who filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. in August to stop the construction of an exclusive private golf course in Benton Harbor's only beachfront park, rushed to Jean Klock Park with other community activists today as soon as they saw the bulldozers.

Three activists, Benton Harbor resident Nicole Moon, and Benton Township residents Scott Elliott and Bette Pierman sat on downed, historic cottonwood trees destroyed by the bulldozers and were arrested for civil disobedience.

After the arrests, the developers continued the destruction of the park by cutting away some of the southern dunes.

"All of this destruction is part of the illegal conversion of Jean Klock Park. The details were never disclosed to the public in any way," said Nicole Moon, one of seven residents who filed the federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit is pending. Monday afternoon, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a restraining order to halt the destruction.

"They are the real trespassers, and we get arrested," said Elliott, another of the plaintiffs.

"To watch the construction company employees enter and in moments destroy 90 year old trees along the boardwalk was heartbreaking", said Bette Pierman. "These trees have been homes to hundreds of different kinds of birds for years and were part of the original drive and landscaping work. And, while they began uprooting the trees, they also were destroying the southern foredune and all of the beach grass in that area. This is a travesty! The spin has been that they would not touch the beach, they would not detroy anything on the west side of the dunes. All the spin issues were lies. All for the benefit of a greedy few who have no regard for the beauty of the natural environment."

The federal lawsuit, filed by Toledo, Ohio, attorney Terry J. Lodge alleges extensive violations of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) by the National Park Service and failure to properly apply regulations mandated under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. The State of Michigan and the city of Benton Harbor are named as codefendants.

Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Incorporated, the Whirlpool-financed developer, recently filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, hiring Bracewell and Guiliani of Washington D. C., and claiming to need the golf course in order to provide community benefits. The community benefits plan only guarantees five thousand dollars a year.

Donations in support of the citizen lawsuits can be made through the local advocacy groups, as well as through Defense of Place. Protect Jean Klock Park is accepting contributions for the federal lawsuit.

Defense of Place
Protect Jean Klock Park
Friends of Jean Klock Park