Environmental rules are blocking repair of Rockford road

Posted at 8:42 AM, Mar 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 08:42:44-05

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Kent County is looking to revoke an environmental protection designation in order to make repairs and improvements to a well-used Rockford road, Jericho Avenue.

Jericho Avenue was designated a Natural Beauty Road in 1979 and is protected through the Michigan Act 451, also known as the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The law regulates the use of land and any work done along the road.

The fix isn’t just a resurfacing job. A new water main needs to be installed, and trees would have to be cut along the street just south of the city limits, all the way to Kroes Street near Rockford High School.

The work can only happen if the Natural Beauty Road designation is revoked, said Jerry Byrne, deputy managing director of operations with the Kent County Road Commission. It’s a roadblock both Rockford city officials and residents we spoke with hope to have fixed soon.

Byrne says that if the designation is dropped, the road surface will be repaired and new guardrails can be installed. He says the road will be made safer.

Improvements to the road began with Plainfield Township plans to improve the area’s water service by building a water main. The Kent County Road Commission saw this as an opportunity to repave the road and construct guard rails.

“When we do this and we partner with our township, we’ll tell them, ‘Be as careful and cautious as you can; remove as few trees as you can,’” said Byrne, "because we’re not out there -- and neither is the township -- just to clearcut the road.”

Signs along the roadway invite residents to a public hearing March 8 at the Plainfield Township Water Department, 5195 Plainfield Ave NE. Everyone we spoke with who lives on Jericho AVenue said they favor both the repaving and new water main.

“They called it a Natural Beauty Road for a reason at the time, and we’re way passed that now,” said Jericho Ave. resident, Mark Adams.

Chad Druckenmiller lives on Jericho Avenue and said falling tree limbs take out his power too often. He even offered to help: “If they want a spot to dump all the dirt, I got a spot right here so I can build a garage. (The project is) way overdue as far as I’m concerned.”

Byrne said there are no estimates on costs of either project, but the plan is to tackle the road during the summer.