2017-02-09 / Front Page

Residents concerned about historic barn’s demolition

Once part of county ‘poor farm’
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

A discussion about what to do with an historic county-owned barn could become a topic of lively discussion at next week’s Leelanau County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The county is currently seeking bids to dismantle, remove and salvage wood from the Leelanau County 4-H Barn located at Myles Kimmerly County Park on Burdickville Road near Maple City.

The barn was constructed in 1924 from a mail-order Montgomery-Ward kit and was part of what was once known as the county’s “poor farm” for homeless county residents. It has since fallen into disrepair.

Two residents deeply involved in county history are aligned against the barn’s dismantling.

“I urge a delay in acting upon this Request to destroy the barn, until suitable alternatives can be more thoroughly explored for the benefit of county,” wrote Barbara Siepker, former owner of the Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor and author of “Historic Cottage of Glen Lake. “This barn is part of our county’s pastoral view shed, representing our rural identity as well as our legacy as a community that cares for its poor members.”

Also weighing in has been Tom Van Zoeren, who has written several books about farming families in Port Oneida and the Glen Lake area. He put together a drop box named “County poor farm barn preservation” to help organize opinions from residents about the barn’s proposed demise. “I’d be interest in any thoughts you might have,” he said.

Suggestions offered so far include storing county equipment, leasing the barn to “someone else who can use it,” selling the barn with a deed restriction prohibiting its demolition, and forming a citizens committee to explore more options.

Members of the county Parks and Recreation Commission have been debating what to do with the old barn for years and last year recommended that the County Board take responsibility for a final decision on the issue.

In May 2016, the entire County Board took a field trip to Myles Kimmerly Park to take a close look at the barn. Since then, however, two new board members have been seated: District No. 1 Commissioner Tony Ansorge and District No. 6 Commissioner Casey Noonan.

Noonan asked that the barn issue be put on the agenda of next week’s County Board executive meeting for discussion.

District No. 7 Commissioner Melinda Lautner, who serves on the Parks & Recreation Commission, said options the commission weighed included refurbishing the barn and possibly using it for storage. The barn is so dilapidated, however, that options are limited. Officials have speculated it may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just to make the building safe.

County administrator Chet Janik said that asbestos and lead paint were discovered in the barn during an inspection last year. The discovery of hazardous materials in the structure required the county to modify requests for proposals on how to either refurbish the building or dismantle it, delaying the process. He said the wooden structure of the building is not only failing, the concrete foundation of the barn has decayed substantially as well.

Janik acknowledged this week that the county and its Parks & Recreation Commission has heard from people who are opposed to dismantling the historic barn and would prefer to see it preserved. He said he expected the County Board would hear some new ideas about the old barn and some additional proposals presented at next week’s meeting.

The County Board’s monthly executive meeting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Leelanau County Government Center.

— Alan Campbell contributed to this story.

Return to top