SVSU sheds light on Island plans
WHITNEY TOWNSHIP — Saginaw Valley State University’s Dean of its College of Science, Engineering and Technology discussed the university’s intentions for Charity Island with the Whitney Township Planning Commission Monday night.
Deborah Huntley, Ph. D., the department’s Dean, said the island is very attractive to SVSU, which has an option to purchase a lot on the island, which is mostly owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
“A large part of what we teach our students to do is hands-on. … It’s really an essential part of an undergraduate education,” she said. “Charity Island’s location is very intriguing, right where the waters of Lake Huron meet the Saginaw Bay.
“It’s right in the migratory path of thousands of water fowl,” Huntley added. “It’s relatively uninhabited. … There are a number of unusual habitats on the island.”
According to Huntley, if the lot SVUS has an option on is rezoned from residential to forestry, the university could use the lot as a research area for day groups, 20-25 students who would take trips out to the island in spring and summer, and research trips that could be overnight. Huntley said the overnight groups would be smaller, probably no more than ten students. She added water quality could be monitored, as well as air quality, thanks to an inland lake on the island that is filled with solely rainwater.
Keith Ososki, property owner on Charity Island, was concerned at the meeting, however, that the research area would lead to more developments.
“I’m just extremely distressed about having people go out there in masses,” he said. “That development will continue to grow.”
Huntley, however told Ososki the college would have no interest in destroying habitats and environments by developing on a large scale.
“The island would be no use to the university if it didn’t remain pristine,” she said. Huntley added that if SVSU did acquire the lot, a base camp would be set up using 10 by 20 foot platform tents with composting toilets and a generator.
Huntley also told the commission and public in attendance that student behavior would be closely monitored on day trips or overnight research outings.
“If a student misbehaved, they would never go back to the island again,” she said.
Robert Wiltse, owner of Charity Island Excursions and property on Charity Island, said that while much work and communication is still needed between several parties, he is in favor of the research center being established on the island.
“It will help legitimize Charity Island as a learning resource,” Wiltse said.
The next step, according to the township’s attorney, is for SVSU to file a formal request for rezoning, and that has to come fast, as SVSU’s option to buy the lot expires in 90 days, per Jan. 4.