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      Proposal to build walkway in Leelanau County forest raising questions

      Northern Michigan is known for its natural resources, and one man wants to preserve the forests by building a canopy walk and planting trees in Leelanau County, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

      Mark Evans is looking to build a walkway in the canopy of the woods in Kasson Township. He wants to connect people with nature, but once he submits his plans to township officials it will be up to them to decide whether or not the plan takes the next step.

      The project could cost an estimated five to seven million dollars, all funded through private investors.

      â??It's taking private land that would potentially be, eventually be developed, trees cut down, houses put in, preserving that private land from the small imprint of the elevated walk to give people a different and unique way of viewing the forest,â?? said Evans.

      The project would cover 83 acres along South Fritz Road in Kasson Township, and it's something officials will take a close look at.

      â??The township isn't against it. They're open to looking at what the developer wants to present,â?? said Mike Lanham, Kasson Township Zoning Administrator.

      Don Drabik lives along South Fritz Road and does not support the project.

      â??We purchased our property for the peace and quiet that comes with farm fields, forests and orchards. There are 300 acres of national park (natural forest) behind our home that we enjoy immeasurably. The proposed "Airwalk" attraction has a negative effect on this picture,â?? said Drabik.

      Evans says about 100,000 people would need to visit the attraction each year for it to make sense financially. He admits the number of vehicles on surrounding roads would increase.

      â??It would be silly of me and naive of me to say it's not going to increase traffic. Well of course it is so we can just work with whoever we need to work with to make sure that road is properly signed,â?? said Evans.

      According to Evans the walkways and observations towers will not be visible from surrounding areas or from above the tree line.

      He is marketing this project as an educational experience and says school groups could use the property for field studies.

      A public hearing is expected to be held sometime in April where people will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about the project.