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      Beach Grooming Law raises concerns for native plant life

      Environmentalists in Grand Traverse County say that a law signed in by Governor Snyder last summer regarding beach grooming has had some negative impacts.

      In July of 2012 Governor Snyder signed into law a measure allowing beach front property owners on the Great Lakes to maintain their beaches without a state permit. Some hotels and resorts along the Grand Traverse Bay say they have benefited from the change.

      The measure still requires that the beach front property owners seek out a permit from the Detroit District Corps of Engineers before removing any vegetation but that mowing down the plants to a certain length is allowed. Environmentalists say this caused a lot of confusion, along with some unnecessary removal of plants.

      "Unfortunately the law kind of gave the impression that anything goes now and that's really not the case," said Andy Knott, Executive Director for the Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay.

      Knott says that last year's beach grooming law has had a negative impact on the waters, and that it has caused people to illegally remove important native vegetation on their beaches.

      "Vegetation, plants, wildflowers, native grasses, those all absorb nutrients and other pollutants that otherwise get in the bay and cause things like algae growth," said Knott.

      Cherry Tree Inn and Suites sits along East Grand Traverse Bay. Managers say that while the new regulations have given them permission to mow down a lot of their green covered beach to 4 inches in length, they choose not to.

      "It's a prettier look to the property," said Jonathan Pack, General Manager for Cherry Tree. "It offers more of a wildlife habitat for birds, native birds, we're especially known for migratory birds that come through the area, and then frogs."

      But Pack says that if they could, they'd like to see all sandy beach front for their customers to enjoy, while protecting the natural vegetation in the state beaches and parks.

      " It's a better presentation of the water and beaches," said Pack. "We've been listed in the top 10 beach towns in the country but we're the only fresh water beach town listed on the list and we should have every single resort, really show that off while also protecting the natural environment."

      "We also want to be known for a great place to go fish," said Knott. "And there are people who fish right here on West Bay who just wade into the water and fish from shore and this vegetation is very important for fish habitat, so it's a balance really."

      But both parties agree that getting educated before making any decision to remove plant life on your property, is essential.

      "Contact DEQ and tell them what you're thinking about doing, and they'll let you know if you can do it or not," said Knott.

      To contact the Watershed Center for Grand Traverse Bay, and for more information on how to properly maintain your beach front property, click here.