By Jim Newell
Some people called it graffiti, some art, but whatever the perspective, Orion Township’s covert removal of “The Rocks” from Paint Creek last week drew outrage, condemnation, reminisces of visits to the colorful landmark and pleas from residents to save some of the concrete slabs as a part of Orion’s history.
The township listened.
“People love the rocks. We’ve taken some flack on it, obviously. That’s understandable,” said Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett. “We did save some of the rocks. We don’t know where we’re going to put them, yet. The rest of the rocks were taken and crushed.
“The bottom line is, they were doing ecological damage to the stream. There’s only two or three cold water trout producing streams left in southeast Michigan and our creek is one of them.”
Most of the comments came via Facebook, on the township’s and Lake Orion Review’s Facebook pages, and through the Lake Orion chatrooms.
After posting the story and photos on The Lake Orion’s Review’s Facebook page, more than 80,460 people viewed the story and photos, sharing it 509 times and leaving 144 comments as of Tuesday morning.
The story was, by far, the most viewed, shared and commented on story on The Review’s Facebook page over the past year: more than Tim Horton’s closing, the Coates Road house explosion and fire, the emergency repairs to the Paint Creek Dam or the Lake Orion Pet Centre fire and debris demolition articles.
The post on the demolition of McDonald’s came in second, with 19,086 views and 79 shares.
People have visited the rocks for years, spray painting messages and pictures, some profane and vulgar, while others said they were a colorful part of Orion’s history.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t just people with good intentions painting the rocks. There were people spray painting some of our trees and signs,” Barnett said, adding that many people were also grateful that the rocks were removed. “There’s some positive stuff out there, too. People are happy that it’s clean.”
Barnett said the township spends “thousands and thousands of dollars” cleaning spray paint from signs, boardwalks and other property on the Paint Creek Trail. In March, the township spent $11,000 removing spray painted messages from signs and the wooden boardwalk on the Paint Creek Trail.
Since the removal of The Rocks, vandals have already spray-painted vulgarities on the newly poured concrete for the Paint Creek Trail extension section running outside the Orion Art Center in the village, said Village Manager Joe Young.
“It’s not just the spray painting, it’s the paint cans, paint bottles and garbage that people leave,” Barnett said. “I’m sure that 85 percent of the people who went there didn’t do anything wrong. It’s the other small percentage of people doing the damage.”
The work to remove “The Rocks” and haul them away was done for free by two area companies.
If the township had to pull the permits, contract crews to remove the rocks from the creek, haul them away and crush them, Barnett said it could have cost taxpayers $100,000, or more.