Terror on the Boardman River

As a senior in high school in 1976, I had the opportunity to view the 1968 Halloween horror film classic "Night of the Living Dead" at the local university campus. A gentleman seated next to me asked for my opinion about halfway through the film, sparking a lengthy conversation on montage and mise-en-scene. The gentleman excused himself shortly thereafter, and appeared on stage as guest speaker upon the film's conclusion. The speaker was none other than the film's writer/director, George Romero. His last words to me before leaving were something along the lines of, "You seem pretty sharp, kid. You might want to think about making horror movies yourself."

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Little did I know it would take me more than 30 years to realize that kind advice. Instead of populating my latest video with flesh-eating zombies and serial killers, however, this Property Rights Network video relates the horrors experienced by property owners on the Boardman River outside Traverse City. Of the four dams on the river, three have been slated for removal by city and county officials.

The rationale used for removal is to create a free-flowing river that allows easy boating and fishing without having to portage around the pesky dams. Officials believe that these actions will return the river back to the pristine condition they suspect existed prior to the dams' construction in the 19th century, creating an attraction for sportsmen and tourists and their respective dollars.

It all sounds reasonable, right? But like an attractive group of youths heading to the lake house for teenage shenanigans, there's something sinister lurking in the details wielding something far more horrific than chainsaws, cleavers, drills or hatchets.

In Grand Traverse County, elected officials and bureaucrats are using every tool in their arsenal to usurp the rights of property owners who own land on the dam impoundments. These homeowners have lost a large portion of waterfront due to the drawdown of the water - up to 15 feet in some places, with plans to drawdown even more - in preparation for removal of the dams. The drawdown has moved the shoreline more than 100 feet from the docks the landowners built for mooring watercraft and viewing nature.

What's more, ownership of the exposed bottomland beneath the impoundment is being challenged by the city and county officials, who say that this land now belongs to the public, despite plat maps and deeds of the homeowners that specifically state that their property extends to the waterline - wherever that waterline may be.

My horror movie features real people facing real-world terrors. Wes Craven and Clive Barker should be so proud.