Talk with Rosencrans: Dams, Movies, Jobs

Also: canvassing rituals, fighting crime

To address excessive creaking, a recommendation from Rosencrans (a carpenter) was to level up the totter's base – a suggestion already implemented. (Photo by the writer.)

[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks appear on The Chronicle.]

In recent coverage of the Park Advisory Commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported that Scott Rosencrans had just been elected chair by his colleagues on that body.

So despite the fact that he did not prevail in the recent city council Democratic primary election in Ward 5, Rosencrans will continue to serve the Ann Arbor community – by chairing  PAC. Among the topics we discussed on the totter was Argo Dam, which was a campaign issue that might have affected how Ward 5 residents voted. Incumbent Mike Anglin was against removing the dam, while Rosencrans supported its removal if the rowing community could be accommodated. Rowers make heavy use of Argo Pond. [See additional Chronicle dam coverage.]

Back in 2004, the  Michigan Department of Environmental Quality alerted the city of Ann Arbor to problems related to the earthen berm to the east of the dam. That berm separates the mill race – used by canoists to reach a portage around the dam – from the river. A task force and study lasting at least two years culminated in a months-long community dialogue on the future of the dam earlier this year. The city council has made no decision on a dam-in or dam-out solution.

The city recently sent a letter to the MDEQ asking for another extension in the deadline for a decision on how to address problems with the dam’s toe drains. And Byron Lane, chief of the dam safety program with the MDEQ, has sent a response.

As I told Rosencrans on the totter, Mary Morgan of The Ann Arbor Chronicle spoke with Lane by phone last week, and got the central highlight from that response letter: MDEQ is giving the city of Ann Arbor an order to close off the mill race. The Chronicle has requested a copy of the letter – both from MDEQ and the city.

Rosencrans’ reaction to that order is not the only part of the 1-hour Talk that makes for interesting reading. For example, we also talked a bit about what sort of reading Rosencrans himself is doing these days. And we talked about Rosencrans’ background in the movie business – ways to support the movie industry in Michigan and in Ann Arbor specifically. And that ties in to another tottering theme, which Rosencrans says he wishes he’d communicated better during the Ward 5 city council primary campaign: job creation.

From my end of the totter, though, what made me happiest was three separate tales Rosencrans told on the totter of crime fighting – in China, Chicago, and right here in Ann Arbor on Fourth Street.

And Rosencrans even gave me two specfiic suggestions on how to reduce creaking from the totter during rides (it interferes with sound quality and makes transcription a greater challenge). One was to use some plastic bushings on the pivot point. The other was to level up the base. The latter recommendation has already been implemented.

For details, read Scott’s Talk.


  1. By Matt Hampel
    August 25, 2009 at 11:25 am | permalink

    I disagree with Rosencrans’ position on the closing of the millrace. There’s a wonderful 2-mile trip upstream from Argo to Barton. When you’re done, you can have a little picnic at the park, then take a nap while floating the 2 miles back to Argo.

    Also, the City has at least one canoe transport truck. There’s no reason it can’t move canoes the six blocks from the Argo Livery to the portage site for people who want to paddle to Gallup Park. Patrons could still park and pay the fee for a canoe at Argo, then walk five minutes along that earthen berm to the portage.

  2. By Matt Hampel
    August 25, 2009 at 11:28 am | permalink

    (I should note that the berm is much shorter than the five or six-ish short blocks a car would have to travel; as the crow flies vs. up a hill, around two corners, over the train tracks, etc.)

  3. By Kris
    August 25, 2009 at 12:57 pm | permalink

    With the millrace shut off there will simply need to be a new portage site. This could easily be on that same side of the dam with some clearing and site preparation (stairs and a dock).

  4. By Linda Diane Feldt
    August 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm | permalink

    There are plenty of us who like to take long (even multiple day) canoe trips and the Huron is a fabulous river for that. iI’ve canoed the whole river, except for two lakes, the only non portage site for the entire Huron River is Flat Rock. And there, we were lucky to find a helpful homeowner who explained the portage (the maps are wrong, the people upstream were wrong, there is just no longer a portage), and who gave my canoeing partner and I a lift.

    To block off canoe access part way down the river is a horrible concept. Sure, the money from local canoe and kayak renters is meaningful. Having access to the whole river – using it for transport, having access to the entire length of it, is a delightful wonderful thing that makes my heart so happy. To cut off access and divide the river in this way is just devastating.

    Many people don’t realize what a treasure we have in our midst. Unimpeded access to the whole of the river is a true gift we must expand, not curtail.

    I did the portage only part way down the millrace this March, with high and fast water, because the millrace was frozen. We couldn’t go further than just a few yards, and so took out just a bit down the path. It was doable but not at all easy. You have to crash down the steep bank, with canoe, find a safe eddy, and push off into what is often fast water as the Allen Creek is coming in right upstream, as well as the water from the dam. It was actually fun, but I was with a very experienced canoeist.

    This is not just a local issue. An open river is a joy to paddlers up and down stream, who appreciate both the spirit and the reality of a river that can be paddled beginning to end. The obstacle at Flat Rock is not as commonly encountered, and with a very long walk you can get around the dam and on downstream to Lake Erie. But this is a highly trafficked area that must be kept open. Anything less is a huge step (canoe ride?) backwards.

    If you want to read about a canoe trip through this part of the river, with a rescue just above, here is the link to the Observer article I wrote.

  5. August 25, 2009 at 11:13 pm | permalink

    If you think the existing impoundment is more aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sound than a free-flowing stream similar in appearance and quality to the river as it flows through Nichols Arboretum, then I encourage you to go for a swim in the weedy, soupy mess that is Argo Pond in August.