Northville Township hopes to address the trespassing issue at the former Northville Psychiatric Hospital property by opening up the grounds for recreational use.
Township Manager Chip Snider said he wants to make the Seven Mile Property grounds open to the public for their enjoyment.
"I would like to open it up to encourage and inspire - to get people involved, to get enthused about utilizing the land," Snider said.
Snider said the township does not have a finalized plan, yet, but several volunteer groups have stepped up and would like to begin creating bicycling, mountain biking and walking paths on the property as soon as this spring—and at no cost to the township.
>>Read about the township's $82.6 million park plan for the property
Snider said the township needs to change its philosophy about the site from zero tolerance for trespassing on the 349-acre site to thinking of the area as a place that residents can use freely.
He said the Northville Board of Trustees seems to be in support of the change.
"Philosophically, I think the board agreed that we should relax on it a little bit," he said.
While the grounds will become open to the public, the hospital buildings will still be strictly off-limits until they are knocked down in a few years.
Snider said the buildings are dangerous because they contain friable asbestos, which looks like talcum powder. Trespassers who walk in it can stir up the asbestos and possibly breathe it in.
"To go in there is dangerous to yourself, to your lungs and to others," Snider said.
Snider added that the township will looking at a way to better mark the buildings so people know they are toxic and environmentally unsafe.
The township is also looking at a way of highlighting the areas on the property that would be safe for people to enjoy activities.
"There's no reason why we can't allow access to some areas of the park," he said.
The township police will still maintain a presence at the property to keep people out of the buildings, but people will not be charged for trespassing for going on the property.
In 2011, the township made 63 arrests for trespassing on the property and made 213 additional runs to the property on reports. In 2012, the township made 193 arrests, 22 of which were juveniles, and made 608 runs to the facility.
>>Read more about trespassing issues on the Seven Mile Property.
"Until those buildings come down, we're going to have to live with the reality that they're an attractive nuisance. They are a magnet to some people," Snider said.
Several websites and blogs draw in curiosity seekers, photographers and ghost hunters to the property frequently.
"We're just going to let 'em come on out and look around and enjoy the day," Snider said.
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