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December 3, 2012

Schools hear history group’s Apple Island requests

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

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An actor plays the role of a French fur trader and describes Apple Island’s past during a public tour session in 2009. The Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society holds spring tours of the island, which is owned by the West Bloomfield School District.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — A local historical society wants to polish Apple Island into a nationally recognized history site and a place for further research.

At a Nov. 19 West Bloomfield Board of Education meeting, the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society asked the school district for permission to nominate Apple Island to reside in the National Register of Historic Places registry. It also asked to allow a Western Michigan University archaeology class to come to the area next spring.

Archaeologist David Brose, a supporter of the initiative, told the school board that the two requests could benefit the district in several ways.

“This is a national exemplary school,” he said. “This is a national exemplary project.”

Apple Island and its 35 acres sit in Orchard Lake. According to historians, the island was originally a rendezvous point for Native Americans but became the West Bloomfield School District’s property in 1970. The site has taught students about nature, and the WBSD and the historical society periodically team up to offer island tours.

Past archaeological digs on the island have uncovered charred animal bones, clay pipes, trade goods, earrings and more, Brose said.

Brose said the island’s acceptance into the national registry could give Apple Island and the school district prestige and access to federal aid.

In addition, Brose sought permission for him and Western Michigan University professor LouAnn Wurst to hold a May 2013 advanced archeology class at the island.

According to Brose, the invited students and faculty would do evaluative testing, and the findings could help with the registry application.

GWBHS project coordinator Gina Gregory also spoke out in favor of the idea. “It’s a unique opportunity for a school system,” Gregory said. “This project affords, hopefully, further understanding and commitment to preserving the island.”

During the meeting, School Board President Bruce Tobin asked whether the WBSD would need to donate anything to the program. Gregory said the college is asking for a classroom and a secure environment to use as a field lab.

Brose said the nomination needed the landowner’s signature by the end of this summer or possibly even the following fall. A commitment on finding classroom space would need to be made before the end of this year, he said.

The school board decided not to take action on any of the requests that evening.

Learn more about the West Bloomfield School District at www.wbsd.org or at (248) 865-6420.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.