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100-year-old Hartland chimney stirs up controversy

Jesse Ritka

Photo: Video by tmj4.com

100-year-old Hartland chimney stirs up controversy

CREATED Oct. 15, 2013

HARTLAND - A nearly 100-year-old chimney in Hartland is sweeping up some controversy. More than 1,000 birds flock to it every summer, but that soon may change. It's a story that viewer Ramsey asked us to investigate.

“Chimney Swifts are beautiful creatures and we’re trying to save them,” 9-year-old Madison Fintel tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka.

Ramsey Schlissel contacted TODAY’S TMJ4 after her son, Tikvah, came home from school passionately talking about Chimney Swifts, a type of bird she had never heard of.

“They eat up to 60,000 insects a night!” was one of the facts she learned from Tikvah and his friends at the Hartland School of Community Learning.  “When I heard them speak when we were having a parent meeting, I was like, you know what? This is something the kids are involved in and I’m just going to make sure I support it,” Ramsey explains.

One single abandoned chimney on W. Capitol Drive in Hartland hosts the birds in the summer, where they mate and roost but the village may soon turn the land into a 36 unit apartment complex.

Hartland Village President David Lamerand says the plan is not set in stone yet, “We're looking at re-zoning a parcel, which would remove the existing chimney.”  But removing the chimney would also remove the Chimney Swift’s home, so eight Hartland students decided to act.  10-year-old Hannah Kimmel rallied her friends at school for the cause she cared about, “We started doing a lot of research and we found out about board meetings and so we started going to them.and talking about them and trying to save them.”

Something Lamerand and the rest of the Board were not expecting, “This took us completely by surprise, I had never heard of Chimney Swifts before that meeting and whoa!  We have a thousand birds that migrate from the Amazon every year?  This makes our community unique and we want to keep it that way!”

So both parties are brainstorming ideas to reach a goal that’s already spread through the Hartland School of Community Learning.  “We could make a deal that they could make an apartment in it but they have to leave the chimney,” Tikvah says.  The Village Board is even coming up solutions, Lamerand states, “I think the idea of relocating the chimney for the chimney swifts would be a great idea, a great cause for the kids to be involved with, I think it's a win-win for everybody.”

But Kimmel says there may be some problems with relocation, “Actually these birds are almost threatened and it’s really hard to transfer them from home to home.”  So the conversation continues, “This is going to be a long process, it's not going to happen overnight,” Lamerand says.

The children hope to make the cloud smoke surrounding the chimney's fate disappear at the next village board meeting on October 28th.

You can find more information about the Hartland Chimney Swifts on their Facebook page. 

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