Williamston Family Runs Into 'Politics' In Request For Memorial Plot

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

WILLIAMSTON -- "It says, 'My Angel, Taylor.'"

Kirt Smith is looking over a scrapbook of his daughter, Taylor Smith, the 15-year-old Williamston-area girl who took her own life Feb. 24, overwhelmed by bullying.

"She had a beautiful voice, she loved to play soccer, she was good at school," Smith told News 10 on Thursday. "Just a gorgeous, gorgeous girl."

And now, he and Taylor's godfather, Dan Norton, want to commemorate her life at McCormick Park in downtown Williamston. Their plan is to plant a weeping cherry tree, Taylor's favorite, along the river and place a plaque at its base.

"To have it here has a ton of significance because of the way Taylor lived her life," Norton said. "She loved the outdoors."

Only problem is, some members of the city council have been stalling the effort, according to Smith and Norton.

"Right away, they were all on board," Smith said. "They said, 'Yep, you can have it. Yep, you can have it.' They voted for it unanimously."

But then Wednesday night one member of the Parks and Recreation commission rejected the plan (which effectively sends the issue back to the council), saying the tree isn't a native species to mid-Michigan.

"Some trees thrive [in flood plains], like a weeping willow," said City Manager Tim Allard, who didn't vote but did push for Parks and Rec to have a say on the proposal. "Others won't last but a season or two in flooded conditions,"

But Allard says he and the council are working with Smith and Norton, and noted he has no doubts the proposal will pass if the family is willing to choose a different tree.

Mayor Michelle Van Wert, though, says that's no excuse to hold up the process.

"Bullying is a serious issue, and people need to put aside their personal agendas and really reflect on awareness and the impact on our family and our youth," she said Thursday.

Smith and Norton, meanwhile, say they're willing to plant a different tree.

For now, they're worried the plaque won't be up by early May, when they plan to hold a rally at McCormick Park against bullying and in honor of Taylor.

"We're just asking for a 2-foot by 2-foot space and a tree -- is all we're asking for," Kirt said.

He and Norton plan to meet with the council again soon.


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  • by amanda Location: fowlerrville on Apr 17, 2011 at 12:52 PM
    i say what is the big deal? so what if it dies in a year or two? I say let them put it there and maybe have something about bullying. Maybe it will make kids think twice before they bully someone.
  • by HornetMom Location: Williamston on Apr 15, 2011 at 04:29 AM
    Thanks to the to supporters from Lansing for your words. Taylor was a very good friend of my child, and the bullying she suffered and the way she rid herself of the pain that came from it have left her circle of friends both angry and devastated. As much as the kids would like to move on, they do want to make sure that the sometimes horrific results of bullying are recognized and ways are found to prevent the bullying to begin with. They also would like people to remember their friend for the lovely and sweet girl they all knew and loved.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 14, 2011 at 11:44 PM
    My heart goes out to this family but if it was me, I'd want to plant the tree in my own yard where I could take care of it and see it everyday. I think planting a tree in a public area, it probably has to meet certain criteria. Maybe, a memorial tree in the park is not the norm there - at least if they want to pick a certain type of tree. Are weeping cherry trees messy? And, what if something happens to it? What is to be done and who is responsible? And, for me, it would cause more heartache. Lansing Community College used to have a memorial Rose Garden(?) and I think I remember seeing memorial plantings at the MSU gardens. Maybe, they'd have better luck at one of those locations.
  • by orneryone Location: lansing on Apr 14, 2011 at 04:33 PM
    What is the big deal??? we had a weeping cherry tree live for three years and maybe its still growing. I wonder if parks and rec has some bully living at their house>> let them plant this tree.
  • by Kathy Dittmer Location: Lansing MI on Apr 14, 2011 at 03:10 PM
    I would politely ask that Williamston allow this family to plant the weeping cherry tree in honor of their daughter. The tree may "not be recommended" for this area officially, but I watch my neighbor's tree thrive year after year. If it doesn't make it there, so be it, but if the family is paying for it all, does it matter to the city?? Really?
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