This story is from last year, but I thought I’d share it because it reminds me of two things: first, I used to live in Petoskey, Michigan; named not for the fossils but for the native chief that ruled the area before the white folks — and their fudge — came along; and second, because it’s informative about preserving our natural resources and enforcing the law without getting too dramatic about it.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN — Nearly three months after Tim O’Brien lugged a giant 93-pound Petoskey stone from Lake Michigan, the state has confiscated the rock.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources officers went to O’Brien’s home in Copemish on Wednesday, Dec. 9, to collect the 93-pound rock he found in mid-September.
The reason? Taking it violates a little-known state ordinance, officials say.
Controversy began to erupt over the rock shortly after O’Brien posted a photo of his discovery on Facebook and the find went viral.
Some readers who saw the social media post and subsequent news coverage brought up the prohibition of anyone from taking more than 25 pounds of rock or fossil from state land. The Lake Michigan bottom land is state property.
O’Brien said he was never aware of the ordinance and he never intended to do anything with the Petoskey stone except display it on his lawn.
“I wasn’t going to cut slabs off of it and sell them for $100 a piece,” he said Thursday. “And I’m not trying to rape the land.”
O’Brien talked to a DNR official in September, but it wasn’t clear how the state would handle the situation. He found the stone in shallow water near Northport along the Leelanau Peninsula.
“I really didn’t think they were going to come get it,” he said.
Then on Wednesday, DNR officers showed up at his home. He was not there.
O’Brien said others at the home pointed out the wanted Petoskey stone because it wasn’t obvious to officers which rock in the yard was the right one. The rock looks fairly ordinary in dry conditions.
DNR spokesman Ed Golder said the state took no action over the past three months because it wasn’t an urgent issue. The busy deer season was approaching, and state officials wanted to “thoroughly review the law and facts.”
He described O’Brien as fully cooperative during the investigation.
Golder said a decision was made to confiscate the rock because it did violate the 25-pound limit and “we want to make sure this common, public resource isn’t commercialized.”
He said the 25-pound limit exists to allow rock hounds to take a reasonable amount of public resource, while setting limits so there is enough for everyone to share.
Golder said DNR supervisors eventually plan to put the giant Petoskey stone on display but are looking for an appropriate spot.
Meanwhile, O’Brien said he still plans to pick up stones along the Lake Michigan shoreline. He describes himself as a hobby collector.
One more thing: our family spent many summers in Northport; in fact my parents lived there year-round for fifteen years and we had Petoskey stones everywhere.
HT to AJP.