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TP'ing tradition rolls on


Kathy Ryan Staff Writer

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July 20, 2017
Grosse Pointe Woods — Trees in the Grosse Pointes go through stages not often seen in other communities. In the winter, they shed their leaves, in the spring, they bud, in the fall, they turn brilliant colors.

And in the summer, specifically the last week of July, they sprout long white streams of toilet paper. Long a tradition of summer swim teams, toilet paper-covered trees appear magically the mornings of swim team league finals at the homes of young swimmers on the city park teams that participate in the Lakefront Swimming Association and the club teams that participate in the Michigan Inter Club Swimming Association.

And while some may see nothing but toilet paper, others see it as a badge of honor, marking the house of a young swimmer who made it to the league finals, not an easy feat in a community with swim teams that turn out hundreds of swimmers each summer.

That’s why social media lit up when Grosse Pointe Woods parks officials were discussing banning the TP’ing tradition for swim team members following an incident at the end of the 2016 season.

According to Parks and Recreation Supervisor Nicole Byron, swim team coaches do the traditional TP’ing, which typically involved leaving toilet paper in trees late at night at the homes of swimmers and coaches, with the coaches’ houses done by swim team members who also were employed by the city as lifeguards. In 2016, the home of a coach not only was TP’ed, but some of the swimmers added peanut butter and eggs to the mix, damaging the house and cars parked in the driveway. It moved from a harmless prank, according to Byron, to a crime, namely malicious destruction of property.

The fear, Byron told the city council, meeting as a committee of the whole Monday, July 17, is with coaches technically being city employees, the city could have been held liable for any damage done by its “employees.” City officials considered ending the tradition, which brought much discussion on social media sites and emails to city council members.

“I started hearing about this six weeks ago,” said Councilwoman Vicki Granger. “I’ve had a number of emails about it.”

But a solution appears to have been found.

Byron asked the council for permission to turn the tradition over to parents, allowing them to coordinate the TP’ing among themselves, removing city employees entirely.

“That way it would no longer be in the hands of employees and should remove the city from any liability,” Byron said.

The council agreed, unanimously.

Toilet paper should start sprouting from trees the morning of Wednesday, July 26, for Lakefront Swimming Association members and Thursday, July 28, for MICSA members.

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