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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Air Fun Owners Retire- 17 Years of Kite Fun

alt text
Mike and Susan Castor (photo provided with news release)

a news release of Michigan DNR

It's the end of a high-flying era at two west Michigan state parks. After 17 years at Mears State Park and 12 years at Ludington State Park, Air Fun Kites of Pentwater, Mich., offered its final "Kite Night" Aug. 4 at Ludington State Park. Mike and Susan Castor, owners of Air Fun Kites, began the program in 1997, helping campers of all ages to build and fly their own kites on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Since the program began, the Castors provided free materials and instruction for visitors to make a total of 17,866 kites. The couple is now entering retirement, but their Kite Nights at the parks have left many campers and park staff with fond memories.

"Mike and Sue have given generations of families a wonderful gift of happiness and memories through kitemaking and flying," said Allan Wernette, interpreter at Ludington State Park. "Our staff and visitors will certainly miss their generosity and love for making children happy - ages 3 to 103. The Castors helped to give Ludington State Park its outstanding reputation as one of Michigan's favorite state parks."

In 2014, each park hosted four Kite Nights, with a total of 715 participants. The last program of the season brought in the highest participation this year, with 141 kites made during one Kite Night.

"Air Fun Kites is a family business that has changed the lives of a lot of people," Mears State Park Explorer Guide Clayton Breiler said. "I will forever have the lyrics of 'Let's Go Fly a Kite' in my head, thanks to Kite Nights."

Jim Gallie, supervisor at Ludington State Park, agreed the Castors have had a lasting impact on park visitors.

"I've had the opportunity to see Mike and Susan in action for the past 10 years while managing at both Mears and Ludington state parks," Gallie said. "They are truly special people. They've shared their love for kites and the Lake Michigan shoreline breezes that power them with thousands of kids and parents. They helped make camping at Mears and Ludington a special experience for these families. We're going to miss working with them, but wish them a happy retirement."

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Flip City, Shelby, Ranked #2 Disc Golf Course in World

disc golf
disc golf (photo by Garret Ellison)

based on a news article in the Oceana Herald Journal

Shelby's Flip City Disc Golf Course is ranked second in the world by DGCourseReview.com. The annual Farm Classic tournament has been held at Flip City for 14 years, and the course has been in existence since 1980. Back then, golfers aimed their Frisbee-like disks at trees as targets. The chain cages were added in 1998.

The discs for the game are smaller than recreational Frisbees, and come in a variety of weights and designs, serving roles similar to the different clubs in regular golf.

Flip City has many challenges, including changes in elevation, variation in length of the holes (200-700 feet), and cages placed in difficult locations.

Jeff Schwass is an administrator of the Farm Classic, and also one of its creators. The course itself was laid out by Bill McKenzie and Nick Elliot, on the McKenzie family farm. In 2001, the course was expanded to include 24 holes, and cement pads at the tees have been added.

The recent Farm Classic drew 96 pro players, as many as can be accommodated. Saturday's competitions were in the amateur division. Players must compete in 9 of the 12 state events in the J-Bird Players Series to qualify for the state championships, and points are earned based on rank of finish.

Play at Flip City costs just $1 per round. The course is located on Pierce Road, between Shelby and Hesperia.

With several full disc golf courses in Mason County, the area has become a hot spot for the sport.



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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Vigorous Exercise Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

African American bicyclist
member of the Light Riders bicycle group (photo by jhy)


based on several sources

"Exercise is the preferred weight loss strategy to decrease breast cancer risk," said Anne Maria May, of the University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands.

In a study of 240 overweight women, ages 50 to 69, who didn't regularly exercise, the women's goal was to lose 11 to 13 pounds (5 to 6 kilograms) over 16 weeks. About a third dieted, while another third were assigned exercise regimens. The final third did nothing, a control group.

All weight loss goals were met. However, the exercising group preserved body mass and reduced fat. Blood tests showed that estrogen levels were lowered in this group. (Many breast cancers need estrogen to grow.) The researchers also found the exercising group showed a benefit in increased levels of other breast cancer related hormones, such as testosterone.

It is likely that physical activity influences sex hormone levels mainly through reducing body fat, May said.

Other studies suggest it is possible that exercising affects women's cancer risk by reducing inflammation in the body, or decreasing levels of the hormone insulin.

More recently, Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center found strong evidence linking physical exercise to a lower rate of breast cancer in African American women, a group in which previous evidence has been lacking. This study followed more than 44,000 African American women over a span of 16 years and observed whether they developed breast cancer.

They found that women who exercised vigorously for seven or more hours each week were 25 percent less likely to develop breast cancer, compared to those who exercised less than one hour each week. Walking briskly provided the benefit, but slower walking did not.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Botulism C Confirmed in Grand Traverse Bay

botulism molecule
botulism molecule (public domain)

from a news release of Michigan DNR

The Department of Natural Resources recently diagnosed type C botulism in wild waterfowl along the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. During the last week of July, dead mallards were collected and sent to the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab in Lansing, Michigan, for testing, and just recently the lab confirmed the disease.

"As of Aug. 4, approximately two dozen mallards had been found dead from type C botulism," said DNR wildlife biologist and pathologist Tom Cooley.

Botulism is a condition brought on by ingesting a naturally occurring toxin produced by bacteria found in the bottom sediments of water bodies. Because the water levels in the Great Lakes are higher this year than the past several years, water is currently on mudflats that had been previously exposed, and because the water depth is shallow, the anaerobic conditions necessary for the bacteria to grow are established. In the case of type C botulism, dabbling ducks or other shore birds feeding in the sediment can be susceptible to the die-off.

Fortunately, type C botulism is not an immediate risk to humans, although pets, including dogs, could acquire the toxin if they were to eat a dead bird.

"Any dead birds that are on the shoreline need to be picked up and disposed of properly. Any dead or dying birds that are found along the south shore of Grand Traverse Bay should be reported to the local Traverse City DNR office at 231-922-5280, ext. 6832. Please provide information on the location, type and number of birds.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Horses Found to be Gender-Neutral Toward Riders

team penning riders
Team Penning contest in North Dakota (photo by JHY)

excerpted from a news release of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria

Scientists at the Vetmeduni in Vienna have analysed how horses are affected by the sex of their riders. Various parameters of stress were determined in horses and their riders when they covered an obstacle course. The results were surprising: the level of stress on a horse is independent of whether a man or a woman is in the saddle. Furthermore, the stress responses of male and female riders are essentially the same. The results have been published in the Journal of Comparative Exercise Physiology.

For centuries, horse riding was largely restricted to males. The previous situation is in stark contrast to the present day, when nearly 80 percent of riders are women. Modern-day equestrian sports are unique in that men and women compete directly against one another at all levels, from beginners in gymkhanas to national champions in the Olympic Games. “For this reason it is interesting to consider whether a theory of riding that was developed exclusively for men can be applied to women,” explains Natascha Ille, the first author of the recent publication.

As Ille notes, “It is often assumed that women are more sensitive towards their horses than men. If this is so, male and female riders should elicit different types of response from their horses”. Ille, Christine Aurich and colleagues from the Vetmeduni Vienna´s Graf Lehndorff Institute tested this notion by examining eight horses and sixteen riders, including eight men and eight women. Each horse had to jump a standard course of obstacles twice, ridden once by a male and once by a female of similar equestrian experience. The scientists monitored the levels of stress in the horses and their riders, checking the amounts of cortisol in the saliva and the heart rates.

In a second experiment, Ille and her colleagues studied the pressure exerted on a horse’s back via the saddle. As she explains, “Depending on the rider’s posture and position, the pattern of pressure on the horse’s back may change dramatically.” A special pad placed directly under the saddle was used to analyse saddle pressure in walk, trot and canter. Because female riders are generally lighter than males, the saddle pressure was lower when horses were ridden by females. However, the distribution of pressure did not differ and there was no evidence of differences in the riding posture between males and females.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fast Response Re-opens Ludington Skate Park



based on news articles in the Ludington Daily News and the Mason County Press

The Ludington City Police taped off the Skate Plaza today until the trash was cleaned up. "The park will remain closed until the trash in and around the park is picked up," Chief Mark Barnett said.

This afternoon, the Mason County Press reports that about a dozen users of the park showed up with brooms and a shovel. They cleared trash and moved sand. As a result, the park was re-opened at 2 pm.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Smokey Bear is 70!

Smokey Bear
Smokey Bear greets an admirer at the Pere Marquette Trail opening (photo by JHY)

from a news release of the Minnesota DNR, and other sources.

Smokey Bear’s message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago when Smokey first became a champion of wildfire prevention. Smokey turned 70, yesterday, on August Aug. 9.

Smokey Bear is one of the most well-known symbols in the United States. An amazing 96 percent of U.S. adults recognize Smokey Bear and 70 percent are able to recall Smokey’s tagline without prompting. He ranks near Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus for image recognition.

Since 1944, Smokey has told kids and adults that they can make a difference in preventing wildfires. His is the longest-running public service campaign in history. His fire safety lessons have helped reduce forest fires. The average number of acres lost to wildfire nationwide has decreased from 22 million acres in 1944 to an average of 6.7 million acres today.

Yet, wildfires still harm public health and safety, destroy homes and property, and cost millions of dollars annually in firefighting.

As the knowledge of the need for some fire to keep forests healthy has increased, the only revision in Smokey's message has been to change "Only you can prevent forest fires," to "Only you can prevent wildfires." He has been heard to occasionally make other statements, but this is one focused bear.

In 1950, a bear cub was rescued from a tree after a fire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. Smokey's living symbol was found. The cub was nursed back to health and spent the rest of his life (d. 1976) in the National Zoo in Washington, DC. He received so much fan mail, sometimes 13,000 letters a week, that he was given his own zip code.

Help Smokey celebrate 70 years of fire prevention by being careful with fire at all times.

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Ludington Seeks Feedback on City Park Design

Ludington City Park plan
plan presented by Manning Design

based on a news article in the Ludington Daily News, August 9, 2014

Tuesday evening, citizens may comment on the design proposals for Ludington City Park. Major renovations, drafted by the firm of Manning Designs of Big Rapids, include a central fountain, added circular sidewalk, picnic shelter, upgraded restrooms, improved seating for accessibility, landscaping and decorative lighting.

Several other ideas, not included in the drawing, were mentioned, such as a splash pad, a gas fireplace, and closing Lewis Street to traffic. The City notes that it has limited funds, and not all suggestions will be feasible.

By moving existing benches, and adding new ones around the fountain, people in wheelchairs or using walkers will be better served.

Ludington City Park currently in Ludington City Park (photo by JHY)
Ludington City Park receives heavy use in the summer, and is the venue for several regular events including the Annual Art Fair. However, it has not been significantly upgraded for decades. Proposed changes would make it more user friendly and appealing. It is also the site of the Kiwanis Bandshell.

People wishing to participate in the meeting should come to the downstairs community room at Ludington City Hall, 400 S Harrison Street, at 6:30 pm, Tuesday, August 12.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Michigan Man Rescued from Alum Cave Trail in Smoky Mountains

Alum Cave
Alum Cave(photo courtesy of NPS)

based on an article in the Smoky Mountain News

Bill Runyon, of Michigan, is recovering from an ordeal experienced July 27, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Runyon was hiking the Alum Cave Trail with relatives, when he fell fifteen feet. Sustaining back and neck injuries, he was unable to make the return hike.

Bill Runyon, age 64, was hiking the Alum Cave Trail with family members when he fell more than 15 feet below the trail, sustaining back and neck injuries, rendering him unable to hike back to the trailhead. The Alum Cave Trail is described as being 2.5 miles each way, but Runyon was reported to be 4 miles from his vehicle.

Rangers arrived by late afternoon, a team of eleven rescuers. However, severe thunderstorms forced them to set up a temporary shelter for the night. Runyon was stable, and they kept him dry and warm. Two medics and two rangers stayed the night with the injured man, and he was transported out in the morning. Nearly 4 inches of rain fell that night, with wind and lightning. The final extraction included river crossings and the staircase through Arch Rock. Completing the rescue in the dark and a storm would have increased the hazard.

The article did not state Runyon's Michigan city of residence.

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Increased Risk of Dementia Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency

vitamin D
vitamin D molecule, Cholecalciferol (D3) (image from Wikipedia)

from a news release of the University of Exeter (UK)

Sunlight is good for more than a fun afternoon!

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older people, according to the most robust study of its kind ever conducted.

An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that study participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is a group of symptoms which may not be clearly defined, but which result in a loss of function as people age.

The team studied elderly Americans who took part in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They discovered that adults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 per cent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 per cent in those who were severely deficient.

Similar results were recorded for Alzheimer's disease, with the moderately deficient group 69 per cent more likely to develop this type of dementia, jumping to a 122 per cent increased risk for those severely deficient.

The study looked at 1,658 adults aged 65 and over, who were able to walk unaided and were free from dementia, cardiovascular disease and stroke at the start of the study. The participants were then followed for six years to investigate who went on to develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Dr Llewellyn said: "We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, but the results were surprising – we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated. We need to be cautious at this early stage and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia. That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia."

Dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our time, with 44 million cases worldwide – a number expected to triple by 2050 as a result of rapid population ageing. A billion people worldwide are thought to have low vitamin D levels and many older adults may experience poorer health as a result.

The research is the first large study to investigate the relationship between vitamin D and dementia risk where the diagnosis was made by an expert multidisciplinary team, using a wide range of information including neuroimaging. Previous research established that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to go on to experience cognitive problems, but this study confirms that this translates into a substantial increase in the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Vitamin D comes from three main sources – exposure of skin to sunlight, foods such as oily fish, and supplements. Older people's skin can be less efficient at converting sunlight into Vitamin D, making them more likely to be deficient and reliant on other sources. In many countries the amount of UVB radiation in winter is too low to allow vitamin D production.

The study also found evidence that there is a threshold level of Vitamin D circulating in the bloodstream below which the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease increases.

Large scale clinical trials are needed to determine whether increasing vitamin D levels in those with deficiencies can help prevent the dementia from developing."

The study is published in August 6 2014 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Meteors & S'mores at Nearby State Parks

Silver Lake Dunes
Silver Lake dunes (photo by jhy)

from a news release of the Michigan DNR

Many Michigan State Parks are inviting residents to grab their blankets and head to participating Michigan state parks Aug. 9-16 to enjoy one of the biggest and most visible astronomical events of the year: the Perseid meteor shower.

These parks are staying open late and offering "Meteors & S'mores" events in honor of this natural light show. Many of these events feature astronomy presentations, as well as - you guessed it - s'mores.

In West Michigan:
• Tuesday Aug 12, Silver Lake State Park (Oceana County), 9 p.m. (meet at dune pedestrian lot)
• Tuesday Aug 12, Wilderness State Park (Emmet County), 9 p.m. (meet at amphitheater)

• Wednesday Aug 13, Young State Park (Charlevoix County), 10 p.m. (meet at park baseball field across from loop 4)

There is no charge to attend Meteors & S'mores, but a Recreation Passport is required for any vehicle entering a Michigan state park.

For the full list of 22 locations follow the link above.

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Water, Michigan and the Growing "Blue Economy"

Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan shoreline (photo by JHY)

selected from a news release of the Michigan Economic Center

In a white paper published in June 2014 by the Michigan Economic Center at Prima Civitas Foundation Director John Austin defines Michigan’s “Blue Economy” and estimates the economic impact of water-based economic activity at nearly one million jobs and $60 billion annually.

“The economic and job benefits of reclaiming and enjoying our natural waterways, which mark Michigan as a very special place to live, work and run a business, are already tremendous,” said John Austin, Director of the Michigan Economic Center. “We are also beginning to see the economic impact of Michigan firms, entrepreneurs and research institutions participating in the fast-growing global water technology sector, predicted to reach $1 trillion a year by 2020, and providing the talent and innovations to solve global freshwater sustainability issues right here in Michigan.”

The paper was commissioned by the Governor’s Office of the Great Lakes as part of the development of an overall state water-strategy, and as a baseline report to launch the “Growing Michigan’s Blue Economy” Initiative. The initiative is designed to accelerate the growth of Michigan’s water-based economy. The Michigan Economic Center and Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute are leading the initiative with support from a C.S. Mott Foundation grant.

Austin defines the “Blue Economy” as the ways Michigan’s natural water assets, emerging water education and research centers,and technology-based businesses provide jobs and economic development benefits.

“Blue Economy” Benefits - how water matters for economic growth:
• Conduit for Commerce
• Water-dependent businesses
• Quality of Life and Place
• Great Lakes Restoration
• Emerging Water Technology Businesses
• Water research and education centers

“Economic growth will be a cornerstone of Michigan’s Water Strategy. We must harness our state’s unique capacity for innovation amid these vital natural resources,” said Jon Allan, Director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes. “Understanding the elements of the ‘Blue Economy’ and how we might fuel it sustainably is essential to our state’s future. We hope to see more communities build on their natural water assets and more businesses and entrepreneurs get into the 'Blue Economy' field.”

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