Friday, October 31, 2008

Haunted Barn? Just an Owl

Barn Owl
click the picture to hear a Barn Owl
image from the Barn Owl Trust
audio from the Owl Cam

by Joan H. Young

The ghostly face of the barn owl in the rafters is a childhood memory I cherish rather than fear. I took their presence all too much for granted. My father told me that they ate the mice and rats in the barn, and were nothing to be afraid of despite their eerie screams and hisses. A more vivid memory than their calls is the sound heard much more often, the echo of their heavy wings beating as they flew from beam to beam and settled on a new perch.

I haven't seen one for many years now, but I'd be happy to have one decide to haunt my barn.

Go to to hear a professional recording of their voice. You can even download it as a ringtone for your cell phone.

See The Barn Owl Trust
See The Owl Cam
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Building Trails to a New Partnership

a news release of Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and Michigan Fitness Foundation Join to Promote Active Living

A new partnership between the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) and the Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF) has been formed to connect trails and get Michigan moving. The organizations announced today that beginning November, 2008, MFF will assume responsibility for MTGA’s administrative operations. MTGA’s board of directors and staff will continue to address their mission as an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization. For efficiency in operations, MTGA staff will move to the MFF office located at 1213 Center Street in Lansing’s Old Town. MTGA phone numbers and email addresses will remain the same.

MTGA’s mission is to foster and facilitate the development of an interconnected statewide system of multi-use trails across the state for recreation, transportation, conservation, health, and economic development.

"The shifting of the administrative burden will allow us to take the trails movement in Michigan to the next level," said Nancy Krupiarz, executive director of MTGA. "We will be able to more fully dedicate ourselves to advancing the development of Michigan’s interconnected trailways system."

Since 2005, the organization has provided technical assistance throughout the state on all aspects of trail planning, building, operations, and maintenance. MTGA is dedicated to working at the state and local levels advocating for policies that facilitate the development of trails. In addition, they educate the public through presentations, statewide trail maps and Web resources, and through the annual Michigander bicycle trail tour.

Marilyn Lieber, president and CEO of the Michigan Fitness Foundation, sees this partnership advancing both nonprofits’ missions.

"A connected system of trails is an essential component of active community environments. Enhancing the opportunities for MTGA staff and its dedicated board members to address trail programs, full time, supports our mission of promoting healthy lifestyles in communities designed to support physical activity."

The partnership was approved unanimously by the MTGA and MFF boards at their October meetings. It is anticipated that the move will be complete in December.

See Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance
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License to Ski?

summarized from TV 6 , Negaunee, MI, October 29, 2008, "A Fee to Ski?"

The Upper Peninsula's Blueberry Ridge cross-country ski trail Friends group is attempting to revive an idea that surfaces every so often. They would like to have a statewide ski pass for cross-country trails.

Such a pass system would provide revenue for continued grooming of trails operated by the Michigan DNR. The group has put this process in motion with state legislators, who would need to approve the idea before the DNR could implement it.

They say that the system would be similar to hunting and fishing licenses. Funds from these sales would be used to provide grooming and improvements for trails.

Minnesota currently has such a system and their pricing is set at $5 for a daily pass, $15 for one year, or $40 for a three-year pass. Passes in that state may be purchased on line, in person at various locations, and at self-pay tubes at many trails.

Many Michigan DNR ski trails are maintained by cooperation with volunteer groups. Locally, Big M, Pentwater Pathway, and Crystal Valley Ski Trails have such agreements. Silver Creek is maintained by the DNR, while the Blood Creek trail near Baldwin has been abandoned because no volunteer group maintained it, and the DNR decided it could not afford the maintenance costs.

Watch for a poll on this issue, beginning on November 1. (And while polls are on your mind, you have just two more days to take the current one... check the right hand column!)

See The Great Minnesota Ski Pass
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Outdoor Foundation Asks You to Say “I Will” Take a Kid Outside

I Will logo
a news release of The Outdoor Industry Association

The Outdoor Foundation I Will campaign supports healthier children, healthier communities and healthier businesses by asking every individual to share their passion for the outdoors with the youth in their lives and community. Specifically, it asks each of us to commit to connecting youth with the outdoors by pledging to share an outdoor experience with at least two youth in the next year.

At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City, more than 2,500 outdoor industry members took the I Will pledge, impacting more than 5,000 kids. Since then, stories have been pouring in about the outdoor experiences industry members have shared with youth. Some headed out on memorable hikes, others explored their urban spaces and many others visited a national park or two.

You can now help continue the success of I Will by bringing the campaign to your company. The Outdoor Foundation is developing a corporate toolkit for the I Will program to help companies bring the I Will campaign to their coworkers. Click here to view it online.

Industry leader Cloudveil, creator of inspired mountain apparel, started the corporate I Will charge last week when they combined the I Will pledge with a planned office service project. Cloudveil employees took to their community for a day and helped an early education center rebuild and revitalize its outdoor play area. Ten employees spent the day clearing old play equipment and building new play areas, finishing the day by signing the I Will pledge. Cloudveil has plans to make the pledge part of all their future service work in the community as well.

By asking your coworkers to make the I Will pledge or combining your company's existing outreach program with the I Will pledge, as Cloudveil has, you can help impact youth across the country. Learn more about the I Will corporate program online. There you can read more about Cloudveil’s service project, download the I Will corporate toolkit, and learn how you can order I Will materials such as buttons and placards for your office. If we each commit to connecting two kids with the outdoors, our combined impact will be enormous.

See I Will
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Monday, October 27, 2008

USPS Great Lakes Dunes Stamps Issued at Sleeping Bear

Great Lakes Dunes stamp
Great Lakes Dunes USPS commemorative stamp sheet
(right click to view larger)
compiled from various sources

As part of the 2008 Commemorative Stamps series, the United States Postal Service has issued a set of 10 stamps featuring the Great Lakes Dunes. Differing from most pages of stamps, the large sheet features a dunes landscape. Various animals, birds, and plants appear in a natural setting. Ten key portions of the picture lift off and can be used as first class postage.

The First Day of Issue eremony was held October 2, at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Mark Breederland of Michigan Sea Grant gave an interpretive presentation about the spotted sandpiper, one of the stamps on the new sheet.

The Great Lakes Dunes stamp pane is tenth in a Nature of America series designed to promote appreciation of major plant and animal communities in the United States. According to a Postal Service press release, the dunes were chosen because they represent the "beauty and complexity of another major plant and animal community in the United States." All the images on the stamps were reviewed by scientists.

Breederland stated, "It's great to see this well-deserved national recognition of the Great Lakes dunes ecosystem in the Nature of America stamp series. These dune systems are truly national treasures and I hope this publicity will encourage citizens from across North America to visit, value and assist in conserving these dynamic and fragile ecosystems."

The Great Lakes shores are the location of the largest freshwater dune systems on Earth and variations are found on all five of the Great Lakes. largest of these dunes are located along the west Michigan shoreline.

Artist John Dawson of Hilo, HI depicted more than 27 different kinds of plants and animals in his colorful acrylic painting. The scene itself is imaginary as a dense grouping of plants and animals was necessary to illustrate as many species as possible on the stamp pane. Even so, all of the species could be encountered at or near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

See Michigan Sea Grant
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fort Custer Recreation Area Offers New Disc Golf Course

a news release of Michigan DNR

The Department of Natural Resources has announced that the 18-hole disc golf course within the Fort Custer Recreation Area is completed.

"We are very pleased to offer this recreational opportunity to our park visitors," said Park Manager Tony Trojanowski. "This newly-created disc golf course will offer another challenging opportunity for people in the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek areas to 'GO-Get Outdoors' and enjoy this popular sport at our park."

Disc golf is played with a round flying disc instead of a ball and club. Much like traditional golf, the player's objective is to complete each hole in the least number of throws. Each player throws the golf disc from a tee area to a target "hole" or metal basket that is about three feet off the ground. Chains hang above the basket to stop the momentum of the disc.

The course was built in partnership with volunteers from the Professional Disc Golf Association in Southwest Michigan. The par 57 course covers a variety of challenging terrain, and was used as part of the rotation in the world disc golf championship which was held in August in the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek area.

The course begins in the day use area near the Hilltop Pavilion, and will be open daily from 8 a.m. until the day use area closes, normally around 10 p.m. A course map is available at the park contact stations. There are no fees to play and no scheduled tee times.

Fort Custer Recreation Area is located at 5163 W. Fort Custer Dr., one-quarter mile east of Augusta on M-96 (Dickman Road). For more information about the disc golf course, the park, or accessibility at Fort Custer, contact the park supervisor at 269-731-4200, or visit Park visitors are reminded that no alcoholic beverages are allowed at Fort Custer.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Is it Worth the Money to Awaken Curiosity?

by Larry Nooden
The following editorial appeared in the Ann Arbor News, October 12, 2008. Although the specific topic is renewal of a Washtenaw county millage, the arguments for natural spaces can apply to any locale. Nooden is President of the Huron Valley Botanical Club. Used with permission of the author.

The upcoming millage renewal for Washtenaw County parks (County Proposal A) provides an opportunity and reasons to consider what this park system has done and can do for us. It has provided very diverse recreational opportunities for Washtenaw County residents, and it has contributed significantly to open space/natural area preservation. As this park system develops, it will exert even more impact on the quality of our lives.

I think it may be helpful for Washtenaw County residents to be more aware of several less visible aspects of what the system does, particularly in natural areas and outdoor recreation.

As our society continues to lose its connection with nature and the outdoors, we are increasingly being conditioned to life in a steel and concrete world, and our younger generations are becoming more sedentary. There is some evidence that our connection to nature is buried deep in our soul and our prehistory, so learning to understand and enjoy nature can provide not only healthy exercise but serenity and spiritual mending that is difficult to achieve otherwise. The interpretive program helps with this understanding as well as with science education.

I see the greatest value in outdoor and nature education for children. This awakens their natural curiosity, develops their observation/analytical abilities and provides an important gateway into science. These parks also provide both cerebral and physical exercise and recreation for adults.

As our society witnesses the continuing disappearance of undeveloped open space, especially natural areas, more people are concerned about this visible requiem for nature. Washtenaw County parks, alone and in conjunction with several partners (e.g., the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, Ann Arbor Greenbelt Program, and Scio Township Land Preservation Program) have succeeded in preserving some of the best of the best.

The purchases of land for preservation and public use over the next few years will likely lay out the basic framework for natural areas and outdoor recreation for the next 200 years. The current real estate problems may extend these opportunities for a few years and reduce their cost. These are valuable opportunities.

They have also played an important role in bringing about a framework of paved hike-bike trails that offer both recreational and transportation options, but this is very much a work in progress. I have lived (i.e., Canberra, Australia) or spent a lot of time (i.e., Sweden) in areas where these trails are very well-developed, and I have experienced the very positive effect that they have on the quality of life. The Swedes even use them for recreation and commuting in poor weather (wearing rain suits). Washtenaw County parks and their partners (especially the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority) are working hard to develop more of these trails, so the best is yet to come for Washtenaw County.

Trails and natural areas can be positively synergistic if smartly combined. Some sensitive natural areas should be penetrated only by footpaths, if at all. However, well-placed and not-too-wide paved trails enhance public access, increase appreciation, serve an educational function and may even be useful to protect protect natural areas where some maintenance is required. For example, a trail may serve as a fire break in an area that requires occasional fire for its maintenance (many communities around here do). In addition, trails and their surrounding land may serve as natural connectors or corridors for biological/genetic interchange among natural areas (an important longterm conservation need) if they have some natural vegetation. This natural border also enhances the ambiance of the trails for users.

As Ann Arbor continues to morph toward a steel and concrete world resembling that of the sci-fi film "The Matrix,'' we will need these natural areas even more. Furthermore, it seems likely that more of our recreation will be close to home. This is also an economic issue, because the knowledge-based industries that everyone wants to attract look for this type of infrastructure. I hope my fellow citizens will appreciate the opportunities and life enhancements that this millage offers.

See Michigan Botanical Club
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Friday, October 24, 2008

Grand Traverse Area - Just a Few Days Left to Say Your Vision Includes Trails

The Grand Vision

The Grand Vision for Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Wexford Counties has been praised by many agencies, legislators, and planning leaders for the participation level of the public.

If you live in any of those six counties, you have until October 28th to fill out your scorecard.

In order for the questions on the scorecard to make sense you need to spend some time looking at the extensive Grand Vision web site. Basically there are four different scenarios for how regional planners can design superstructures to promote a certain growth pattern for the region. You will be asked to rate these four plans as to your opinion of how well they promote various goals.

The next questions are pertinent to those of us who value muscle-powered methods of recreation and transportation. You will be asked to say how strongly you agree or disagree with the following questions:
  • I think transportation investments should prioritize new and widened roads.
  • I think new transportation investments should include biking and walking facilities, even if it means some roads aren't widened.
  • I think new transportation investments should include enhanced transit, including in-town buses and regional bus service, even if it means some roads aren't widened.
  • I think increased traffic congestion in our cities and villages would be okay if I could park once and walk to shops, jobs, schools and parks.
  • I would consider living in a neighborhood with smaller yards and some multi-family buildings if it meant that I could walk or ride my bike to shops, jobs, schools and parks.

Please don't discount the value of your one voice. Take a few minutes this weekend and participate in the Grand Vision.

See The Grand Vision
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good News for Fish, Bad News for Scottville Park

Pere Marquette MRiver
the Pere Marquette River at Riverside Park
from a news item in the Ludington Daily News, Tuesday, Oct 21, 2008

Travel to Scottville Riverside Park will be severely disrupted in the summer of 2009. The bridge over the Pere Marquette River will be completely removed and rebuilt. This means that the only way to reach Riverside Park will be to cross the river either at Custer or on Pere Marquette Highway (old 31) at Ludington. Custer road is the closest bridge, three miles east.

City Manager Amy Hansen reported at Monday's commission meeting that work on the bridge over the Pere Marquette River will not be allowed to begin until June 1, 2009, instead of March , as was originally planned.

The Michigan DNR will not allow work to be done in the water during fish migrating seasons. The Pere Marquette is a nationally recognized river, known for salmon, steelhead and brown trout. This means that all work will need to be done during the summer to protect the fish. In the original plan, the bridge would have been completed by July 4th, in time for the greatest portion of the tourist season. Now the city is looking for ways to encourage their regular campers to use the park in spite of the serious inconvenience.

The shortest route from Scottville to the park will be via Custer to Custer Road, to Conrad Rd, to Scottville Rd. This detour is about eight miles, instead of the usual five blocks.

Ludington Daily News
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Big D Continues His Hike Across Michigan

photo by Mike Dundas
Mike Dundas, aka “hiking fossil,” aka “Big D,” put on his boots and hiked from Battle Creek to Lowell this month. Last year, Mike began a hike of the North Country Trail in Michigan, and learned a lot about long-distance hiking. His plan was thwarted by a foot which gave him problems. But this year he completed another section on his quest.

The hike was timed so that he could walk into the North Country Triad meeting, October 8 & 9, where he learned more about trail partnerships than he had ever imagined. I was able to meet Mike at that meeting, and learned that he is a retired teacher. He has a history in theater and the sciences.

Excerpts from Big D’s blog, titled “Great Big Walk.”

Oct 2
"No rain despite repeated stretches of gloomy clouds with occaisional flashes of very welcome sun. The tiny thermometer on my backpack reads perhaps thirty-eight degrees. I have on three layers, but will have to take off the wind shirt as soon as I hike a ways. I was even a bit over warm with two layers in the windless woods. A forty-pound pack moves the metablism up dramatically."

Here’s an entry all hikers can identify with!
"I will, I think, sleep much more soundly tonight than last night. Careless map reading combined with fatuigue led me to go all the way west to Michigan Avenue, a mile past my Kalamazoo-River crossing point. I had to backtrack the mile. I then left my map in the backpack..."

Oct 3- some good news
"Today's hike started well. Once I got back to the blue blazes, they were very clear and timely. The first four miles of them went very quickly and picturesquely, mostly through the MSU Kellog 'tree farm'"

Oct 4
"The once-scarce sandhill cranes are everywhere hereabouts, gleaning the harvested fields. They fly like geese (rather ungainly ones) but their primaries are so long they curl up on the downstroke. They chat like geese as they fly except, of course, it's that characteristic grating chuckle."

Oct 5
"Ahh! Here comes the softest whisper of soft rain. Time to batten down a bit. The rain is intermittent as well as soft. The tree frogs are certainly not put off by it! Last night I heard - I think - two different kinds of owls at quite different points in the night."

See Great Big Walk, to read the complete entries.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Time to Take the Back Road

Sable River
The Big Sable River at Darr Road
by Joan H. Young

Point five in the Shark's Wisdom Tooth says, "Never take the interstate if you have time to take the back road."

Taking my own advice, I avoided even US 31 driving home the other day. Due to the Big Sable and Lincoln Rivers there are very few north-south roads that go all the way between Manistee County and US 10. Darr Road, just a mile east of the highway doesn't go the whole distance either, but it does have a bridge over the Big Sable.

The sun was bright and the sky blue. Big Sable beckons me to explore its navigability by kayak. And even a dirt road can be very appealing, given sunshine and autumn colors.
Darr Road with fall colors
Darr Road looking south from the Big Sable River bridge

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Executive Order Could Open National Parks to Mountain Bikes

by Joan H. Young

President Bush is an avid mountain biker, preferring the sport to running, which is hard on his knees. His blue and white Trek is nicknamed Mountain Bike One.

In an effort to promote the sport, Bush announced last week that he plans to issue a rule that will give more control to managers of National Parks to open additional trails to mountain bikes.

Presently, for trails to be opened to bikes a public process is required, in the same way that ATVs and other motorized recreation is handled.

Jeff Ruch of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) has called the idea a “lame-duck gift for the mountain biking lobby.” Ruch points out that bikes cause environmental damage, erosion, disturbance to wildlife, and annoy hikers.

The International Mountain Biking Association has countered by saying that they don’t believe the timing of the rule has anything to do with the president's interest in bicycling.

The President states that the proposal will only apply to non-controversial trails in parks, according to Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the National Park Service.

Yet, several of the National Scenic Trails are under the management of the National Park Service. Tom Gilbert, Superintendent for the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails says that the rule will be issued as an Executive Order, which has the force of law. Regrettably, that means that it will circumvent any requirement for public input and comment, or environmental impact analysis. Gilbert says that the rule could “undermine the superlative walking and hiking experiences that National Scenic Trails seek to provide.”

Anyone concerned about the possible ramifications of this rule should contact Steve Elkinton, National Trails Program Coordinator with the Park Service, and Gary Werner, Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System.

See "Bush to help open national parks to mountain bikes", an Associated Press Release, by Dina Cappiello, October 14, 2008.
See "Federal proposal would give national park managers power to permit mountain biking",, October 16, 2008.

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Rails-to-Trails Seeks Federal Investment for Walking, Biking

Hart-Montague Rail Trail
the Hart Montague Rail-Trail
a news release of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Rails-to-Trails (RTC) is releasing a written case statement today demonstrating how communities could shift a significant percentage of driving trips to walking and biking, resulting in substantial benefits to mobility, health, greenhouse gas emissions and the local economy.

The announcement occurs on the same day that dozens of communities nationwide join the national nonprofit RTC in releasing case statements calling for greater federal investment in walking and biking.

"Too often, communities have been designed to accommodate cars instead of people," says Kevin Mills, vice-president of policy for RTC. "Many seek to walk or bicycle for short trips but hesitate for lack of safe and convenient places to do so. But where communities have begun to build active transportation systems, walking and bicycling have increased dramatically."

The goal: empowering dozens of communities to each advocate for $50 million in federal funds to make focused investments in infrastructure and programs to shift automobile trips to walking and biking. The campaign aims to double the federal investment in active transportation in the next reauthorization.

Consider the impact of this investment if there were a safe way to bicycle from Scottville to Ludington, or Pentwater to Hart. Each of those distances is under ten miles, and many people might choose to commute on two wheels instead of four if given the option.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy works to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines, connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.

Today, RTC is also releasing a report, "Active Transportation for America," funded by Bikes Belong (a national bicycle advocacy group), that quantifies for the first time the significant contribution bicycling and walking can make to our nation’s transportation system.

King County (Washington) Executive Ron Sims relates the role his parents played in the civil rights movement and his love of trails which, he ultimately realized, connect and unite communities (from the 2007 Trailink Conference).

The "Active Transportation for America" report can be found at Rails-to-Trails
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lake Ann Beach to be Township Park in 2009

Lake Ann
Lake Ann, Benzie County, MI
photo by Sally Arnold from the Lake Ann web site
from the Grand Traverse Herald, by Carol South, October 14, 2008, and other sources

Benzie County’s Almira Township is looking to expand its park system to add 1.65 acres on Lake Ann. At this time the township’s extensive park system taken with the Lake Ann State Forest allow for camping, fishing access and a boat launch, hiking and mountain bike trails, but no swimming area.

The purchase of this parcel will make it possible to add this recreation opportunity. The township, Almira Citizens for Preservation and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy have teamed up to provide $200,000 that will be combined with a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant to meet the cost of the purchase.

Included in the plan for the property are a beach and picnic areas, changing areas, restrooms, open spaces, and parking. The area will be handicap accessible. Although located in a residential area there would be screening from nearby homes, and quiet hours to promote good relationships with the neighbors.

A spaghetti dinner was held on October 10 to help raise funds toward the purchase. This is one event in a string of fundraisers for what will be known as Almira Township Lakefront Park. Donations are being accepted, and there will be another dinner auction fundraiser, April 25, 2009.

Rapid success of the project depends on the acceptance of the proposal by the Natural Resources Trust Fund. Those decisions are made in December.

Lake Ann is a small resort community located 12 miles west of Traverse City, Michigan.

See Almira Township
See Lake Ann Information
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Got a Bike? Make Your Own Adventure

biker on 88th Ave
a biker heads south on 88th Avenue in Oceana County

by Joan H. Young

All the hiking this summer was great, but it left me yearning for some time on my bicycle. So one warm morning this fall a friend and I explored a road loop in Oceana County. I cheated a little bit on the exploration part; I'd already seen some of the route from a car and knew that it would make a great bike ride.

Let me assure you that this adventure was not designed to test our technical biking skills or thrill someone under 30. We just wanted some exercise in an interesting setting, and we were not disappointed.

We parked on the edge of the road just into Oceana County on 88th Avenue, the continuation of Stiles Road south of Mason County. It's a dirt road here, and becomes increasingly primitive as you approach the North Branch of the Pentwater River, meandering from the straight survey lines of the square miles. The pines encroached from the edges and we dropped slightly to the river. My friend and I stopped to watch the water flow under the partially shrub-hidden truss bridge, and wondered if we might be able to float a kayak in this stretch.

The hill away from the river was sandy and moderately steep. I was used to riding in dirt and pedaled up, but my friend walked. One nice thing about being over 50 is you don't care quite so much about being macho as you used to. In another mile we crossed Cedar Creek, similar in appearance to the river, just a little smaller.

Riding south to Jackson Road we were awed by the vertical, spired beauty of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, rising unexpectedly at the former Weare corner. Only the church, cemetery, and some store fronts remain.

We continued to Lever Road and turned east, then north again in a mile on 96th Avenue. Some portions of these miles are paved. We enjoyed the variety in road surfaces. Reaching Jackson Road once more we turned around and took in the panorama to the south, a long view of the Pentwater River Valley. Not spectacular by mountain country standards, but not too shabby for west Michigan. (If we had chosen to ride east, downhill on Jackson Road, there is an even better view in a mile at the corner of 104th Avenue. But we were feeling lazy and didn't want to ride back up the hill.)

Our next treat was a flock of sandhill cranes, waffling a low pathway across the sky. If you've never heard them calling they sound a bit like drunken turkeys on steroids.

104th Avenue has a few rolling hills, some picturesque farms and more views off to the east. For the tree lovers, there are a number of really large maples and one beech still standing near the road . All were perhaps 30 inches in diameter.

We re-crossed the creek and the river, and completed the loop to the car. Total distance– fifteen miles. Time? We don't even know. We were just out to have some fun and never looked at a watch. That's unusual for me, but no intense anxiety has resulted from being unable to report this statistic. On our whole ride we were passed by four vehicles, one of which was the farmer moving a big bale of hay with a small Bobcat.

The variety of experiences was better than we had anticipated on a rectangle of back roads. Got a bike? Our area has lots of backways to explore that don't require you to be superman or wonderwoman to ride. Take a few hours, get off the couch and find your own adventure!

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Friday, October 17, 2008

North Country Trail Re-Opened Near Highbridge

building a bridge on the North Country Trail
structure in place to support the new bridge
photo Ed Chappel
by Joan H. Young

Four dedicated men worked for 14 hours to repair the North Country Trail near Highbridge (south of Brethren, Michigan). Although more help might have been nice, the small crew realized that given the terrain there was no where that additional people could have been used.

The terrain in this section is extremely steep as the banks slope down to the Manistee River. Several springs seep from the hillside but usually flow only in springtime. However this summer was extremely wet, and the springs continued their work, undermining the trail. The unfortunate result was that a 16-foot section of trail slumped off and disappeared down the slope. There was no way to get around this area and the trail had to be temporarily closed.

Working with the Forest Service the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the North Country Trail Association has built a bridge to span the damaged area.

Trail work coordinator, Ed Chappel, says that the uprights had to be sunk to a depth of 4 feet to reach a solid foundation on which to base the new structure. Stringers of 4x6 were bolted together for a total length of about 40 feet. Wood was let down by ropes from the top of the bank. The decking had to be brought down by hand in bundles, requiring 27 trips.

The crew reports using the chapter's new generator to supply power to the project. This allowed them to continue to work long after battery-powered tools would have given out. The generator was purchased with Challenge Cost Share money from the National Park Service. The cost of the bridge itself was paid for by the Spirit of the Woods Chapter.

Such efforts by volunteers in cooperation with agencies such as the National Park Service, and National Forest Service are the magic that keep hiking trails open for our enjoyment.

See North Country Trail Closed Near Highbridge
See Spirit of the Woods Chapter NCTA
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vote to Fund North Country Trail Projects

Nature Valley Save the Trails logo

by Joan H. Young

You can help raise $5000 to improve the North Country Trail with the click of a mouse!

Through the Save the Trails effort, you can vote for one of 20 trail projects. Ten of these projects will be funded at the $5000 level. Over 70 nominations were received, and 20 finalists from around the United States were selected.

Finalists this year include two projects on the North Country National Scenic Trail. The Nemadji River Valley in northwest Wisconsin is a beautiful deep gorge. Efforts to complete the NCT in Wisconsin are being pressed forward by Bill Menke and his Roving Trail Crew. This project will create about 5.3 miles of new, off-road trail

The other NCT project is found in the state of Ohio. The funds here will help purchase and deliver native sandstone barricades to the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio. The trail here has been heavily impacted by illegal off-road vehicle use. Andrew Bashaw is heading the efforts to mitigate this damage

Nature Valley Save the Trails program is a partnership between Nature Valley, the American Hiking Society (AHS), and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) that restores trails in our National Parks. Since 2005, Nature Valley has donated over half a million dollars for trail work. These dollars support the SCA teams, as they live on site for a week at a time to build and maintain trails.

You can see pictures of these project areas, and vote at the Nature Valley Where's Yours web site. Winners will be announced April 30, 2009.

See Where's Yours
See North Country Trail Association
See American Hiking Society
See Student Conservation Association
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Naperala Receives Jim Mudgett Award from TART

Dick Naperala receives Jim Mudgett Award
Dick Naperala receives the Jim Mudgett Award
(photo from TART)
by Joan H. Young

Dick Naperala is a quiet force for trails in the Traverse City area. He was recently honored by the TART (Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation) Trails for his years of service.

Dick is a founding member of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club, which is also a chapter of the North Country Trail Association. For 15 years he has worked on maintaining over 90 miles of trails near Traverse City.

He is a member of the VASA Trail grooming team, rising early on snowy mornings to prepare the trail for skiers.

People often do not understand how much work behind the scenes is required to put a section of trail on the ground. Dick is one of those individuals who know how to work with agencies to find solutions. He has worked hard with the Michigan DNR to reroute the North Country Trail off the Shore to Shore horse trail. The new route connects Muncie Lakes Pathway with the Sand Lakes Quiet Area.

More recently he has been part of the team which planned and is working to complete another NCT reroute off roads along Hodenpyl Dam pond, with the cooperation and permission of Consumer’s Energy. See North Country Trail Bridge Built near Hodenpyl

Another ongoing project will connect the VASA system to the NCT, and link through to the city of Kalkaska. This will link Traverse City with the NCT, and thus to New York and North Dakota.

It has been my personal pleasure to work with Dick on some of these projects. Although a volunteer his professional attitude goes a long way toward building relationships with agency personnel.

Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation established the Jim Mudgett Award five years ago to honor individuals who have shown both leadership and passion for local trails. When he died in 2004, TART desired to preserve his memory and honor those who follow in his footsteps. Jim Mudgett was a founding member of the TART Trails Board of Directors, and was active with the Leelanau Trail, and Vasa Pathway. He not only promoted healthy living, but even used the trails to commute to work. The award itself is a framed print of pink lady slipper, taken by Mudgett on the Leelanau Trail.

Previous recipients are: Dave Monstrey, George Lombard, June Thaden, Ted Okerstrom, Lois Bahle, and Tim Brick.

See Traverse City Trails
See Grand Traverse Hiking Club
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Photo Feature - Shining Sumac

shining sumac
Shining sumac (Rhus copallina) is a low shrub that changes to vivid red in the fall.

by Joan Young, photo taken in Mason County, Michigan
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Heartland Trail Segment Officially Opened

Heartland Trail
a portion of the
Heartland Trail map

from an article in the Central Michigan Morning Sun, and other sources

"A Safe Haven for Families Away from Traffic" is the slogan emblazoned on the trail flyer.

At the Alma College Campus on Saturday, the Alma to Riverdale leg of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail was officially opened. These eight miles are but a portion of the 41-mile route that is planned from Alma to Greenville. But the route has been in use for a number of months.

Already folks are using the trail to bike to soccer games, and Alma College has noted an increased number of students biking on campus. Even Alma’s president says that she uses the trail regularly.

Multi-use trails do not come cheaply. These eight miles cost $2 million. The bulk of this money was donated by Fred Meijer, retailing legend. However, thousands of dollars were donated by others. Major participants include the Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition, the city of Alma, Pine River Township, and Seville Township.

The Heartland Trail is partially on the former line of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, purchased in 1994 by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

The trail is open to non-motorized uses, year round, sunrise to sunset. Portions of the trail are paved, and some have a natural surface.

The remaining miles are scheduled to be completed in 2009. A member of the Heartland Trail support group expressed hope that the trail can be extended to Ionia.

See "Heartland Trail is a Hit", Morning Sun, October 12, 2008
See Fred Meijer Heartland Trail
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

North Country Trail Triad- Workshops, Hike and a Bar-B-Q

North Country Trail Triad 2008 participants
some of the Triad 2008 participants ready to hike
by Joan H. Young

Trail folks are always restless when asked to sit in meetings on a beautiful fall day. Nevertheless, day two of the Triad began with three morning presentations.

Robert Wetherell of the Allegheny National Forest brought everyone up to date on chain sawyer certification. This was followed by a presentation on the use of GIS information for planning trail routes and tracking its completion. Andrew Bashaw, Ohio-Pennsylvania Trail Coordinator for the NCTA covered this topic, and then also discussed illegal uses of the trail, primarily by off road vehicles. The damage done to hiking trails by such use is often devastating and irreversible. The NCTA is creating a database of techniques that have been shown to reduce the problems.

Finally, the group moved to the NCTA Schoolhouse north of White Cloud, and headed outside to play. The group began hiking north on the North Country Trail, and returning via the Birch Grove Trail loop option. By turning off at various locations, hikers were able to take a short, medium or longer (6 mile) hike, and return to the schoolhouse. This was followed by grilled brats, fresh salads, baked beans, and apple crisp provided by the West Michigan NCTA Chapter.

John Romanowski
John Romanowski (left) makes comments on the trail
It was noted by John Romanowski, of Region 9 Forest Service, that the Triad has now been held for ten years. Over that time a number of significant accomplishments have been made.
  • The DFC, desired future condition, for the trail– to be managed primarily for hiking and backpacking– has been incorporated into the Forest Plans of all the National Forests through which the trail passes.
  • Sawyer training and certification which will be recognized by both the Park Service and Forest Service has been agreed upon. Training is being offered on a somewhat regular basis, making it possible for volunteers to do trail work legally and safely.
  • The giving of a higher priority to the building of shelters was explored, but it was decided to focus on other needs.
  • During this time period, the Forest Service issued Trail Accessibility Guidelines standards for building trail. With the input of NCTA, reasonable considerations for the building of back-country trail for hikers was taken into account. This means that not every trail in National Forests must be four feet wide and paved.
  • The Triad has also helped to give the NCTA credibility as the nine National Forest units worked more closely with staff and volunteers.
  • Perhaps the most important benefit of the Triads has been the ability of the three groups to get to know individuals across the trail. Instead of a key NCTA volunteer simply having a sense of some anonymous government unit, he or she now knows real people from a particular Forest and has a sense of their commitment to the North Country Trail. In response, agency personnel have increased trust and respect for volunteers.

With declining Forest Service budgets, the future of the annual event is unclear, but everyone expressed high hopes for continuing the gatherings in some format.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

North Country Trail Annual Triad Kicks off in Lowell

Lowell mayor,Jim Hodges,
welcomes Triad participants

by Joan H. Young

Each October, the three major entities involved in the North Country National Scenic Trail meet to discuss progress, and develop ways to work together to advance the trail toward completion. The triad members include two federal agencies and the non-profit North Country Trail Association. The National Park Service is the agency assigned to manage the trail, and the National Forest Service is the landowner for the more miles of the trail than any other single body.

Approximately 40 people are in attendance this year, including staff of the three organizations, and volunteers with an interest in the trail. Each of the seven states through which the trail passes are represented, and six of the nine National Forests sent delegates.

The day began inside, which was a happy choice since it was pouring outside the walls of the Boy Scout house in Lowell. Even enthusiastic campers would not be overjoyed at sitting in a meeting in the rain. After greetings from the City of Lowell, and the Lowell Foundation the NCTA, NPS, and NFS gave updates on current projects, happenings, and plans concerning the trail from their own perspective.

Bruce Matthews, Executive Director of the NCTA notes the possibility of adding three chapters along the length of the trail, in Ohio, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and New York. Two new affiliate organizations are both from Ohio, the Maumee Valley Heritage Coalition, and the Miami-Erie Canal Corridor Association. He also noted increasing membership.

Tom Gilbert for the Park Service reported a positive reaction to the concept of extending the trail eastward to connect in Vermont to the Appalachian Trail. He also shared an interest in making connections westward as part of the Sea to Sea route.

For the National Forests, John Romanowski was happy to share that the Ottawa National Forest has acquired the Sturgeon River Gorge in the Upper Peninsula from a Wisconsin power company. This beautifully scenic valley is the location of several miles of North Country Trail. John also explained some of the challenges being faced by declining funding for the Forests.

Bruce Matthews organizes hikers
in Lowell State Game Area
After lunch, the rain ended, and participants boarded a chartered bus and were taken to Lowell State Game Area for a short hike on the North Country Trail. Returning to the bus we toured a former rail corridor that may be able to be purchased, south of Lowell, to take hikers under interstate route 96.

The bus then returned the out-of town guests to “The Shack” in Jugville for dinner in the rustic and beautiful lodge.

Both long-time volunteers and several new discoverers of the North Country Trail are in attendance. One of the greatest advantages to the Triad is the ability for members of each group to become acquainted with those from the other groups. Lively conversations about favorite trail locations, recent construction projects, policies, definitions, old issues, and wild ideas could be heard over plates of chicken, potatoes, vegetables and watermelon.

For one more day, the sharing of information about this great National Scenic Trail will continue at Triad 2008.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hilt’s Landing Plans Trails, History, Preservation

Find more videos like this on White Lake Talks
from a news item in the White Lake Beacon, October 6, 2008, "Historic museum and park planned for Hilt's Landing," and other sources

If you’ve driven south on the US 31 Freeway toward Muskegon, you’ve crossed the White River, between Whitehall and Montague. The southeast corner of that crossing includes the mouth of Silver Creek, and is known today as Hilt’s Landing. The area was known as “The Beautiful” by Native Americans.

John McGarry, executive director of the Muskegon County Museum, on Friday, released the first draft of the plan for what will be known as the Michigan Heritage Trail at Hilt's Landing.

In 2002, Muskegon County was able to purchase the property. After conducting a survey of local residents the county’s priority became primarily to preserve the property in its natural state. And last year, Whitehall Township purchased the property from the county. The Whitehall Township Recreation Plan lists the additional goals for the property as improving the road, building a parking lot, developing a picnic area, and developing a walking Native American / Logging History Trail.

In April 2008, the Muskegon County Historical Museum unveiled a plan to use an open area within the 232-acre property to create a living history trail. The trail stations would include a Native American burial mound, a Native American woodland period village, a fur trader's cabin, a logging camp, an Underground Railroad stop, a Civil War campground and an 1880s farmhouse.

Other educational experiences are possible, such as an archeological dig for children, Civil War re-enactments, and Native American Pow-Wows.

The township has budgeted $5,000 to pay the Muskegon Conservation District to draw up a master plan for the site. Other ideas include cross country skiing trails and hiking trails, interpretative markers, planting native plants and low-impact camping for groups.

Access to Hilt’s Landing is via North Durham Road from the Colby Road exit off US 31.

See White Lake Association
See Whitehall trail would be walk back in time, M-Live, April 16, 2008
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Monday, October 6, 2008

Forest Service Proposes Recreation Fee Increases

a news release from Huron-Manistee National Forest
Although the official comment deadline has passed, the Forest Service still welcomes input.

The Huron-Manistee National Forests operates and maintains 174 developed recreation sites in the lower peninsula of Michigan. The sites include campgrounds, horse camps, group camps, river access sites, picnic sites, beaches, overlooks, interpretive sites, and trailheads. Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA), the Forest Service may charge recreation use fees at developed sites.

In this proposal, fee increases will be applied to 66 developed recreation sites currently charging fees; new fees will be charged at 11 sites; and 69 sites will continue to have no fees charged. Concession Special Use Permit holders operate and charge fees at 28 additional sites. Proposed fee increases include: daily passes will be $5; weekly passes will be $15; annual passes will be $30; household (2) passes will be $45; standard amenity day-use sites will be $5; expanded amenity campgrounds will be either $10 or $15 depending on development level and number of amenities available; guided tours will be $10 per adult; and developed group site fees for up to 50 people will be $40.

Why is the Forest Service proposing to increase fees? Currently, Huron-Manistee National Forests fees are 40% to 70% less than private businesses. Increases will bring the Forest Service fee in line with other providers of develop recreation. The new or increased fees will be used at the sites to maintain and operate the developed recreation sites and continue services. The consequence of not increasing fees will be reduced operating seasons and services at developed recreation sites.

For additional information, visit our web site, or by request from Forest Service Supervisor’s Office in Cadillac.

Please send your comments by August 25, 2008 to Huron-Manistee National Forest, Recreation Program Manager, 1755 S. Mitchell Street, Cadillac, MI 49601. To comment on line, please email us at with a subject line of ATTN Recreation Manager Re Fee Increase. Questions related to this topic may be directed to Carol Boll or Rose Ingram at 231-775-2421,-1-800-821-6263, or TTY 231-775-3183.

See Huron-Manistee National Forest
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Partnership for the National Trails System Receives Kodak American Greenways Award

a news release from American Trails, Sept 15, 2008

The Partnership for the National Trails System was one of four honorees to receive national recognition for outstanding achievement in greenways preservation at the Kodak American Greenways Awards on Sept 15 at the National Geographic Society. Sponsored by Eastman Kodak Company, National Geographic Society and The Conservation Fund, the awards program honors leading individuals, organizations and corporations for their vision and commitment to protecting the nation's network of open space, trails and greenways. The ceremony also honored the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Chicago Wilderness and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The Partnership was honored for its strong voice in advocating for the National Trails System, a vibrant system of trails that connects people, landscapes, cultures and histories across the country. Established 40 years ago, the National Trails System consists of 50,000 miles of congressionally authorized National Scenic and Historic Trails and more than 11,000 miles of federal designated National Recreation Trails. The system also connects hundreds of state parks, 60 national parks, 125 forest units, 75 national wildlife refuges and dozens of resource areas across the nation. Multiple federal agencies as well as state and local agencies are involved in the management and the maintenance of the system.

For more than 15 years, the Partnership has given the country a greenways and trails legacy for the ages by strengthening the ability of public and private partners to enhance the development, maintenance, management and protection of the National Trails System, and promoting the appropriate use of the National Trails System for the education and appreciation of all.

"On behalf of the Kodak American Greenways program, I am particularly pleased to present the Partnership for the National Trails System with an award for outstanding achievement in greenway and open space preservation," said The Conservation Fund's president and CEO, Larry Selzer. "America's greenways and trails serve as lifelines connecting neighborhoods, parks and people. Thanks to the Partnership's leadership and the support of Eastman Kodak Company and National Geographic, we are building partnerships that will preserve a network of open space for future generations."

Dr. David Kiser, Eastman Kodak Company's vice president and director of health, safety and environment, joined Selzer to present the awards at the ceremony.

We are extremely pleased to be a part of the American Greenways Program," said Kiser. "Helping people experience natural beauty in their own backyards is one of the most important things we can do for our communities and for generations to come."

Following stream corridors, abandoned rail lines, canals or other linear landscape features, greenways preserve wildlife habitat, enhance water quality and provide opportunities for close-to-home outdoor recreation and sustainable economic development.

"The leaders of the Partnership for the National Trails System are deeply honored to receive the prestigious Kodak Greenways National Award and remain dedicated to doing our part to help provide all Americans with access to 'greenways across America' by completing the National Trails System," said Gary Werner, executive director of the Partnership for the National Trails System. "Forty years into the effort to criss-cross America with national scenic, historic and recreation trails we have made great progress, but still there is much joyful work to do to realize the full dream of a truly national trails system. Recognition of this effort by the Kodak Greenways Award will help us come closer to finishing the task!"

In addition to announcing the awards for outstanding achievement, the group presented 29 community organizations with small grants of up to $2,500 to help develop new action-oriented greenway projects. Since 1992, the Kodak American Greenways Program, administered by The Conservation Fund, has supported nearly 650 groups across the nation.

"Greenways are America's parks for the 21st century," said Gilbert M. Grosvenor, chairman of the National Geographic Society. "With the help of companies like Kodak, a growing network is linking our city streets to parklands and other open spaces in ways that encourage us to get out of our cars and into the landscape. Publicly or privately owned, greenways represent a grand design for creating a new green infrastructure for America."

See Partnership for the National Trails System
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Arlen Matson a Modern-Day Pathfinder

The following is an excerpt from a story which we believe is worthy of reading, but would lose too much of its charm if it were re-written for presentation on this blog. Please link through for the rest of the story, but hurry back! ... Editor

by Mike Terrell

Arlen Matson (left) at the Hodenpyl bridge project
(photo credit John Heiam)
"You could call him Pathfinder, and like the legendary figure of colonial times he spends much of his time on the trail.

Arlen Matson, local retired grade school teacher, has been involved in much -- if not all -- of the labor building 90 miles of the North Country Trail that bisects the Grand Traverse region.

"I started working on the North Country Trail (NCT) back in the mid-1980s... "

finish the story at the Traverse City Record Eagle - see FAIR USE notice.
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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Manistee County Reports Canine Distemper in Wild Animals

compiled from The Ludington Daily News and Chicago Tribune, "Distemper outbreak discovered in Manistee County", Oct 1, 2008, and other sources

Within the past month eight foxes and six raccoons have been discovered with canine distemper in Manistee County, Michigan. The diseased animals have been put down.

Residents have reported the animals appearing in their neighborhoods, foaming at the mouth and acting erratic and lethargic. Raccoons are nocturnal, so daytime sightings are suspicious. When the animals are observed to act oddly, one should look for other signs of disease. Infected animals were also found at a local golf course.

In addition to raccoons and foxes, skunks and dogs are susceptible to the viral infection. Dogs that are up to date on their shots will have been vaccinated. The virus is transmitted primarily through respiratory secretions, and is quite contagious. If your dog runs outside, and has not been vaccinated you should be aware that you are putting your pet at risk. Canine distemper is incurable, so puppies are routinely immunized since the development of a vaccine in the 1960's.

It is possible for humans to develop a mild case of distemper. However, anyone who has been immunized against measles, or who has had measles is immune since the viruses are related.

The Michigan DNR has confirmed the disease in at least two of the diseased animals.

If you observe a fox, raccoon, skunk, or dog appearing too weak to stand or walk, walking in an unsteady manner, and/or foaming at the mouth, call 911.

See Animal Health Channel- distemper
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Friday, October 3, 2008

Into the Woods - North Country Trail Near Petoskey

volunteers build benched trail,
taking the NCT off Krause Road
(photo credit Cora Killinger)

by Joan H. Young

Long (and short) distance hikers of the North Country Trail can rejoice this week as one more half-mile of trail has been taken off road, into the woods.

The new section of trail, just south of Petoskey, will connect two sections on city property. The project has been a long-time dream of property owners Doug and Pam Boor. For several years they have been working with the Nature Conservancy to sell a trail easement to the Conservancy. That transaction was completed this past year, and all that remained was to build the trail.

Saturday, September 27, over 45 people showed up to make that piece of trail a reality on the ground. The tasks were organized by Gary Johnson and Cora Killinger, of the Tittabawassee Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. This section of trail traverses a steep hillside, requiring that almost all of the trail be benched into the hill. This type of trail is difficult to build, requiring hard work, and close attention to detail to create a treadway that will stand up to hiking traffic. It is also very rewarding to view at the end of the day!

Cora reports that in this one day the work was about 80% completed. She says, "No one person could have done much, but together you should see what we've accomplished!"

viewing platform
and the view from the new trail
(photo credit Cora Killinger)
The hillside where this new trail is located is one of the highest spots in Emmett County. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy there is a viewing platform already in place from which you can see Little Traverse Bay. This is sure to become one of the favorite scenic views along the NCT.

Doug Boor's dream for the section includes creating a primitive campsite where hikers may stay.

It's only a short piece of trail, you say? Yes, but consider the many layers of complexity required to create it. A property owner, the city of Petoskey, the Nature Conservancy, the North Country Trail Association, finance sources, volunteers, and other individuals all worked together to make this a reality. When you ponder this effort it makes you appreciate the enormity of the vision to place all the miles of the NCT, New York to North Dakota, off road.

See North Country Trail
See The Nature Conservancy
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rain Garden? What's That?

Rebecca Fox enjoying the rain garden

by Joan H. Young
a GOTC Exclusive

We met in the rain, Rebecca Fox and I, to explore the rain garden. It seemed appropriate, and the chilly, damp day was not able to dim Rebecca's smile. Rebecca spearheaded the effort to create the garden, which was built in 2005.

The rain garden can be found at West Shore Community College, just off the northeast corner of the Arts & Science parking lot. Many people mistake it for a weed patch, and that is their loss. Like many worthwhile projects one needs to look a little more closely to appreciate what it has to offer.

As we approach autumn, the design of the garden is hidden from view. Snaking through the now-tall plants is a spiraled and branched stone walkway inviting people to wander through the garden and to look closely at the plants growing there. The "secret" paths would be especially inviting to a child.

closed gentian
When we first arrived Rebecca decisively headed up a path and exclaimed, "Look, the closed gentian is blooming! This is one of our rare plants." Indeed the deep blue bottles practically glowed in the muted light. Visit in the spring, as the plants are just beginning their growth and the design of the stones will fascinate. Variety in textures and colors, with an occasional rock surprise will delight the eye. The garden was designed by Lissa Bluhm.

swamp milkweed seeds
The garden was planted with over 1000 native plants, representing over 50 species. Rebecca said that it took about three weeks to plant the spiral. There is a mix of prairie and wetland plants. Blooming this week are bright red cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, black-eyed susans, purple New-England aster, sky-blue aster, calico aster, the closed gentian, and goldenrods. The beauty of gardens such as this is often found in looking for details. The seeds of a swamp milkweed, just opening, form ranks of ovals- a pleasing pattern.

Rain gardens are planted in areas which receive run-off water, usually from parking lots, roofs or lawns. The plants will tolerate the extra moisture and slow the velocity of the water movement, thus reducing erosion and trapping pollutants. Rebecca added that they hope to use the garden for educational purposes as well.

The project is a collaborative effort of A.F.F.E.W. and West Shore Community College. A.F.F.E.W. stands for A Few Friends for the Environment of the World, and is a Ludington-based environmental group.

See A.F.F.E.W.
See for other examples of rain gardens
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Commentary: White Pine Wind Farm

Patty O'Connell explains the locations
of the proposed towers,
at the Open House on Sept 30

by Joan H. Young

Yesterday I attended one of the open house sessions which provided further information about the proposal to place 15 wind turbines within the Manistee National Forest. I came away slightly better informed, but no more settled on how I feel about this proposed project. Many other people were there as well, and I heard a lot of people also bemoaning the difficulty of wholeheartedly endorsing this idea.

BP Alternative Energy provided a state-of-the-art virtual tour of the area where the turbines will be placed. Superimposed on a video of a drive down Forest Trail, approaching Lake Michigan Recreation Area (LMRA), are animations of the turbines. Thus you are able to visualize how much the towers will be seen. The answer is, from the road, not too much. Well, sort of... If some of the alternative tower sites are chosen, there are several towers which will be close to the road. And of course there are other places one might be, other than the road.

From the north viewing platform at LMRA only the tops of the towers will be visible. The virtual tour shows this. It also indicates that not much will be visible from the beach. However, the virtual tour does not point out at all the fact that the towers will be very visible from anywhere out on the water, looking back at the shoreline. I imagine they will be quite visible from the higher, south viewing platform. The virtual tour makers selected the sites to show us very carefully.

The Forest Service will be taking a lot of heat, I suspect, over this proposal. However, they are just doing their job. When Special Use Permits are requested, they are obligated to consider them. A bevy of rangers was on hand at the open house, politely answering questions and explaining things. I saw several posters, and the virtual display by the energy company, but I did not see any human representing them. Maybe they had just stepped out for a moment when I was there...

The roads which will be constructed and improved will be dirt roads; no new pavement will be laid down. Except for the eastern section between the substation and the main transmission line, all the cables will be underground.

Construction will disrupt the use of LMRA. There will be times when the access road will be closed, rendering that entire campground, beach, trail system, and other facilities inaccessible by vehicle. Of course this will be temporary.

I have come across other wind farms while hiking, particularly in New York State. In one place the North Country Trail passes quite close to the base of a turbine. And in another location there is a flock of turbines just a hill or so away. I have to say that in both of these cases, my reaction is positive. The turbines are big, yes, but impressive big, not ugly big. Somehow they don't cause the same visceral reaction of hatred that a single cell tower on a hilltop creates. They are very quiet.

And of course, they provide clean energy. It's estimated that the White Pine Wind Farm will produce 50-70 megawatts of power.

And now for the NIMBY part (Not In My Back Yard). I would love to endorse this project. But why, oh why, do they have to want to build it right next to the only designated wilderness in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Nordhouse Dunes? Nordhouse is directly to the south of the project area. The ridge on which a great deal of that wilderness sits is higher than the turbine locations. So I suspect that there will be some spots within the wilderness from which you will be able to see them. And from a boat, I suspect that not many people can easily tell where the wilderness boundary is. They just look shoreward and see a beautiful, uncluttered coastline. Now.

Well, I have 12 days to decide what my comments to the Forest Service will be. I wonder what I will say.

See Public Comment Sought on White Pines Wind Turbine Project Near Nordhouse Dunes
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