Monday, December 31, 2007

Sled Dog Racing- A North American Tradition

Mushers at Au Gres Fun Run
Mushers at Au Gres Fun Run
photo from M.U.S.H.
Sled dog racing is one of North America's oldest winter sports and can be traced back to the Eskimos and Northern Indians. They depend on teams of sled dogs for faithful companionship, assistance in hunting and as a sole means of transportation during the long winter months. In 1908, the first formal racing event the "All Alaskan Sweepstakes" was run from Nome to Candle and back, a distance of 408 miles, with a winning time of 119 hours, 15 minutes, 12 seconds.

In January 1925, Nome once again became the site of another historic race. Diphtheria was discovered and the supply of antitoxin was inadequate to avoid an epidemic. A reply of 22 native and mail teams forged through the rough interior of Alaska and across the frozen Bering Sea to deliver the serum on time. Sled dog teams have also aided exploration of northern frontiers by Byrd, Peary and Amundsen.

Artic breeds such as Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds and Siberian Huskies are frequently used in sled dog racing but other breeds have also been used and crossbreeds are common. Belgian Tervurens, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers and other breeds may be seen in many races together with their crossbred cousins. Often referred to as the Alaskan Husky – the Alaskan Husky is the hybrid sled dog.

The dogs of today's racing teams have strong, slightly arched backs, well-angled shoulders and a deep chest, denoting good lung capacity. Compact tough feet and a protective coat of hair aid the dogs. Size is also a very important factor with most racing dogs averaging 23 inches at the shoulders and weighing less than 55 pounds. An overweight dog, like an overweight person cannot run marathon distances at a competitive pace. Drivers favor dogs that are even-tempered, gentle and able to stand the pressures of a rigorous training and schedule. A sled dog may put in 2,000 miles in a training season and be transported in vehicles many thousands of miles over the coarse of a 3-month season.

Sled dogs are among the best cared for animals in the world. Because the sport is based on athletic performance, the Musher must be constantly alert to anything that might endanger the health of his or her dog team members. Many mushers use a balanced and fortified meat-based diet to provide the compact, highly digestible high quality protein and energy that the dogs need.

Mid Union Sled Haulers (M.U.S.H.) holds races throughout the state during the winter months. Western Michigan venues include Jan. 12-13 Fort Custer St. Pk., Jan. 19-20 Lost Lake Boy Scout Reservation, Farwell, MI, and Feb. 16-17 Wooden Nickel Memorial, Baldwin MI.

from Mid Union Sled Haulers, M.U.S.H.- see FAIR USE notice.
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Agriculture And Natural Resources Week - Not Just for Farmers

Agriculture and Natural Resources Week (ANR Week) continues to be one of the largest events of its kind in the nation. ANR Week 2008 provides a wide-variety of topics in areas such as agriculture, horticulture, and natural resources, i.e. Quiet Water Symposium, Michigan Wildflower Conference, Growing of Michigan's Organic Future, MSRBA Rabbit Show, Michigan Audubon Society and the 80th state convention of the Michigan FFA.

Foundations for the week were laid by the Farmers' Institute more than a century ago. In 1898, Michigan Agricultural College hosted the first state-wide Farmers' Institute "Round-Up." Agriculture Hall was completed in 1909 and a fourth floor auditorium provided the meeting place. Five years later the round-up combined with farm association meetings to become the first "Farmers' Week."

The topics of interest over 90 years has changed with the times. In the 1960's is was the space age, in the 70's is was science and cybernetics, and the 80's bought forth issues related to world hunger. In 1982, Farmers' Week became Farmers' Week and Natural Resources Days followed by another name change in 1985 to Agriculture and Natural Resources Week. The event now hosts more than 150 programs and annual association meetings.

For 35 of the first 50 years, a moving force behind Farmers' Week was Ralph W. Tenny, director of agricultural short courses. From 1924-1959 he guided the event which drew nation-wide attention. Another Farmers' Week pioneer was R.J. Baldwin, director of MSU's Cooperative Extension Service from 1914 to1948. Dean Ernest L. Anthony also played a stellar role in the first 50 years of history. The animal science building is named in his honor. The trio of MSU "elder Statemen" are but a few of the many leaders who have contributed to the half-century success of Farmers' Week. Thomas Thorburn served as general chairperson from 1978-1988 In 1989, Wilma Miller became the program coordinator for ANR Week and served through 1995. In 1996, Sandi Bauer became the program coordinator until 2007. Megghan Honke is the current program coordinator.

from Michigan State University, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
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Strong Arms - High Speed

Chris Klebl, a member of the U.S. National Disabled Nordic Ski Team, cruises down the back stretch of the sit-ski course
photo by Dan Schneider/ Daily Mining Gazette
The U.S. National Disabled Nordic Ski Team will ski in the first race of the 2008 U.S. National Cross Country Skiing Championships. The races begin Tuesday in Houghton, Michigan.

A sit-ski has a custom molded seat attached with an aluminum frame to a regular pair of skis. The skis attach to the frame with various conventional bindings. International competition requires the seat to be 30 centimeters above the skis, but after that athletes are free to improvise.

"This is about it for us in the U.S., and there's what, six of us," said Sean Halsted, referring to himself and his teammates on the U.S. National Disabled Nordic Ski Team. Sean was injured while in the military in 1998, and at first thought he'd never be able to participate in athletics again. But he was introduced to sit-skiing in 2001 at a winter sports clinic offered by the Disabled American Veterans.

First he tried downhill skiing, but decided that he preferred Nordic style. At first, he admitted, he thought it looked impossible. Nordic Sit-skiers propel themselves exclusively with their arms, double-poling all the time.

California Polytechnic State University is studying the dynamics of sit-ski equipment, but little other scientific work has been done on the topic. Since there are so few sit-skiers, Halsted said, the sport does not have the benefit of commercial research and development.

Members of the U.S. national team will compete Tuesday with laps on the 2.8-kilometer course at the Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Trails. The race begins at 9 a.m. The men on the team — Chris Klebl, Bob Balk, Greg Mallory, Andy Soule and Halsted will race 11.2 kilometers. Monica Bascio, the one female member of the team, will race 8.4 kilometers.

from Mining Gazette, "Strong arms and high speed", Dec 31, 2007
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Bend, 1,2 Lift 3,4 - Reduce Stroke Risk

People who have good physical function after the age of 40 may lower their risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent compared to people who are not able to climb stairs, kneel, bend, or lift as well, according to research published in the December 11, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, researchers examined 13,615 men and women in the United Kingdom from 1993 to 1997 who were between the ages of 40 and 79 and had not suffered a stroke, heart attack or cancer. Participants were then asked to complete a self-reported test on their physical function 18 months later that looked at how well they were able to climb stairs, carry groceries, kneel, bend and lift. Researchers monitored how many strokes were suffered in this group through 2005.

The study found that people who scored in the top quartile on the physical function test had a 50-percent lower risk of stroke than those with the lowest test scores. This finding remained unchanged after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, high blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, physical activity, social class, alcohol consumption and respiratory function.

The study also found for every increase of 10 points on the test, men had a reduced risk of stroke by 19 percent and women had a 29 percent lower stroke risk.

"People who reported better physical health had significantly lower risk of stroke," said study author Phyo Kyaw Myint, MRCP, with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "This is independent of the known risk factors for stroke in the general population."

Myint says people with poor physical function may represent a high risk population for stroke. "This physical function test may identify apparently healthy men and women at an increased risk of stroke who may benefit the most from preventative treatments."

Myint says it's also possible that poor physical function may reflect underlying health issues, such as chronic inflammation, which may lead to vascular disease. He says increasing physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables, which has been associated with better physical function, may also help to reduce stroke risk.

a news release of the American Academy of Neurology , "Good physical function after age 40 tied to reduced risk of stroke", Dec 10, 2007
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108th Audubon Bird Count, Local Date - Jan 5, 2008

The tradition continues of counting birds across the Americas
Michigan Birds
Michigan Birds publication
Last season's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is in the record books and the upcoming 108th Christmas Bird Count has begun, the field season for which began on Friday, December 14th, 2007 and runs through Saturday, January 5th, 2008. Please remember that the dates of the CBC period every season run from 14 December to 5 January; the count period was expanded and permanently set to these dates after the 100th Count.

Meanwhile, the 107th Christmas Bird Count summary issue of American Birds went to press in October, with articles including the release of the 2007 WatchList and a feature by Scott Weidensaul on how Christmas Bird Count results may help us track birds as they respond to global climate change. Other features highlight unique experiences and sightings during CBCs in Iowa and Ohio, as well as how CBC data help our understanding of the status of introduced doves in Florida. Additionally, as is the tradition the complete overall and Regional Summaries from all areas are included, with many photos submitted by compilers and participants.

Mason, Manistee, Lake and Oceana Counties are conducting their counts on January 5.

from Michigan Audubon Society
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Sunday, December 30, 2007

28-Year-Old Michigan Man Dies Snowboarding Mt. Hood

Eric McConeghy
Eric McConeghy
Eric McConeghy of Howell, Michigan, lost control during a snowboard jump and fell head first into a tree well in deep powder snow. He was buried to his waist. Friends tried to pull him out, but McConeghy suffocated as they struggled to free him.

The accident occurred at Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort. An emergency rescue crew pulled McConeghy out after 15 minutes. He had stopped breathing, and the team applied CPR for nearly two hours but were not successful in reviving the man.

McConeghy is a 1997 graduate of Brighton High School. Services will be held in Brighton starting Wednesday.

McConeghy is the second person to die this year in an accident on Mount Hood.

from MLive, "Snowboarder who grew up in Mich. dies after fall in Oregon", Dec 29, 2007
from WZZM TV, "Michigan Man Dies on Mount Hood", Dec 29, 2007
from WOOD TV, "Michigan man dies in snowboarding accident", Dec 29, 2007
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Big Scare for Lost Brothers at Sleeping Bear

Remember last Sunday, you Michiganders? That's the day the weather started out in the 40's, who could believe it? But by mid afternoon the winds were gusting to 50 mph, snow was driving sideways with blizzard conditions and the temperatures had dropped to the 20's.

Ryan and Curtis Yost, ages 16 and 21, had gone to Sleeping Bear to snowboard on that ominous day. They found icy conditions at The Homestead Resort, so decided to climb the dune instead. They entered the park before noon.

At 3:30 pm Curtis called his mother on their cell phone. She was driving home from Traverse City and said that she couldn't see the next telephone pole, conditions were so bad. She told the boys to try to determine their location and call her back in 15 minutes.

The boys thought they were walking back to their car, but instead ended up on the shore of Lake Michigan. They were found with the aid of the GPS locator in the boys' cell phone. Although it was working only intermittently, rescue workers were able to tell the boys to go down to the beach.

Volunteers from the Glen Arbor Township Fire and Rescue established a rescue staging area near a maritime museum in Glen Haven. An all-terrain vehicle drove down the shoreline looking for the boys, but encountered high waves, and sand falling from the bluffs. After a mile-and-a-half the searchers continued on foot.

Darkness fell, and the rescue crew stated that they couldn't see 100 feet ahead of them.

Ryan is reported to have laid down, but his brother Curtis roused him and insisted that he stay active.

Shortly after 6 p.m. the boys were located. They were checked over by the ambulance team, and given a stern lecture.

"Fortunately, everything worked out. But I lectured them about the weather conditions and that they put a lot of people in harm's way as a result of their actions," Park ranger Chris Johnson said. "If they hadn't had the cell phone, the results could have been drastically different."

read the full story in the Leelanau Enterprise, "Lost brothers create Lakeshore scare", Dec 29, 2007
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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Girl's Death Raises Ski Slope Design Questions

Clare Dougherty, the 13-year-old girl who crashed into a barrier and died while skiing at Schuss Mountain may have had trouble stopping in time at the end of a ski run. Some say that this is due to a lack of regulation of Michigan ski hills.

Some skiers say that there is nothing to prevent someone from running into barriers, and that the stopping distances are too short.

Mark Doman, manager of ski and amusement safety for the Michigan Ski Area Safety Board, determined that no laws were broken. The Ski Area Safety Act governs lifts, rope tows and vehicles on hills and some signs.

Trail design, however, is not covered by the regulations. The resort has launched its own investigation into the incident. Jack Eslick, COO for Shanty Creek Resorts said that there have never been any safety issues voiced concerning the slope.

Clare's family has stated that they do not plan to sue the resort, but have hopes that problems will be corrected.

from MLive, "Girl's death sheds light on lack of Michigan ski trail design regulations", Dec 29, 2007
See Canton Township Girl Dies in Ski Accident at Schuss Mountain
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Leave No Trace 2008 Master Educator Courses

Leave No Trace is an national and international program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they hike, camp, picnic, snowshoe, run, bike, hunt, paddle, ride horses, fish, ski or climb. The program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations.

Leave No Trace Training
Regardless of the outdoor activity, Leave No Trace skills are important to learn. Leave No Trace courses function like a pyramid. Master Educator courses are at the top of the pyramid and train people to become comprehensive Leave No Trace educators, or Master Educators. Master Educators, in turn, teach the second level, the Trainer Course, to people who become Leave No Trace Trainers. Trainers (or Master Educators) are then able to conduct our third level of training called Awareness Workshops, which are designed for the general public and promote Leave No Trace.

Master Educator Courses
A Master Educator course is typically five-days in length and designed for people who are actively teaching others outdoor skills or providing recreation information to the public. Currently, there are over 2700 Leave No Trace Master Educators worldwide representing dozens of countries and all 50 U.S. states. This valuable training is recognized throughout the world by the outdoor industry, land management agencies and the outdoor recreation community. Successful graduates of the Master Educator course have the ability to train others in Leave No Trace skills as well as facilitate Leave No Trace Trainer courses and Awareness Workshops.

Classes for 2008 are scheduled in all four corners of the United States: North Carolina to Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona and more. Follow the link below for complete information.

a news release of Leave No Trace
See Leave No Trace Training, for details of sessions (a pdf)
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Kikkan Randall to Ski at Houghton US National Championship

Kikkan Randall
Kikkan Randall
photo credit: Jonathan Selkowitz,
Kikkan Randall became the first American woman to win a cross-country ski event in a World Cup competition on Dec. 16 in Rybinsk, Russia. Not since 1983, when Bill Koch won, has an American taken a World Cup cross-country event. Randall won the 1.2km freestyle sprint, beating Norway's Astrid Jacobsen.

Growing up in Alaska, Randall became a champion cross-country runner. During the long dark days of Alaskan winters, she took up skiing to stay in condition.

The Europeans have always had an advantage over Americans, explained Luke Bodensteiner the US Ski Team's Nordic director. They come from a skiing culture, while American's tend to view the sport as family-oriented and recreational, rather than competitive.

Randall was 19 when she made her Olympic debut in Salt Lake City. She finished 44th in the first Olympic sprint. Last year in Turin, she came in 9th, the best result by an American woman in cross-country skiing.

No American woman has ever won an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing.

Randall and other members of the US team will ski in Houghton, Michigan, for the national championships. The event is staged from December 31, 2007 - January 8, 2008.

There are three streaming web cams where the finish areas can be seen by on line viewers. Follow the link below for the Championships.

from the Taipei Times, "Randall earns first US win in skiing discipline since 80s", Dec 29, 2007
See 2008 Cross Country Championships
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Michigan Kids Should Be as Lucky as these Hoosiers

Fort Wayne kids outdoor camp
John Moore, a volunteer for the camp at Fox Island, points out different types of birds to Kelsey Haley, 11, left, and Kolin Behrens, 9, right, during a hike in the woods.
photo by Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Without the help of computer aids, PowerPoint slideshows or videos, the group of children at Fox Island Nature Preserve near Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Thursday was getting an education and a breath of fresh air at the same time. The Winter Survival Day Camp was in session, and nature was the classroom.

For two days, campers learn the ins and outs of winter wilderness, complete with hiking trips, survival training, marshmallow "snowball" fights and, of course, fun.

With more children spending most of their time indoors, there is a danger of a generation out of touch with nature, said Natalie Haley, Fox Island environment educator.

"The idea behind this (program) is to get kids to develop naturally outside," she said. "There are so many things they have to be inside for all the time now. This will teach them how to enjoy the outdoors."

Thursday’s education started with learning to build fires, and Haley was surprised to find that some in the group had never held a match before.

Animal track identification came next, leading up to the hour-long nature hike with Ron Zartman, the park and education manager.

"We really want these kids to enjoy themselves," Zartman said. "We hope that they become aware of their surroundings and start to appreciate nature. We want them to develop a love for the outdoors so they will stick with us through the years."

read the full story in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, "Camp focuses on nature", by Allie Townsend, Dec 28, 2007- see FAIR USE notice
Fox Island Nature Preserve
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Friday, December 28, 2007

Why Exertion Leads to Exhaustion

Scientists have found an explanation for runners who struggle to increase their pace, cyclists who can't pedal any faster and swimmers who can't speed up their strokes. Researchers from the University of Exeter and Kansas State University have discovered the dramatic changes that occur in our muscles when we push ourselves during exercise.

We all have a sustainable level of exercise intensity, known as the "critical power". This level can increase as we get fitter, but will always involve us working at around 75-80% of our maximal capacity. Published in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, this research shows why, when we go beyond this level, we have to slow down or stop altogether. This is the first time that scientists have looked at processes taking place inside the muscles when we exceed the critical power.

The study showed that when we exceed our critical power, the normally-stable pH level in our muscles, is quickly pushed to levels typical of exhaustion. Moreover, the level of phosphocreatine in the muscles, a high-energy compound which serves as an energy reserve, is quickly depleted when exercise intensity exceeds the critical power.

Professor Andy Jones of the University of Exeter, lead author on the paper, said: "The concept of 'critical power' is well known by sportspeople, but until now we have not known why our bodies react so dramatically when we exceed it. We were astonished by the speed and scale of change in the muscles."

The research team used a magnetic resonance scanner to assess changes in metabolites in the leg muscles of six male volunteers who exercised just below and just above the critical power.

The research offers a physical explanation for the experiences of exercisers of all levels of ability. Professor Jones concludes: "The results indicate that the critical power represents the highest exercise intensity that is sustainable aerobically. This means that it is likely to be an important intensity for maximising training gains. Exercising above the critical power cannot be sustained for long because it is associated with changes in the muscle which lead to fatigue."

news release of the University of Exeter , "Why exertion leads to exhaustion", Dec 20, 2007
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Preserving Our Equine Heritage On Public Lands Act

Many who enjoy recreational riding on public lands are concerned about the reduction of trails, trail heads and the closure of public lands to horses and pack animals. Access to areas to ride is one of the most important issues facing riders. To prevent further closures, recreational riders are working closely with their federal, state and local land managers and also looking for federal legislative solutions.

Senate Legislation
On November 1, 2007, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act (S. 2283). Senator Crapo introduced similar legislation in the last Congress.

This bill recognizes the importance of saddle and pack stock in the settling, exploration and recreation of our country by ensuring that the horse's historic and traditional use is recognized as our public lands are managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service.

The bill directs the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to manage the federal lands under their jurisdiction "in a manner that preserves and facilitates the continued use and access of pack and saddle stock animals" on lands on which "there is a historical tradition" of use. The bill applies to the management of the National Park System, BLM lands, National Wildlife Refuge System land, and National Forest System land.

The bill provides that such lands "shall remain open and accessible to the use of pack and saddle stock animals" where there is a tradition of use, but does not limit the federal agencies' ultimate authority to restrict such use, provided the agencies perform the review required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The bill would also impose additional specific and designated procedures to be followed by agencies before any land closures to horses. These procedures include advance notice of any proposed reduction in use to allow public comment, convening a public meeting near the area involved, and collaboration with various users during the process.

The bill directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to issue a policy within 180 days of enactment that defines the meaning of "historical tradition of the use of pack and saddle stock animals" on federal lands.

Congressional Action
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Editorial Comment: There may be two side to this issue in eastern forests where the public land units are smaller. Horse trails, bicycle trails, and foot trails are not necessarily compatible. It could be argued that any area of North America has a tradition of use by pack and saddle horses, and that equestrians therefore should be allowed on any trail. Although this bill provides for the right of the land management agencies to restrict horse use, under this wording it may impose a new burden of review and paperwork.

from the American Horse Council
Read the text of S 2283, Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Land Act
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Ludington Duo Sailing "Somewhere Warm"

The Wanderer
The Wanderer
Two Ludington men, Wayne Dewyer and Ryan Quick, left the Great Lakes in September with the goal of sailing "somewhere warm."

Their 27-foot sloop the Wanderer has now taken them as far as Myrtle Beach, North Carolina.

From Ryan's Blog, December 26:

Greetings back home, here's a little update about our adventure thus far. It's been smooth sailing (no pun intended) the last few days. Although we ran into some restricted waters; apparently that was where the Marines were using as practice. Wayne and I kept hearing fully-automatic shots being fired and these military boats kept flying by us with military men manning the .50 caliber guns. That was about the time Wayne and I looked at each other and asked ourselves "did we take a wrong turn somewhere?" We weren't in the area very long before we had a military boat escort us out of there.

After we got out of the Resctricted Area, it got dark and we dropped Kong (our 80 lb anchor), and relaxed for the night. For the first few hours we had military helicopters flying JUST over our mast every 15 minutes or so, almost like clockwork. After preparing some sandwiches and rice, we sat on top of the boat and watched the drills go on during the night. You could see the tracers of the guns they were using, it was our entertainment for the night.

The next day, which was Christmas day, we hit Myrtle Beach, which looked like a ghost town! This is where we docked for the day to celebrate our Christmas. Absolutely beautiful town, and about every type of shop you can think of exists here. It's such a beautiful town to stop in, and it's a shame nothing is open due to the holidays. I feel like we're walking through an old western village.

From Wayne's Blog, December 21:

My Catalina 28, She was built in California at the Catalina plant in 1973 with a lot of soul and heart I might add. I refer to her as she. I'll tell you why just wait. This boat is referred to as she because it reminds of a women, she cost a lot to maintain, demands attention daily, and pisses me off every other day. But, But she has beautiful lines, has grace and beauty, and is my rock when I know I need to count on her to get us through the days sail. See you thought you were going to hear something bad.

She came with six sails. We have two main sails, two jibs, one Genoa and a running spinnaker. We have an Auto helm this allows us to dial in a course, a compass reading and set the helm, a computer and leave the cockpit and the auto helm will steer for us. Its like having cruise control on your car except you can leave the steering wheel to go to the back seat or some thing. The Auto Helm is like magic as the wind picks up the rod attacked to the tiller will just move to compensate the gusts of wind.

from Wayne's MySpace
Ryan's MySpace
Ludington Daily News Blog, more from the adventurers
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Michigan - Speaking with Forked Tongue?

Michigan is big on promoting its natural resources as a major tourist attraction, but small on coming through with money to support those resources. Based on data from 2006, the Citizen's Research Council of Michigan reports:

Michigan ranked at 34th of the 50 states in full time equivalent (FTE) employees working in natural resources per capita. Michigan has 4.5 state employees per 10,000 residents working in this sector.

In the area of Parks and Recreation, Michigan has 0.3 FTE employees per 10,000, while the national average is 1.1 FTEs in this field.

For those who drive in Michigan it may come as no surprise that Michigan ranked worst in state highway employees per capita. Michigan had 2.9 state highway employees per 10,000 residents. So if you want to travel to all the great recreation sites the state is promoting, you can take your chances on the condition of the roads.

Citizen's Research Council of Michigan seeks to provide information on several aspects of the budget debate: the relative size of the state’s public sector workforce, comparing the number and distribution of Michigan government employees with those of other states; the relative size of the state and local government workforce; and the relative cost of state employees, comparing average salaries and fringe benefit costs of Michigan state employees to those of other states’ employees.

The debate about the appropriate size of state government underlies efforts to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to Michigan’s structural budget deficit.

Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania are among the states with the largest absolute numbers of state and local government employees, yet the fewest state and local employees relative to population. Michigan ranked 45th of the 50 states in the number of state and local FTE employees per 10,000 residents

read the full report at Citizen's Research Council of Michigan, a 16 page pdf file
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Outdoor Eyes Forum Connects Outdoor Fans

Outdoor Eyes Logo
Outdoor Eyes Logo
The web forum named Outdoor Eyes is only one aspect of what this site offers. The "Find A Partner Community" brings people together with common interests in outdoor activities: hiking, kayaking, backpacking, canoeing, snowshoeing, walking, outdoor photography and much more. Find friends that like to do the same things as you. It's that simple. Join today and create your own community of friends.

Another major facet of Outdoor Eyes is its photography section. Photographers can post pictures which are available for purchase. The "Outdoor Photography Forum" contains specialized topics as wildlife photography, outdoor photography, digital editing, landscape photography, macro photography, B&W photography, techniques, gear and much more. Beginners, advanced and professional photographers are all invited. A separate photography forum focuses on that aspect of outdoor appreciation.

There is also "The Outdoor Adventure" resource section which brings you educational articles on "How To Choose", "How To Use" & "How To Take Care Of" articles about kayaking, backpacking, GPS, hiking, camping, gear, snowshoeing, birding, wildlife tracking, expeditions and more.

from Outdoor Eyes
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US House Approves FY 2008 Budget With National Parks a Winner

The U.S. House of Representatives have given approval to an "Omnibus" appropriations bill for FY 2008 providing funding for nearly $474 billion in domestic spending programs. The Senate began considering this legislation yesterday. The bill will provide an approximate $150 million boost in National Park Service operations budget and an immediate $25 million start-up for the Centennial Challenge Fund.

The FY08 Budget is still not final, as the House and Senate must resolve differences largely relating to funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan war operations. Yet, the likely outcome for the National Park Service is clear and this is an important forward step. The Congress did not include the full increases requested by the President for the National Park Service under the NPS Centennial Initiative, but it did provide for very significant increases. The House-passed funding package, which was the result of informal House-Senate appropriations committee negotiations, provides a total of $2,001,809,000 for national park operations. This budget is $46 million below the House-passed funding level, $43 million above the Senate provision and approximately $55 million below the President's request.

However, the Congress has provided $25 million for the start-up of the Centennial Challenge program and boosted the NPS construction account by some $20 million over the President's request. Also noteworthy is the available funds cover a twelve month period, but nearly three months of that period have already passed with spending at a lower FY07 level. This signifies the full-year increases will actually be available for a nine month period.

The $25,000,000 for the Centennial Challenge program was provided to initiate the new proposed ten-year effort planned to generate at least $2 billion for the renewal of the National Park system for its next century. All funds must be matched on a 50/50 basis. The Appropriations Committees agreed to these funds as interim funding to allow the program to commence in 2008. Funds will be administered under the existing NPS challenge cost share program structure. We were delighted by the encouraging statement in the report by the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate that they "expect that permanent authorization will be enacted during the 110th Congress for the full ten-year program effort." Centennial Challenge Projects are to be selected competitively and are to serve Park Service needs and priorities.

The President is expected to receive and sign the final FY08 funding package before Christmas. Note: FY08 began on October 1, 2007.

What's Next:

Passage of the Omnibus legislation will bring to an end the FY 2008 appropriations cycle. It took longer than expected for Congress to finish their work, due to the veto threats made on most of the 13 appropriations bills. The House and Senate will recess until mid-January at the end of this week. The President is scheduled to give the State of the Union on January 28, 2008 and the FY 2009 budget will be announced in early February. ARC will keep all of its members updated on the progress of this important legislation.

from American Trails, "National Parks and FYO8 Appropriations approved by House", Dec 20, 2007-
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Michigan Receives Safe Routes to School Award

At a recent ceremony in the nation's capitol, Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School, presented the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) with the first annual national "James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award." U.S. Representative Oberstar presided at the presentation of the award that bears his name in recognition of his role in creating the federal Safe Routes to School (SR2S) funding program in 2005. This first-ever award recognizes exemplary effort on the part of a state department of transportation in developing and launching the program.

"Every child who walks or bikes to school has a right to be safe," said Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. "Everyone benefits from Safe Routes to School programs that encourage children to be active and healthy."

The federal SR2S program will provide a total of approximately $16 million to Michigan from fiscal year 2005 through 2009 for investment in projects to create and improve infrastructure (sidewalks, marked crosswalks, etc.) to make routes safe, implement law enforcement strategies (police patrols, crossing guards), and begin education and encouragement programs to ensure that parents and students know how to walk and bike safely, and to provide incentives to get kids moving.

State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle said that MDOT could not have achieved this recognition without the core network of state level partners working with the department: the Michigan Departments of Education and Community Health; Michigan State University and Wayne State University; and nonprofit groups including the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, the League of Michigan Bicyclists, and Programs for All Cyclists.

"Our most important partner from the beginning has been and continues to be the Michigan Fitness Foundation/Governor's Council on Physical Fitness (MFF). MDOT and MFF have worked together on Safe Routes in Michigan since 2003, when MDOT funded MFF to develop Michigan's Safe Routes to School Handbook," Steudle said.

The handbook is available to any elementary or middle school in Michigan interested in developing a plan of action to create safe routes for their school. Since announcement of Michigan's program and handbook in May 2006, over 250 schools in Michigan (more than 5 percent of the state's elementary and middle schools) have registered to undertake the handbook planning process which, when completed, qualifies schools to apply for funding.

Michael Eberlein, MDOT's SR2S coordinator, said that the rapid growth of interest in SR2S in Michigan has been very gratifying.

"Our partnership approach at the state level is replicated at the local level by school planning teams that typically include parents and students, teachers and administrators, police agencies and public works departments, health officials and interested citizens. The list goes on. All of these partners have something to contribute in identifying barriers to safe walking and biking, and creating strategies to eliminate them," Eberlein said.

Typically, these partners bring resources too, human or financial, since the limited federal funding can't take care of every need at every school, he added.

from Michigan Contractor and Builder, "Michigan Receives Safe Routes Award", Dec 31, 2007- see FAIR USE notice.
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Veronica Valley Purchase- Leelanau Commission Votes Yes

The Leelanau County Planning Commission has recommended that the county continue to pursue its plan to purchase the former Veronica Valley Golf Course for use as a county park - but not without some red flags being raised by commission members.

Comments from commissioners opposing the purchase sais that it will cost taxpayers too much money, and that the loss of tax revenue has not been taken into account.

Following a lengthy and sometimes contentious discussion, the Leelanau County Planning Commission voted 8-1 in favor of a motion to pursue purchase of the Veronica Valley property.

The 93-acre Veronica Valley property belongs to William and Diane Grant, who developed and operated a golf course on the site between 1991 and 2004. In 2004, they offered to sell their property to Leelanau County for use as a park for $800,000 – but stipulated that it must not be used as a golf course.

Current plans call for the Veronica Valley property to be used for a variety of "passive" recreational purposes – hiking, picnicking, nature viewing and the like. The recreational park is planned to have a fairly low maintenance budget with limited mowing, woodchip paths, elevated boardwalks, and viewing platforms.

The agreement from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund commits the county to complete the acquisition project no later than October 31, 2008. The $600,000 grant is a reimbursement which means the county needs to expend funds first, and then request a reimbursement through the grant agreement.

The Veronica Valley property is located in Bingham Township, Leelanau County, along County Road 641 (Lake Leelanau Drive) and Maple Valley Road.

read the full article in the Leelanau Enterprise, "Land purchase plan for park advances", by Eric Carlson, Dec 27, 2007- see FAIR USE notice.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

High Ropes Nature Experience - Mackinac City 2008

Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park Zip Line
Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park Zip Line
courtesy photo
On May 5,2008, visitors to the 625-acre Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park will have the opportunity to explore nature from an eagle's eye view as they soar over Mill Creek on the Eagle's Flight Zip Line and walk through the treetops on the Forest Canopy Bridge. A park naturalist will guide visitors through this high ropes nature experience.

"This is a thrilling new way to learn about the natural wonders of our northern Michigan environment," said Mackinac State Historic Parks' Director Phil Porter. "These experiences will provide insight, education and understanding."

According to Jeff Dykehouse, curator of natural history at Mackinac State Historic Parks, the experience will offer a chance to learn about animals like squirrels and birds while experiencing the thrill of walking through the forest canopy and gliding over a pond.

"Some of the discovery park elements will let visitors get up into the different layers of the forest where they can better learn about the animals that live there," Dykehouse said.

Attractions for small children are also being added. Young adventurers can explore the Water Power Station and interact in the Forest Friends Play Area.

The Mackinac Island State Park Commission is pleased to work with local partners who are helping to make these many new interactive features possible, including Mackinac Associates, which is funding the Forest Canopy Bridge, and Presque Isle Electric and Gas Co-op, our local Touchstone Energy Cooperative, which is funding the Water Power Station.

According to Porter, the high ropes nature experience is being added to appeal to a broader audience. "This initiative takes advantage of new, interactive experiences used in other eco-tourism destinations," Porter said. "Our new programs will combine all of the existing educational and interpretive messages of Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and deliver them in new and exciting ways."

Construction, underway by Mackinac State Historic Parks and Ropes Courses, Inc. of Allegan, Michigan, is scheduled to be completed by season opening.

Also available at the park are favorites that have been enjoyed throughout the years, including the 18th-century, authentically reconstructed Millwright's House, sawpit and water-powered sawmill.

"Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park will continue to focus on the historic and natural themes that have characterized the site since it opened. As a discovery park, however, these themes will be presented in new and dynamic ways to meet the expectations of today's visitor," said Mackinac State Historic Parks' Chief Curator Steven Brisson. "All new programs and hands-on, interpretive exhibits will be family-friendly and designed to encourage active learning."

Since Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park's opening in 1984, there have been many improvements to the park, including the reconstruction of the British Workshop and American Millwright's House, the creation of an audiovisual program, and the construction of a 3.5-mile nature trail system.

Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park is the site of northern Michigan's first industrial complex. Its history dates back to 1790 when, due to the demand in sawn lumber on Mackinac Island, an entrepreneur obtained use of 640 acres along Mill Creek to build a sawmill. The property eventually contained the sawmill, a gristmill, many buildings, a large orchard and 40 acres of cultivated land. The sawmill ceased operation in 1839, and over the next century the land reverted to wilderness. Through the efforts of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, an operating water-powered sawmill was reconstructed, and the site opened on June 15, 1984.

a news release of Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, "High Ropes Nature Experience to be Offered at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park", Dec 20, 2007
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Ottawa County Parks Township Millage Vote January 15

The parks and recreation millage is up for renewal in Park Township of Ottawa County. On January 15, voters will be asked if they want to move ahead with the plans to expand parks and preserve such specialty areas as a disc golf course, a dog park and Ashwood Reserve for kayakers on Lake Macatawa. There are twelve township parks in the system. Two community centers operate recreation programs for about 3000 people each year.

The township would also like to construct a skate park at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.

If the millage is approved it will renew the township's park tax for another 10 years at the rate of half a mill. This translates to about $50/ year on a $100,000 home.

Barb Burmeister, township parks and recreation department director, said, "We are pretty proud of our park system. By renewing our parks millage, we will continue to provide and preserve parks and open spaces that enhance the desirability of Park Township as a place to live and work."

from the Holland Sentinel, "Renewal of parks millage on Jan. 15 ballot", by Jeremy Gonsior Dec 26, 2007
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Leelanau County Township Receives $5000 DEQ Grant

Bingham Township has received word through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that it will receive a $5,000 grant to develop plans for the improvement of the township's Hendryx and Boughy parks on West Grand Traverse Bay.

The chairman of the township’s parks and recreation committee, Robert Walton, said his committee had considered bids from engineering firms to prepare site plans for the parks, and recommended that the Traverse City firm Gosling-Czubak be selected.

Township officials came under fire from DEQ and Army Corps of Engineers officials last year for “improving” Hendryx Park below the ordinary high water mark without the appropriate permits in violation of state and federal laws. The issue was one of the factors that led to the recall early this year of township supervisor Robert Foster who authorized the work without discussing it with the rest of the township board.

Acting at its regular monthly meeting Monday evening, the Bingham Township Board authorized clerk Peggy Core to sign a contract with Gosling-Czubak subject to the availability of grant funding and a final review of the contract by the township attorney.

Parks and recreation committee member Kathy Heil noted during Monday’s meeting that completion of site plans for the waterfront parks will put the township in a position to apply for additional grant funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that will help pay for actual improvements at the parks.

from the Leelanau Enterprise, "Grant to aid 2 Bingham parks", Dec 21, 2007- see FAIR USE notice
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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

SAD Depression Still Not Well Understood

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) manifests itself in a seasonal depression that sets in with the shorter days of fall and continues through the spring.

Although many people seem to suffer from such an actual cycle of depression, the January 2008 Harvard Health Letter reports that how the darker days cause depression is still not understood.

There are three theories concerning the connection:

1. Insensitivity to light may cause most people to stay emotionally even through the winter under artificial lighting, which boosts the weaker natural light of the season. But SAD sufferers may be more sensitive to light and thus need extra light to remain emotionally healthy.

2. Neural connections from the eyes to the brain may be part of what keeps us on a daily rhythm. But lower light in winter may put people with SAD out of phase with their biological clocks. Thus they find themselves alert and awake when their own internal clocks tell them it's time to be sleeping.

3. The processing of brain chemicals which affect moods, serotonin and dopamine, may be disrupted by low light.

Some SAD sufferes are helped by sitting in front of a strong light source for periods of time each day. But the Harvard Health Letter suggests that medication may be another solution.

from Harvard Health Letter, "A SAD story: Seasonal affective disorder", January 2008 issue, subscription required
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Reopens Comment Period On National Wildlife Refuge Draft Mosquito Control Policy

Responding to numerous requests from the public for more time to comment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened an additional 60-day public comment period on a draft mosquito management policy. The document outlines consistent guidance for determining the conditions under which national wildlife refuges will control mosquitoes. Notification of the public comment period was published in the Federal Register December 19, 2007.

The Service received 35 comments during the original 45-day comment period, which closed on November 29, 2007. Mosquito Control Districts in several states as well as members of the public asked for more time to respond.

The Service currently allows some form of mosquito control by state or local vector control agencies under Special Use Permits on approximately 40 national wildlife refuges, most of them in coastal areas. An interim Director's Order, issued in May 2005, provided guidance and consistency for mosquito management on refuges while a permanent policy was being developed.

The draft policy states that the Refuge System will allow populations of native mosquito species to exist unimpeded unless they pose a specific wildlife or human health threat. The draft policy also establishes guidelines for determining when mosquito populations occurring on national wildlife refuges pose a significant enough health threat or health emergency to either humans or wildlife that pesticides may be used on Refuge System lands to control them. When practical, the Service may also reduce mosquito populations on refuges using management actions that do not involve pesticides. All mosquito management regimes on Refuge System lands must use effective means of control that pose the lowest risk to wildlife and habitat, according to the draft policy.

"Mosquitoes are a natural component of most wetlands. Therefore, the Service will control populations of native mosquitoes on refuge lands only when they pose a threat to animals or humans," said Service Director H. Dale Hall. "Control measures on refuge lands must comply with Federal laws and be compatible with the purposes and mission of the refuge."

The Service allows pesticide treatments for mosquito population control on National Wildlife Refuge System lands when local, current mosquito population monitoring data have been collected and indicate that refuge-based mosquito populations are contributing to a human or wildlife health threat. Before any pesticides are applied on refuge lands, an approved pesticide use proposal must be in place.

The draft policy requires that refuge-specific mosquito management plans be developed in coordination with federal, state and/or local public health authorities that have expertise in vector-borne diseases, vector control agencies, and state fish and wildlife agencies. The plans will identify the specific conditions under which mosquito populations would be managed on the refuge, taking into account the local environment as well as current and historical mosquito-associated health threats.

The Service would also, where appropriate, collaborate with federal, state and/or local wildlife agencies, public health authorities, agriculture departments and vector control agencies to conduct education and public outreach activities to protect human and animal health from threats associated with mosquitoes.

a news release of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Dec 19, 2007 Comments on the draft policy can be submitted by mail to: Michael J. Higgins, Biologist, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 670, Arlington, Virginia 22203; by fax to 703-358-2248;
or by e-mail to
A copy of the draft policy can be found at
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Mulligan's Hollow Ski Bowl Opens Ahead of Schedule

The ski bowl at Grand Haven's Mulligan's Hollow opened Dec. 8, two weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to a cold snap and plenty of snow. Artificial snowmakers produced a thick base, which should help officials keep the facility open -- even if there's a break in the weather.

Matt Deater, 16, of Grand Haven, said he enjoys the skiing. "Having it open has been good," he said. "We're having a lot of fun."

from The Grand Rapids Press, "News Briefs", Dec 24, 2007- see FAIR USE notice.
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Canton Township Girl Dies in Ski Accident at Schuss Mountain

A 13-year-old girl from Canton Township, Michigan died as the result of head injuries in a skiing accident on Christmas day.

The Antrim County Sheriff's Department said that the girl went off a ski slope and struck a retaining wall. She was not wearing a helmet. Serious head trauma resulted. The girl was pronounced dead at Kalkaska Memorial Hospital.

A group of snowboarders discovered the accident and summoned help. The resort's ski patrol responded and emergency crews transported the victim to Kalkaska.

Jon Stultz, vice-president of sales and marketing for Shanty Creek Resorts, said that he was not aware of any previous fatalities at Schuss Mountain. "Our heart goes out to the family in this very tragic incident," he added.

from The Detroit News, "Canton Township girl, 13, killed in northern lower Michigan ski resort", by Paul Egan, Dec 25, 2007
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Suttons Bay Township Herman Park Funding Moves Forward

The Suttons Bay Township Board took steps last week to establish a formal relationship with the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation to help manage funds that will be used for the township's Herman Park project and other parks and recreation efforts.

At its regular monthly meeting last week, the board heard from community foundation representative Jeanne Snow, who explained how the foundation can assist the township.

In setting up a "Suttons Bay Regional Parks and Recreation Fund," the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation can accept private donations for the Herman Park project and other related projects as well invest the money and disburse it as required.

A year ago, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund announced that the township is slated to receive some $394,200 to help acquire about 120 acres of land along County Road 633 at Herman Road across from Suttons Bay Public Schools for use as a township park. The total project cost is expected to be around $600,000, with the township needing to raise funds to match the state grant and other grants it may receive.

At its Dec. 12 meeting, the township board voted 5-0 to authorize supervisor Rich Bahle to sign an agreement with the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.

read the full story in the Leelanau Enterprise, "Parks fund to get foundation help", Dec 25, 2007- see FAIR USE notice.
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Merry Christmas 2007 from Get Off The Couch

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Strap On Some Power

Arizona State University students have developed a backpack strap that generates power from the motion of the wearer. No motion other than ordinary walking is required.

Space age elastic metallic polymers are used in the generating mechanism. The project was undertaken for military applications. Soldiers often must carry 15-20 pounds of batteries to power such things as "GPS units, radios, satellite links, laptop computers, infrared goggles and lighting — not to mention cell phones and i-Pods."

The straps produce between 20 and 100 volts of electricity using the piezoelectric effect. "Piezoelectric" is the term for material that produces electric current when pressure is applied to them. Familiar devises which use this technique are gas grill lighters and cheap microphones.

Henry A. Sodano, a researcher in ASU’s Adaptive Intelligent Materials Systems Center, added that in civilian applications, someone hiking all day could store enough energy to power a highly efficient LED lighting at a campsite each night.

read the entire article in the Arizona Daily Star, "ASU research team develops power generating backpack strap", by Dan Sorenson, Dec 23, 2007
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Michigan Recreation and Park Association Conference

Traverse City will be the site of this year's "Grand Experience," the theme of the Michigan Recreation and Park Association 2008 conference and trade show. Grand Traverse Resort and Spa will host the conference. A Pre-conference forum will focus on the "Grand Scheme to Connect Michigan's Trails."

The Trails, Greenways & Blueways Committee is proud to announce its first state-wide Trails Forum. Following months of discussion and planning, agencies such as Oakland County Parks, Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, Michigan Sea Grant, Hamilton-Anderson, the State of Michigan, the National Park Service, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and many others, have joined forces.

This day-long Forum will focus on an update from all trail disciplines across Michigan, a report on Governor Granholm's Plan: Trails at the Crossroads, and the Michigan Trials and Greenways Alliance "Connecting Michigan" plan. In addition, concurrent break-out sessions will focus on trail building, managing, maintenance and programming topics. The closing remarks will address trails and eco-tourism, a topic of interest to all.

Desiree Sorenson-Groves, Vice-President of Government Affairs for the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Washington D.C., will be our plenary lunch speaker. Ms. Sorenson-Groves will provide us with a great overview of the National Wildlife Refuge Program "Taking Flight." This is a nationally acclaimed program to help organizations create and sustain a successful "Friends" group.

In addition, the lunch break will provide an opportunity to have "lunch with the experts." All of the guest speakers will be available for some great networking time. This is a unique time in history for Michigan and its trail movement. You are cordially invited to be a part of the excitement.

go to Michigan Recreation and Park Association, click on the PDF Brochure to see all the seminars and activities
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We've Been Skating for 5000 Years!

Archaeological evidence shows that bone skates (skates made of animal bones) are the oldest human powered means of transport, dating back to 3000 BC. Why people started skating on ice and where is not as clear, since ancient remains were found in several locations spread across Central and North Europe.

In a recent paper, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Dr Formenti and Professor Minetti show substantial evidence supporting the hypothesis that the birth of ice skating took place in Southern Finland, where the number of lakes within 100 square kilometers is the highest in the world.

"In Central and Northern Europe, five thousand years ago people struggled to survive the severe winter conditions and it seems unlikely that ice skating developed as a hobby" says Dr Formenti. "As happened later for skis and bicycles, I am convinced that we first made ice skates in order to limit the energy required for our daily journeys."

Formenti and Minetti did their experiments on an ice rink by the Alps, where they measured the energy consumption of people skating on bones. Through mathematical models and computer simulations of 240 ten-kilometer journeys, their research study shows that in winter the use of bone skates would have limited the energy requirements of Finnish people by 10%. On the other hand, the advantage given by the use of skates in other North European countries would be only about 1%.

Subsequent studies performed by Formenti and Minetti have shown how fast and how far people could skate in past epochs, from 3000 BC to date.

news release of Wiley-Blackwell, "Where and why humans made skates out of animal bones", Dec 23, 2007
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Calling All Girl Scout Roundup Attendees

Girl Scout Roundup Sign
Colorado Sign
If you were one of the 36,000 Girl Scouts who attended one of the four international Roundups, you're invited to a reunion in Colorado in July 2009.

The first Roundup was held in Milford, Michigan in 1956 with 5000 Scouts. 1959 was in Colorado Springs, with 10,000 girls. Button Bay, VT followed in 1962 with 9000 attendees, and the final Roundup was in 1965 at Farragut, Idaho. 12,000 Scouts traveled to Idaho.

These Roundups spawned lasting friendships and indelible memories to last a lifetime. The girls who attended the Roundups are now in the autumn of their years. But the memories and friendships are still clear. In 2002 over 200 "girls" were "rounded up" for the first Roundup Reunion held at Button Bay, VT. Alumni from all four Roundups were in joyful attendance, to re-live some of the memories we hold so dear. Word spread, and in 2006 yet another reunion was held at Button Bay. Friendships were renewed, new friends made, memories shared, songs sung together, and activities enjoyed. Some still camped out in tents and RV's, while others retired from the rough and stayed at hotels and B&B's.

Spread the word -- at the 2009 reunion we will re-visit the Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy, and the Flying W Ranch. Dorm rooms have been reserved at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Buses are being arranged to take everyone to their chosen activities. Enjoy the wonders of Colorado -- the splendor of the mountains, the incredible climate, and meet up with old friends.

If you are a Roundup Alum, follow the link below to register for more information as the planning continues.

from Girl Scout Roundup Reunion
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Public Provides Input on Accessibility Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Sites

Over 80 organizations, agencies, and individuals provided feedback to the Board during a four-month comment period on accessibility guidelines it proposed for Federal outdoor developed areas. In addition, almost 40 people provided testimony at a series of public hearings on the proposal held in Denver, Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis.

The Board received comments from professional and trade groups, including the National Recreation and Park Association and the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, individuals with disabilities, disability groups such as the American Council of the Blind and Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Center on Accessibility and other organizations involved in outdoor recreation, trail and park operators, Federal agencies, including the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, and state and local parks and recreation agencies.

The proposed guidelines address access to new or altered trails, beach access routes, and picnic and camping areas on sites managed by the Federal government. They specify where compliance would be required and provide detailed technical criteria for achieving accessibility. Many comments endorsed the structure and application of the guidelines, including limited exceptions based on terrain and other conditions, and provided recommendations for further clarifying coverage. Pointing to the strong need for the guidelines, respondents encouraged the Board to promptly complete this rulemaking, to follow-up with similar guidelines for non-Federal sites, and to develop supplementary guidance and training materials.

Most comments addressed trails and outdoor recreation access routes and called attention to compliance concerns and areas where further guidance is needed, such as in determining adequate surface firmness and stability. Information was provided on trail signage and map systems and other subjects in response to questions posed by the Board in its published proposal. Commenters also provided input on access to beaches, including proposed criteria for access routes and compliance and maintenance concerns, picnic areas, and camp sites. The Board is analyzing issues and will finalize the guidelines based on its review of the comments and hearing testimony

from American Trails, Dec 14, 2007
see Public Comments on Proposed Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Developed Areas
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Northern Lights Fed by Magnetic "Ropes"

Giant magnetic "ropes" between Earth and the sun are one of the forces that cause the northern lights, as recently discovered by NASA spacecraft.

"We're coming up on a new era in space physics," said Vassilis Angelopoulos, researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles

In March of this year a display of northern lights was monitored from below by cameras while five satellites overhead collected data.

"The auroras surged westward twice as fast as anyone thought possible, crossing 15 degrees of longitude in less than one minute," Angelopoulos said. "The storm traversed an entire polar time zone, or 400 miles, in 60 seconds flat."

A magnetic rope is a twisted bundle of magnetic fields organized much like the twisted hemp of a mariner's rope. These ropes which appear to connect the upper atmosphere of our planet to the sun may serve as conduits for waves of charged particles, known as the solar wind.

There have been hints that these ropes existed, but it required more that one spacecraft to map the ropes in three dimensions.

"These substorm processes are really helping us to understand and predict space weather," Angelopoulos said.

read the entire article from NASA, "NASA spacecraft make new discoveries about Northern Lights, Dec 11, 2007
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seven Snow Sports Safety Tips

sledding fun
photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert, stock.xchng
Winter sports may be especially fun for kids, but serious injuries can happen all too quickly, say pediatric trauma experts at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

"We see a startling number of injuries among children, from sledding accidents to snowmobile crashes and beyond," says Amy Teddy, manager of the pediatric injury prevention program at Mott.

Take precautions to prevent serious injuries.

Helmets should be worn when snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling and skiing. This is especially true for children under the age of 12. Often, the degree of severity of a head injury is directly related to use of a helmet or not. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports over 70,000 head injuries from winter sports each year.

Dress safely. Wear layers of clothing for warmth. Make sure that small children have on enough layers. The layers will prevent hypothermia, and can pad skin from bumps and cuts. Wearing a hat is important to stay warm. Keep loose clothing tucked in when around machines, or moving fast downhill.

Always have a companion. Even children can watch out for each other, and one person can run for help if there is a problem.

Don’t play on the ice. Injuries that occur on ice are worse than those on snow. Avoid routes across ice. For ice skating, use designated areas, and check for debris and cracks before skating.

Check for a clear path before heading down a hill. Many injuries come from collisions with obstacles. Ski, sled, snowboard only after checking to make sure there are no obstructions. This includes trees and people.

Don't play in the dark. Winter sports after sun-down can be fun, but take part in activities in well-lit areas.

Wear sun block and goggles if you will be outside a long time. UV rays can be intense in the winter as they bounce off snow.

Follow posted warning signs at outdoor recreation areas.

"Playing in the snow is fun for all ages, but make sure to keep sight of common sense. Many of these injuries are entirely preventable," Teddy adds.

from Health News Digest, "Preventing Winter Sports Injuries: 7 Tips to Safely Play in the Snow", by Krista Hopson, Dec 20, 2007
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$54,421 for Recreation Projects from Manistee Community Foundation

Manistee Community Foundation awarded several grants in 2007 which will directly enhance recreation in Manistee County.
  • The Manistee County Recreation Plan received $17,000
  • Casman Academy of Manistee received $6600 for development of a Community Fitness Trail
  • Arcadia Township Parks and Recreation received $10,416 for Grebe Park Pavilion at the foot of Arcadia Dunes
  • Pleasant Valley Community Center received $6800 for its recreational facility
  • The Village of Bear Lake received $13,605 for the Village Park to convert a vacant Village space into a multi-use visiting area
"The Community Foundation is about enhancing the way we give and improving the way we live in Manistee County," said Foundation Board member Beth McCarthy. "These [and other] grants respond to documented needs and will spread benefits countywide. As a Foundation, we want to encourage giving, whether it is the donation of time or funds, to address needs identified through the community-driven Envision Manistee County process."

Funding for these projects was made possible by grants to the Manistee Community Foundation from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation based in Kalamazoo, Michigan the Oleson Foundation, based in Traverse City, Michigan, and private donations.

"Manistee County has deservedly gained our attention and support by using community driven visioning and goal-setting to chart a course for the future," said Dr. Gail Imig, Program Director of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. "Rural communities like Manistee County have special challenges as well as opportunities. This effort is resulting in a positive transformation of Manistee County and serves as a working model for other rural communities."

Members of the Envision Implementation Team that reviewed the applications included Manistee high school students Analise Johnson and Anna Veverica; County Commissioner Erv Kowalski; business owner/operator Suzanne Riley; Dick Hitchingham and John Hoch who served as co-chairs for Envision Manistee County Work Groups; and Mike Acton and By Lyon, members of the Board of the Manistee County Community Foundation. Laura Heintzelman was available through the Manistee Economic Development Office to provide technical assistance to grant applicants.

Projects in three categories received funding during 2007: Envision Implementation, Envision Youth Solutions, and Envision and Small Town Design Initiative.

from a news release of Manistee County Community Foundation
from the Ludington Daily News, Dec 21, 2007
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CMU Student Researching New Bird Flu Monitoring Technique

The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Saginaw is on the edge of two avian superhighways: the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways.

Todd Lickfett, a Central Michigan University (CMU) graduate assistant is hoping to find a new way to watch for the bird flu. The lethal strain, H5N1, has killed more than 150 people since 2003. Over sixty species of birds and animals have been affected, in more than 4000 outbreaks of the disease.

The deadly strain has yet to show up in North America, but that doesn't mean that researchers aren't watching for it. The World Health Organization has reported the flu in Asia, Europe and Africa.

Michigan is an important migration stopover sites for 40,000 ducks, 30,000 geese and thousands of other migrating birds. So it only makes sense to watch for the disease here.

Instead of the usual, but costly, method of testing individual birds, the CMU research team is sampling the water where birds gather on their migration routes. While Michigan currently samples about 1000 birds a year, this method will effectively sample all the birds which have stopped at that site.

"If even one infected gull is in the pool," Lickfett said, "you should be able to detect a trace of the disease through a sample of the water."

They will test for a variety of bird flu strains, the deadly one and others which are common and not harmful to humans.

read the AP news story in the Detroit Free Press, "Breakthrough possible in testing for bird flu", by Elizabeth Shaw, Dec 20, 2007
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