Tuesday, September 30, 2008

North Country Trail Closed Near Highbridge

historical marker just west of the cave in

by Joan H. Young

The North Country National Scenic Trail is temporarily closed from Highbridge to Dilling Road, just south of Brethren, Michigan.

There is a section of trail just east of the historic location of Highbridge (just east on the trail from Highbridge Road), that has slumped away. The trail in this location is benched in to a steep hillside. There have always been springs on this section of trail which flow in spring and then dry up. For whatever reasons, probably including the high amounts of rainfall the area has seen this year, the springs have continued to run. The result is that a 16-foot section of the trail has fallen down the hillside.

Due to the steep hillside, there is no safe way for hikers to detour around this section, so the Forest Service has temporarily closed the trail.

Members of the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, working with the Forest Service, will be attempting to fix the problem on Saturday, October 4. Rather than try to cut trail into the now-damaged hillside, a bridge will be built across this section.

For more information contact Ed Chappel, Trail Work Coordinator for Spirit of the Woods.

See Spirit of the Woods Chapter NCTA
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Monday, September 29, 2008

CAC Scouts May Settle For Owasippe Contract Termination

by Ron Kulak (from The Scarlett Sassafras)

On Thursday morning, Sept 24, 2008, the [Boy Scout Chicago Area Council] Board of Directors met and reviewed the current sales and litigation status of Owasippe Scout Reservation. Owasippe has been under a pending purchase agreement for $19.5-million with banker/investor Benjamin Smith III of Holland, Mich, since February 23, 2005. The sale has NOT been able to close because the camp's current township zoning is unable to accomodate Mr Smith's plans for residential development.

From credible sources, it has been reported that the CAC board unanimously voted to negotiate a settlement with Ben Smith III to terminate the outstanding sales contract to purchase Owasippe. I have no details as yet as to what the cost will be to do this but, until the settlement agreement is signed, nothing is official as yet. The prospects are very promising, however.

Smith allegedly had paid $100,000 in 2005 as an earnest money deposit when he signed the contract to buy the camp. Rumor has it that he is agreeable to terminate that purchase contract but at a cost that may be significant. The CAC board appears to be willing to pay an additional amount to cut its losses in order to get this whole unnecessary and costly mess behind them so their program agenda can move forward.

Owasippe is the linchpin to restoring the faith and trust of Scouters and the key to the future success of Chicago Area Council which is still under receivership by National BSA. CAC is currently operating under a Region-selected interim board of directors since the council electorate could not vote in a board this past Spring. Michael Hughes is still the council President, but the council is now being managed by a new Scout Executive, Chuck Dobbins, replacing Scouter-nemesis Jim Stone who retired in June after being with CAC for a very painful nine years.

I presume, but am not yet assured, that this may mean that CAC's appeal with the Michigan Appellate Court could die on the vine. If so, then the Muskegon Circuit Court decision to uphold the township's zoning of Owasippe would then stand as Forest/Recreational-Institutional. At this point, for CAC to continue such legal action would be folly and unnecessarily expensive. They've already blown over $1-million in professional fees in their suit of Blue Lake Township (their good neighbors of 98 years) to change the camp's zoning status to 'Residential' so that the Smith purchase agreement could go through. Along this bumpy road, CAC has incurred much ill-will among its own volunteers and the local citizenry of Western Michigan. The small Blue Lake Township dug in its heels to defend itself and valiantly won its case in the Muskegon Circuit Court earlier this year to avoid this problematic change in zoning and in its culture.

We have no further word on the future of Owasippe and how it is to be managed and operated (or owned). That may be Chapter II of this new book being written by Chuck Dobbins and the CAC Board. Owasippe's future and efficiency is still a concern and still needs to be addressed including its upkeep and marketing!

We have been told that there will be an official statement on the CAC website sometime soon. More details will be forthcoming.

Also see article on M-Live
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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Musketawa Trail Making Muskegon Connections

from the Muskegon Chronicle and other sources

Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is all about making connections, and this week they put $50,000 into helping Muskegon reach that goal.

The West Michigan division of the Coalition (based in Grand Rapids) presented the money to the city of Muskegon to help connect the Musketawa Trail to an existing bike path in the city.

The money comes from the Wege Foundation, and is being added to $105,000 from the Michigan DNR, $35,000 in previous donations, and $30,000 from the city of Muskegon. Recreation pathways are never inexpensive!

The Musketawa Trail runs west from Marne, for 26 miles, into the city of Muskegon, ending just east of the US 31 freeway. It follows the former line of the Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Indiana RR. This connection will continue the trail east along Keating Avenue, along Industrial Boulevard, and then west along Laketon to Creston Street where it will connect with an existing trail that continues north along the east side of Muskegon Lake and terminates at M-120.

Work is scheduled to be done in 2009.

Muskegon hopes to make future connections for the trail to another city bike path which travels along the south shore of Muskegon Lake. Bike riders are also hoping for connections northward about ten miles to join with the Hart-Montague Trail.

See Muskegon Chronicle
See Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance
See The Wege Foundation
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Boyne Resorts Ready for Snow Season

from the Boyne website and other sources

Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands winter resorts are celebrating 60 years of providing snow fun to Michigan. Located in the Petoskey Bay area, Boyne has been an innovative force in the ski industry.

Boyne was a pioneer site for the making of artificial snow (Boyne Snowmaker patented 1974), and this year they continue that tradition with the introduction of Boyne Low E Fan Guns. These snow guns will make more snow of a higher quality with lower moisture content, while using less energy.

The Meadows Chairlift has been replaced with a higher speed, fixed grip, conveyor load lift. This lift not only travels faster than the original, it’s easier to load thanks to a conveyor belt system giving riders a seamless transition from snow to seat. This is the only lift of its kind in Michigan.

At Boyne Mountain the Glade Ski/Ride Run has been expanded. At the Highlands there will be lighting on over two miles of snowshoe trail on Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays. Ski/Ride Terrain there has been expanded as well.

See Boyne
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Friday, September 26, 2008

National Public Lands Day- Give Something Back

news release of National Public Lands Day

Every year on the last Saturday in September (this year it's September 27), volunteers work to keep America's outdoor areas beautiful, as part of National Public Lands Day (NPLD). A program of the National Environmental Education Foundation, National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest cleanup of public lands, and helps carry on the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The efforts of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps not only benefited well-known campgrounds, but also prepared many soldiers for duty in World War II. This year marks both the 15th anniversary of NPLD and the 75th anniversary of the CCC. The Civilian Conservation Corps "Tree Army" planted 2.5 billion trees over nine years. This year volunteers and partnering organizations aim to plant 1 million trees in the days leading up to National Public Lands Day.

"This year is a landmark event for National Public Lands Day," said Robb Hampton, Program Director of National Public Lands Day. "This event furthers our goal of improving and enhancing public lands and parks and symbolizes the passing of a torch from one generation of conservationists to the next."

National Public Lands Day is an opportunity to get outdoors, travel to a new park or re-visit an old favorite while learning about history and making the community a nicer place. This year 120,000 volunteers are expected to participate, and it is a perfect volunteer opportunity for all ages

West Michigan events will be held at:
  1. Augusta- Fort Custer- Tree planting and establishment of handicap accesible hunting locations.
  2. Empire- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore- Volunteers will take part in a beach cleanup on Lake Michigan in conjunction with the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup.
  3. Battle Creek- Leila Arboretum- Nurturing the Native Garden (includes selected Native plants of Michigan); The Annual Annual Pull; The Leila Arboretum Mulch March; The Partial Peck Tree Planting.
  4. Rockford- Luton Park- A portion of social trail reclaimed for the multi use natural surface trail system will require erosion control. Trail work will include a slight reroute and several rolling grade dips to control water flow during storms. Above the trail area sustained heavy tree loss in a spring ice storm. Additional water flow control will be attained by native tree plantings on a park boundary with a private owner, also shielding public use from private use.

NPLD began in 1994 with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. Last year 110,000 volunteers worked in 1,300 locations and in every state. Now, eight federal agencies and many state and local lands participate in this annual day of caring for shared lands. NPLD continues the promise of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the "tree army" that worked from 1933-1942 to preserve and protect America's natural heritage.

See National Public Lands Day
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Little Traverse Wheelway—Resort Bluffs Construction Nears Completion

filling in the washout
on the Resort Bluffs segment
photo from
Tip of the Mitt Trail Council

from Tip of the Mitt Trails Council, newsletter, Fall, 2008

Bridging of the 1.4 mile gap in the Little Traverse Wheelway between Petoskey and Charlevoix is nearly finished. Completion will mean that the worst part of the LTW (along the decomposing shoulder of US 31) will become the best, providing beautiful views of Little Traverse Bay from its position 20 to 30 feet above the lake. As with the rest of this trail pavement will be asphalt.

Work by H & D Road building is expected to conclude early October with the dedication ceremony in spring, 2009. With the building of the segment from the Harbor Springs airport into the city in summer , 2009 the 26 mile bike path will finally be “built out,” the culmination of a thirty year project to build a trail around Little Traverse Bay.

In other news from the Tip of the Mitt Trails Council, In Harbor Springs, Harbor Inc., a TOMTC ally, has announced plans for a new trail to link the Little Traverse Wheelway to the Boyne Highlands and Nub’s Nob four seasons resorts along Pleasant View Road, another through town along Lake Street, and another to extend north of town along the lakeshore.

In Petoskey, the city is working with us and other local interests to link the Wheelway to a series of trails to the commercial areas south of town and along the Bear River. Efforts continue to purchase the diagonal railroad right of way through downtown extended from the Michigan Department of Transportation Railroad Division.

See Little Traverse Wheelway
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lost Lake, A Gem Added to Muskegon State Park

Lost Lake, Muskegon, Michigan
Lost Lake (formerly Mierendorf property)
now part of Muskegon State Park

condensed from Land Conservancy of West Michigan

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has acquired one of the last remaining undeveloped properties adjacent to the Muskegon State Park. Lost Lake and the surrounding 68-acres are now a permanent part of the park.

Alcoa Foundation put the campaign over the top with a $50,000 grant. Over 350 donors contributed to reach the $230,000 required for the purchase.

The treaure of the property is the wetland and body of water known as Lost Lake. The wetland is home to several rare plant and animal species.

Hikers and skiers can approach the lake via park trails. Some of these trails continued on the private property of the Mierendorf family. The park has long desired to acquire the property, but could not agree on a price with the Mierendorfs. With the help of funds committed by the Michigan DNR, the required amount of $420,000 (purchase price and other costs) was raised by August 30, 2008.

The eastern half of the acquisition is wooded upland hills, and includes a small creek. This section provides not only wonderful hiking opportunities, but the spring migratory bird season brings many species to these woods.

The protection of Lost Lake and the surrounding acres helps preserve a green corridor along Lake Michigan as North Muskegon continues to experience growth and development.
See Land Conservancy of West Michigan
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Smoker and Pregnant? Take a Hike or Two!

a news release of BioMed Central

Exercise could be a useful tool in helping pregnant women to give up smoking, according to new research published today in the open access journal BMC Public Health. Despite the warnings, 17% of women in the UK and 20% of women in the US still admit to smoking during pregnancy. This often leads to lower birth weight, higher infant mortality, and is linked to learning difficulties, problem behaviour and asthma in childhood.

Most attempts to give up smoking unaided end in failure. The most successful methods of stopping smoking involve a combination of nicotine replacement and behavioural therapy, but there are concerns that nicotine replacement may harm the fetus. Exercise can reduce the cravings experienced by smokers and there is some evidence to show that it can help non-pregnant women to quit.

Michael Ussher and colleagues from St George's, University of London conducted two pilot studies into whether physical exercise could feasibly help pregnant women quit smoking.

For both studies, pregnant women over 18, who smoked at least a cigarette a day, were recruited 12 to 20 weeks into pregnancy. In one study, women did supervised exercise once a week for six weeks; in the other, women did two sessions of exercise a week for six weeks, then one session a week for three weeks. The participants were also encouraged to do additional exercise on their own and all received advice and counselling towards stopping smoking and becoming more active.

A quarter of the 32 women recruited for the studies gave up smoking before giving birth. This is similar to the number of non-pregnant smokers that quit using nicotine replacement. Furthermore, participants reported other positive benefits including weight loss, improved self-image and reduced cravings.

According to Dr. Ussher, "These results are very encouraging and we are now conducting a randomised controlled trial with 850 women. Regular exercise is ideal for any pregnant women who smoke as it's obviously safe and the benefits are enormous".
See BioMed Central
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 Passes US House

by Joan H. Young

The "No Child Left Inside" national legislation passed a major milestone this week as the House of Representatives approved the bill. It still must pass the Senate.

No Child Left Inside 2007 (HR 3036 and S 1981) calls for states to submit a K-12 plan to the US Department of Education for review. If approved, grant money would be available for the training of teachers, development of curricula, and funding of actual programs.

The No Child Left Inside Coalition was formed 18 months ago to spearhead and coordinate efforts to pass the current legislation. The coalition "speaks for a diverse group of Americans who believe young people should receive a strong education about their natural world. The Coalition’s focus is passage of the federal No Child Left Inside Act. This legislation would authorize major new funding for states to provide high-quality, environmental instruction. Funds would support outdoor learning activities both at school and in non-formal environmental education centers, teacher training, and the creation of state environmental literacy plans."

In Michigan, House of Representative memebers who voted in favor of HR 3036 include Bart Stupek, John Conyers, Joel Knollenberg, Vern Ehlers, John Dingell, Fred Upton, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Dale Kildee, Candice Miller, and Sander Levin. Negative Michigan voters were Peter Hoekstra, Dave Camp, Mike Rogers, Timothy Walberg, and Thaddeus McCotter.
No Child Left Inside Coalition
See No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 (a pdf)
See how all US House members voted on HR 3606
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Friday, September 19, 2008

North Country Trail Bridge Built near Hodenpyl

bridge builders at work (photo credit John Heiam)

by Arlen Matson (Grand Traverse Hikers Club and chapter of the North Country Trail Association)
This article describes part of the work done to build one of the bridges required to complete the North Country Trail re-route near Hodenypyl Pond and Mesick, Michigan. Ed.

The first phase in transporting the materials to the bridge site went quite well; good weather, 9 in our crew plus 2 boats and a canoe. Three trips took all the stringers (6), sills (6), planking (8), decking (100) and more sills (12) plus the tools and the workers. A nice boat ride at slow speeds.

We set 3 sills and 5 stringers in place for Saturday's assembly. Will use 2 boats and the canoe again. Workers will need hammers and lunches. I'm planning on the major portion done by noon.

The September 11 session was a most interesting one with the boats loaded to the hilt with materials. At the site, that 6" of water and 6" of muck turned out to be more like12 to 18" of muck. It had a tendency to claim its walkers by not releasing their feet from a set position. In one hole, I went all the way up to the top of my hip boots. Fortunately, I was holding onto the boat. There were compensations, however, such as the 3 flowers right at the site; turtle's head, blue gentian, and fleabane. By Saturday, our soreness should be releaved enough for setting the stringers exactly, decking and doing the boardwalk.

note the boat used to bring in materials (photo credit John Heiam)
Our 3 boats headed west on Hodenpyl Pond loaded with passengers and tools while 3 others walked in the 30 min. to the bridge site. Now with all of the sailors on land and a 5 minute walk from the boats, we commenced the anchoring of the 6 stringers and 4 sills. Quickly we found out that our battery operated drills were no match (ie. Mich. vs. Notre Dame) drilling through 12" of oily utility poles supplied by Consumer's Energy (Greg Mortenson) in Traverse City. Thanks to Sherman Atkinson and his generator we were able to drill and drive the 4' rerod through all of the sills & stringers. And thanks to whomever brought along the 2 big drills also.

The chainsaw was a buzzing like bees in the spring on dandelions as Dick Naperala ground away dulling 2 chainsaws in the process of making the stringers fit closely. And then there was Greg's come-a-long tool work which pulled the stringers too heavy to lift now and the other one not yet in place. Everyone found something to do and then the magic of placing the decking boards on the stringers put a new team in place nailing up a storm (not quite...a drizzle) the 100 pieces of 2'x8"x4' treated wood.

While more drilling and rerod pounding continued on the next stringers, some of us started placing the 2"x12"x16' boardwalk planking and sills in place.

Around noon it didn't look like we were quite half way, but we really were farther along than that; however, since I'm obviously not a prophet one o'clock came and I was wondering if we would have to come back. We poured the coals, actually the slimy muck, to the last phase of the boardwalks 5 sections listening to the woodpecker hammers of the decking boys coming towards us. Now we really were in high gear and by 2 o'clock more or less we were beginning to gather-up tools & load boats again. Oh yes, we did put 2'x4' bull rails along the edges of the bridge in keeping with the NPS Handbook.

Thanks to Jerry Heiman's tried and tested fishing boat, which moved like a tank through the mucky inlet, we reloaded the canoe he was to pull and hooked them both up at the mouth of the inlet. Traveling at turtles speed, he returned to Northern Exposure Campground beach area where the rest of us were waiting to unload him.

Now, you can walk from Woodpecker Creek all the way to Glengary. The 2 bridges are in place and with the exception of the blaze marks from the NE Campground to Fletcher Creek CG, you shouldn't get lost.

Yours, drenched to the gills,


See Grand Traverse Hikers Chapter of the North Country Trail Association
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

National Park Service Unveils New Website for Children

Kid Zone web site is open for use

a news release of the National Park Service

The Kids Zone, a new addition to the National Park Service's website,, contains more than 50 interactive activities designed to connect children with the people, places, and events commemorated in the country's 391 National Park Service sites.

Starting August 25, children visiting the website can learn about Mitsy, a nine-year-old Border Collie who performs an important job at the Statue of Liberty or little Lula McLean's rag doll which is a witness to history at Appomattox Courthouse or how Thomas Edison changed their lives.

"The Kids Zone, launched on the 92nd anniversary of the National Park Service, introduces the next generation of park stewards to the fascinating stories told in national parks," said National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. "The website will enable young people to actively explore parks without leaving home but, hopefully, will also inspire them to visit these special places in person."

The website includes information on the 325 in-park Junior Ranger programs where young visitors complete booklets on park resources and earn certificates, patches, or badges. In 2007, more than 440,000 children participated in Junior Ranger programs nationwide.

Other features on the website include stories by children who live in national parks, biographies of dogs who work in national parks, and an expanded WebRangers page. Children can continue to earn a WebRanger patch after completing exercises that include decoding a secret message from George Washington, helping endangered turtles get to the sea, setting up a ranger station, tracking animals, and learning how to survive in the desert.

The Kids Zone "hot button" on, the National Park Service homepage, provides a direct link to the expanded children's website.

See the National Park Service
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

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

Proposed sites of wind turbines in Mason County, MI. (right click and view in new window or tab to see full size)

by Joan H. Young
from the Manistee National Forest

The Huron-Manistee National Forest is seeking public comments on a proposed wind turbine project called the White Pines Wind Farm Project. A five-page document can be obtained from Patrica O'Connell. See contact information below.

A brief summary of the points in the document follows:

This project proposes the erection of 20 to 28 wind turbines, each 262 feet high within the Manistee National Forest in the area near the Lake Michigan Recreation Area and just north of Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness. The turbines would generate between 50 and 70 megawatts of power and are estimated to have a life span of 30 years.

In addition to the turbines themselves, the following are components of the project:
     1. Approximately nine miles of road reconstruction, and five miles of new roads would be built.
     2. Over 40 miles of underground cable would be installed.
     3. A step-up transformer would be mounted on the base of each tower.
     4. An electrical substation of about 5 acres would be constructed on Morton Road.
     5. An above-ground transmission line would be installed to carry the power to the Pere Marquette- Stronach transmission line which already exists to the east of the project area. The right-of-way for this line will be 150 feet.
     6. Existing meteoroligical towers which are currently collecting data within the project area would remain in place.
     7. Three temporary staging areas would be located for concrete batch mixing, equipment storage, etc. These would be re-vegetated upon completion of construction
     8. A second substation on private land would be built where the new transmission line joins the Pere Marquette- Stronach transmission line.

There are two open houses scheduled for public scoping.
     1. September 30, 2008 at the Ramada Inn, 4079 W US 10, Ludington. The public is welcome between 4 and 7 pm.
     2. October 1, 2008 at the Days Inn, 1462 US 31, Manistee. The public is welcome between 4 and 7 pm.

Comments should be received by the Forest by October 12, 2008. You may comment via the email given below, or by downloading the pdf form and sending it to Patricia O'Connell (address also below).

Commentary by Joan H. Young:
Questions which spring instantly to mind about this project are:
     1. Will the turbines be visible from the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness?
     2. Will reconstruction of the roads change the back-country character of the area? In particular, Green Road is currently dirt and very pot-holed. Although it is much traveled, there are many unofficial pull-off camping spots on the east side of Nordhouse Dunes. Will improvement of this road increase the incursion of illegal motorized vehicles and promote increased speed by legal vehicles?
     3. Will the turbines change the character of the area in the Lake Michigan Recreation Area? Although this is not wilderness, the area certainly projects a wild feeling if one leaves the trail system, and is in many places less trampled than the Nordhouse Wilderness Area.

Contact Patricia O'Connell, Cadillac-Manistee Ranger District, Huron-Manistee National Forest, 412 Red Apple Road, Manistee, MI 49660, 231-723-2211 x 3119,
Comment to
Download the White Pines Wind Farm comment form (a pdf)
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