Opening Day at McDuffie Creek Nature Preserve
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
Sometimes very good things happen along the margins of our beautiful and diverse Newaygo County. On Saturday October 21st about 30 folks gathered way up in northern Newaygo County to celebrate the opening of the 300-acre McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve. The Land Conservancy of West Michigan (LCWM) was our host and the brilliant maples and burbling Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River was the perfect venue for this important event. “LCWM is a non-profit land conservancy that works with private landowners and governmental bodies to permanently protect and care for the land. These often-include West Michigan’s best examples of diverse forests, grassy fields, flowering meadows, marshy wetlands, and rolling sand dunes. These significant habitats and ecosystems are home to a rich variety of plants and wildlife, some of which are now threatened or endangered species.”
For today’s event there was a talented guitarist, a delicious spread of fruit, cheeses, meats, and an excellent selection of beverages and desserts. The LCWM staff had abundant seating, a shelter from a possible rain shower and a small Dais for the celebratory event speakers.
The speakers were LCWM staff members Conservation Director, Justin Heslinga, Executive Director Kim Karns, Board Member John Scholtz, and 101 District Representative Joe Fox. All spoke about the unique value the McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve provides to the community and West Michigan. Justin emphasized that the 300-acre McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve is a perfect example of that natural beauty and rich diversity. The Preserve encompasses wetlands, uplands and both the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River and McDuffee Creek. The speakers thanked the donors, countless volunteers, LCWM staff and many partners that made the acquisition and today’s event possible.
The attending fishermen pointed out that the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette is also a state designated Wild and Scenic River. It is one of Michigan’s premier natal streams providing protected spawning habitat for salmon, steelhead and trout. This was evident by the many King Salmon that were busily completing their spawning cycle in the nearby stream and totally ignoring the curious observers and event festivities.
It was interesting to note that most participants stood in small groups rather than sitting. After the short speeches by the Land Conservancy staff, it was obvious as to why. They were anxiously awaiting the guided tour and the opportunity to hit the trails and explore this unique new Preserve.
In parking lot interviews with Justin and Executive Director Kim Karns some additional information was gathered. Justin mentioned that the Preserves streams and wetlands were invaluable but the uplands were also. One of the LCWM aspirational projects is to return some areas of the Preserve uplands to natural oak savannas. These important savannas are the preferred habitat of the indigenous and federally endangered Blue Karner Butterfly.
Director Karns restated that one of the goals of LCWM was to keep nature nearby. The LCWM focuses on an eight-county area and was really happy to have the opportunity to work in Newaygo County to help preserve the natural and rural character of the community. She wanted to thank all the private donors, government agencies and the Foundations for their contributions. The Community Foundation for Muskegon County and The Fremont Area Community Foundation supported this project. Director Karns noted that LCWM needs to raise an additional $140.000 for infrastructure projects and to continue restoring the preserve to its natural habitat.
As our competent and colorful Drain Commission Mr. Dale Twing often reminds me all politics and successful watershed conservation happens at the local level and through collaboration.
After months of negotiations, fundraising and hard work the 300-acre McDuffee Creek Nature Preserve, located at 11510 N. Walnut Avenue, Bitely, MI 49309 is now open to the public. It will be protected in perpetuity and this legacy will be enjoyed by future generations and that is a very good thing. I strongly recommend you gather the brood and head up north and gently explore this great example of Newaygo County’s diverse woods and waters.
For additional information about the Land Conservancy and to make those so very important donations please click on the following link. https://naturenearby.org/
Gerber FCU Employees Give Generously to United Way Campaign!
FREMONT, Mich. (10/27/2023) Gerber FCU employees presented a check in the amount of $14,993.06 to the United Way of the Lakeshore. Pictured (L to R) are James Rynberg, United Way of the Lakeshore Newaygo County Director and Mayor of Fremont; John Buckley, Gerber FCU President/CEO; Jason Finch, United Way of the Lakeshore Newaygo County; Ellen Davis, Gerber FCU Vice President - Human Resources; and J.J. Lewis, United Way of the Lakeshore Newaygo County.
“Once again, United Way of the Lakeshore – Newaygo County is very pleased to have the employees of Gerber Federal Credit Union help lead our annual campaign. The employees and leadership understand that the ‘giving back’ part of life continues to assist our supported agencies and help lift people out of negative circumstances. Members of the Newaygo County Community Committee could not be prouder of this wonderful organization; we appreciate the collaboration and on-going association with this valued community partner,’ said James Rynberg.
Gerber Federal Credit Union was founded here, and we’re focused on growing here. We have two branches located in Fremont and one in Newaygo. Stop in or visit www.GerberFCU.com to learn why Newaygo County trusts Gerber FCU as their financial partner.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Fremont Area Community Foundation
4424 W 48th Street
Fremont, MI 49412
Contact: Patti Wheater
Senior Communications Officer
Friday, October 20, 2023
Community Foundation Holds Fall Donors Luncheon
More than 70 people gathered for Fremont Area Community Foundation’s annual Fall Donors Luncheon on October 18. The luncheon was held at the Black Box at the Dogwood Center for Performing Arts.
Shelly Kasprzycki, the Community Foundation’s president and CEO, provided an update on some of the organization’s recent work. She spoke about the recent launch of the Housing Partnership Fund, which has awarded its first three grants to support local housing creation. She also highlighted the work of the Youth Advisory Committee and the Community Foundation’s continuing priority of increasing educational attainment.
“Philanthropy is always changing,” said Kasprzycki, “But our most important constant is all of you.”
Kasprzycki then introduced the first of three brief presentations from longtime partners of the Community Foundation. Dick and Carol Dunning spoke about the inspiration for the agriculture scholarship they created. Dick Dunning talked about being the fourth generation on his family’s farm and shared that “agriculture ran deep in my blood.”
Carol Dunning also talked about the influence of family.
“I grew up in a family where giving was the norm,” she said. “My parents established a scholarship at the Community Foundation, and I was so excited to tell my dad that we started a scholarship too, and that it was all because of him.”
Following the Dunnings, Todd DeKryger—a current trustee of the Community Foundation—spoke about the legacy of his parents, Dr. Maynard and Lavina DeKryger. After his father received a scholarship, “he was floored that people here would give their money to help him go to college,” said DeKryger. “He wanted to come back here and to give back to the community that helped him so much.”
Maynard and Lavina DeKryger went on to create scholarships at the Community Foundation that help students pursuing careers in healthcare. They also mentored others in the community, including Dr. Jerry and Suzanne Van Wieren, who spoke at the conclusion of the luncheon.
The Van Wierens originally moved to the area as part of a commitment to work in an underserved area for two years after their medical training. However, they stayed on, opening their own practice when the Grant hospital closed.
“Our 41 years in Grant have been a blessing to us,” said Suzanne Van Wieren, a family nurse practitioner.
In the early days of their practice, other local doctors including Maynard DeKryger would cover for them when they took family vacations. When they offered to pay Dr. DeKryger for his time, he would tell them to consider donating to the scholarship fund instead. The Van Wierens have since included the DeKryger scholarship in their will to honor their mentors and to help the next generation of healthcare professionals.
“One of my favorite meditations is a prayer of Saint Francis: ‘For it is in giving that we receive,’” said Jerry Van Wieren. “We have received much from this community, and it is only natural we would want to give some back.”
For Immediate Release
For Further Information:
Marianne Boerigter, Executive Director
Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts
Kristina Koller at Dogwood on November 3
Eclectic jazz vocalist Kristina Koller will perform in the Dogwood Center's Black Box on Friday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m. She will be presenting music from her latest project “No One is Alone” which features songs from classic musicals West Side Story, Into the Woods, Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as others. Selecting songs she embraced over the years performing musical theater, Koller re-arranges them with flair weaving funk, jazz and neo-soul into the mix creating a captivating twist on familiar show tunes.
Always innovative and pushing the limit, Kristina Koller is making her mark in the music world. As an evolving jazz-centric artist, Kristina has developed into a highly individual songwriter, arranger and vocalist. Koller creates music that crosses generations, while still embracing the history and mood of traditional jazz. She arranges tunes in unique ways, pushing the boundaries of vocal jazz. Kristina revamps classic material while retaining their essence, putting her own winning personality and fresh ideas into the music and lyrics that she interprets
Growing up just outside of New York City, Kristina was exposed to a wide array of music and dance which markedly influenced her at an early age. She performed in youth musical theater and eventually branched out artistically, embracing solo performance as a teen singer-songwriter and vocalist in alt-rock bands. Her artistic thirst reached into classical art songs, opera and vocal jazz. On scholarship she studied at The Hartt School’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz and completed her formal music education at The City College of New York. Kristina developed her musical voice in the NYC jazz scene, performing at venerable haunts such as Smalls, Smoke, Minton's, Mezzrow, as well as The Apollo Theater.
Tickets are $15.00 and are available online at www.dogwoodcenter.com, at the Dogwood Box Office, or at NCCA-Artsplace in downtown Fremont or click here! The Dogwood Center Box Office is open Tuesday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. For information, phone 231.924.8885. The Dogwood Center is located one mile east of downtown Fremont.
Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts, 4734 S. Campus Court, Fremont, MI 49412
Newaygo County Awarded for Excellence
Newaygo County, MI. – The Michigan National Guard has presented an Award for Excellence to the Newaygo County Local Emergency Planning Team for leadership, effort, and support which positively impacted the Michigan National Guard’s emergency preparedness during the Northern Exposure 2023 disaster exercise.
Annually, Newaygo County participates in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) required emergency preparedness drill testing emergency notification and public warning systems for the Rogers, Hardy, and Croton hydroelectric generating plants on the Muskegon River. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requires hydroelectric facilities to be able to quickly notify residents and visitors of any developing emergency at the plants. During this test, local emergency plans for emergency evacuation of the Muskegon River are also tested.
Over the past year, Newaygo County Local Emergency Planning Team partnered with Consumers Energy, the State of Michigan Emergency Operations Center, the United States Coast Guard, and the Michigan National Guard to further develop emergency procedures, resources, and relationships needed to respond to a failure situation at the Hardy hydroelectric generating plant. Each month a focused, discussion-based exercise was held testing various components of dam failure response plans. This process generated awareness of the expected impacts, response challenges, and resources needed to effectively respond to and recover from a catastrophic failure.
“If our community ever experiences another situation like 1986, we will need all the help we can get from our state and federal partners,” said Newaygo County Emergency Services Director Abby Watkins. “Building those relationships now helps us to be better prepared for any disaster our community may experience.”
This effort led up to the annual required drill named “Operation Swift Response”, which took place on August 15, 2023. This year, the drill had a much different feel as the local, regional, and State Emergency Operations Centers were fully activated during this test. Operation Swift Response was co sponsored by the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP-EMHSD) and Newaygo County. Over 52 agencies and 140 participants were involved in this exercise.
“This exercise was a great success for all partners involved which included participants from local, state, federal, and private sector agencies,” said Capt. Kevin Sweeney state deputy director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “The realistic exercise allowed us to test our state capabilities. There are many lessons learned to improve our state’s emergency response plans.”
“We are grateful to Newaygo County for their continued partnership and the opportunity to train alongside local, state, and federal partners. Training events like Northern Exposure-Operation Swift Response allow the Michigan National Guard Staff to safely refine procedures and develop relationships while operating in a simulated environment requiring coordinated support to civil authorities,” said Brigadier General Jeffery Terrill the Director of Joint Staff, Michigan National Guard.
Senior Manager of Dam Safety from Consumers Energy, Mr. Scott Knight also commented, “Through Director Watkins’ leadership, her amazing team has not only been excellent to work with throughout the many years of our partnership, but they exceed normal expectations regularly and are one of the most forward-thinking teams that we work with across the state.”
Since Operation Swift Response, local and state agencies have been working to identify lessons learned and corrective measures for improvement. “One of the benefits of participating in preparedness exercises is we learn what works and what needs to be adjusted before a life- threatening situation occurs,” stated Director Watkins. “This drill allowed us an opportunity to test new technology, equipment, and resources before a disaster. We learned a lot about some of our systems that we never would have otherwise.”
Newaygo County would like to thank all the jurisdictions and agencies who have worked together and taken the time to host training, develop response procedures, and coordinate capabilities over the past year. By working together, we will help to ensure the safety and security of Newaygo County and all those in which we serve.
Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Housing Partnership Fund awarded its first grants to a trio of local housing creation projects. In total, $300,000 was awarded in the first housing grant round.
Projects receiving funding will add an anticipated 13 housing units in the Hesperia and White Cloud areas. The $300,000 awarded will enable recipients to leverage $3 million in total investments.
JNL Hunt Construction was awarded $60,000 to create two two-bedroom apartments in existing buildings in downtown Hesperia. Slate Property Co. was awarded $90,000 to create three apartments in another existing downtown building.
In White Cloud, Allen Edwin Homes was awarded $150,000 to construct up to eight new single-family homes. The homes will be energy-efficient three- and four-bedroom homes.
The grants are made possible through a partnership between the Community Foundation and Newaygo County. County commissioners approved $1 million to help create the Newaygo County Housing Partnership Fund at the Community Foundation. The Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees earmarked an additional $500,000. A committee including county officials, Community Foundation staff, and community representatives like Julie Burrell of The Right Place was formed to create grantmaking guidelines and review proposals.
“We are excited to partner with Newaygo County on this exciting opportunity to encourage more housing development in our area,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “There is such a need here, and we are committed to working with local partners to find solutions, provide support, and look for ways to leverage additional funding.”
The need for more local housing development has been identified in numerous studies, all pointing to demand for all types and price points of housing. The latest data indicates a need for 300-400 additional housing units, with the greatest need among families earning between 60-120% of the area median income. Currently, that is defined as $45,420-$90,840 for a four-person household.
“The Newaygo County Board of Commissioners is very pleased with this project getting off to such a promising start,” said Bryan Kolk, chair of the Board of Commissioners. “We are anticipating an even stronger interest with the next round of proposals.”
The second round of housing grants will be open for applications on November 15, with proposals due on January 5. Nonprofit and for-profit developers are eligible to apply. Applicants are encouraged to leverage additional funding sources and seek the support of local municipalities. Housing developments must be located in Newaygo County to be eligible.
For more information on the application process, contact Maria E. Gonzalez or Lindsay Hager at the Community Foundation at 231.924.5350.
FADL Staffers. Back row, left to right: Rick Wheater, Sariah Woodruff, Nicole Cadwell, Amy Martin, Roxanne Landin, Diane Bunce, Melanie Jackson, Alison Genter, and Becki Sweetman Front row, left to right: Jackilyn Roseberry, Stephani Gibson, Jill Hansen-Aune, Cynthia Sanders, Kayla Hendrie, and Theresa Bonk
Fremont Area District Library Earns 2023 State Librarian’s Excellence Award
LANSING – Fremont Area District Library is the recipient of the 2023 State Excellence Award for superior customer service, the Library of Michigan announced today.
“The creativity and responsiveness of Michigan’s libraries continue to be amazing,” said State Librarian Randy Riley. “Finding new and better ways to meet community needs remains a clear priority for libraries across the state. Fremont Area District Library has made listening to its community a central part of their operations.”
Riley will officially present the annual award, which includes $3,000 in privately donated funds, Wednesday, October 18 at the Michigan Library Awards event during the Michigan Library Association's annual conference in Kalamazoo.
"The staff and board of the Fremont Area District Library are both excited and humbled to receive this award and all it represents,” said Jackilyn Roseberry, Director of the Fremont Area District Library. “For a library, there is no higher honor than to be recognized for our commitment to serving our community. Thank you to the Library of Michigan and the selection panel for validating our efforts and inspiring us to continue to be worthy of this designation."
The selection committee, comprised of representatives from public, school, academic, and special libraries, was impressed with the amount of work that the Fremont Area District Library accomplished in challenging times. State Librarian's Excellence Award evaluation factors include demonstrating that the library provides superior service to its customers and community through library programs and staff interactions with customers and the service community.
“The selection committee focused on Fremont’s commitment to customer service and track record of finding a variety of ways to connect with the community,” Riley stated. “The library’s genuine desire to ‘have something for everyone’ is obvious in the variety of programs and partnerships it has created,” he said.
The Library of Michigan Foundation and Library of Michigan (LM) bestow the State Librarian's Excellence Award and Citations of Excellence Award yearly to highlight the importance of Michigan libraries’ services.
This year’s Citations of Excellence co-winners, for their exceptional customer service, are:
The State Librarian's Excellence Award is sponsored in honor of June Mendel through the Library of Michigan Foundation. The Citation of Excellence Awards are funded by the Library of Michigan Foundation.
The State Librarian’s Excellence Award program is in its 22nd year. For more information about the award and the previous recipients, go to www.michigan.gov/MiStateLibrarian.
White Cloud to Host Quiz Bowl Tournament
It is now that much anticipated, exciting time of year where White Cloud hosts its annual mid-October classic, the Jan Rademacher Memorial Quiz Bowl Invitational. The tournament will be held on Saturday, October 14, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Spectators are welcome to attend!
This prestigious state and nationally sanctioned invitational tournament will feature 29 teams total, an impressive field hailing from all over the state of Michigan and Indiana. The following powerhouse teams will be engaged in quiz bowl action: Class A John Adams (IN), East Grand Rapids, Grand Ledge, Holland, Mt. Pleasant, and Traverse City Central; Class B Chelsea, Interlochen, and Ionia; Class C Kalamazoo Christian, Kent City, Roscommon, and White Cloud.
Incredibly, all participant schools were state finalists and national qualifiers last year. Focusing on the Class C schools, White Cloud returns as the reigning state champion (9-0 record at State) and Kalamazoo Christian continues forward as the state runner-up (8-2) from Michigan’s 2023 NAQT State Meet.
Officials are reminded that there will be a meeting for all moderators, judges, and scorers on Thursday, October 12, beginning at 7 p.m. in the White Cloud High School cafeteria.
On Saturday, October 14, all officials are asked to report to the high school cafeteria by 8:45 a.m. The first match begins at 9:30 a.m.
Additionally, this highly regarded tournament serves to memorialize and honor Jan Rademacher and Brian Derks. Jan Rademacher functioned as a volunteer quiz bowl coach. Brian Derks was a former team captain and outstanding player, who tragically died while serving in the military in Iraq.
Ballot renewals will maintain services while not increasing taxes
NC RESA’s Career Tech Center serves over half of our area’s high school juniors and seniors or roughly 700 students giving them access to an array of job-specific classes to prepare them for work in their chosen fields.
NC RESA provides vital Special Education services to our local schools in addition to providing the Education and Activity Center on their campus.
On Election Day, November 7th, 2 proposals will come before voters seeking to renew the millages that partially fund these services and allow our local youth these much needed opportunities.
The Special Education programs are designed to help individuals with special needs achieve a higher level of personal self-sufficiency and success in school and in their community which may not be available if the student were only given access to a typical classroom education.Social Workers, Psychologists, Physical Therapists and other professionals provide services from birth to age 26 for those involved.
NC RESA Superintendent Blake Prewitt gave an example of how the CTC continues to develop programming that responds to the community needs.
“Julie Burrell of The Right Place let us know there are about 70 jobs in finance in the county that go unfilled so we started an accounting program. It’s only with millage money that we have the opportunity to do this.”
Superintendent Prewitt added that the CTC would like to begin an HVAC program after hearing from businesses and individuals in the county about the need.
The services provided via the millage renewals are required by the state. NC RESA takes the burden off the schools who would otherwise be required to provide them, leading to significant cuts in other areas such as athletics and music programs,
Once again, these proposals are not new millages but renewals that are needed to maintain current services.
Two charged with arson
White Cloud, October 5, 2023- Newaygo County Prosecuting Attorney, Worth Stay, announced that White Cloud residents Ryan Allen Robinson and David Joseph Robinson were arraigned in the 78th District Court on charges stemming from an investigation into both a fire at Charlie's Family Grill in White Cloud and insurance claims made in 2022 and 2023.
Ryan Allen Robinson was arraigned on the following charges:
1. Arson of an Insured Real Property, a felony punishable by 20 years and/or $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater.
2. False Pretenses- $50,000 or more but less than $100,000, a felony punishable by 15 years and/or $25,000 or 3 times the value of money or property involved, whichever is greater. 3. False Pretenses- $50,000 or more but less than $100,000, a felony punishable by 15 years and/or $25,000 or 3 times the value of money or property involved, whichever is greater.
David Joseph Robinson was arraigned on the following charge:
1. Arson of an Insured Real Property, a felony punishable by 20 years and/or $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater.
A probable cause conference is set for October 19, 2023 at 9:30 am. A preliminary examination is set for October 26, 2023, at 1:30 pm. Both hearings are scheduled to be held at the 78th District Court in White Cloud, Michigan.
A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Anyone with information regarding this ongoing investigation is asked to please contact the White Cloud Police Department at 231-689- 1696, the Fremont Police Department at 231-924-2100 or Silent Observer at 231-652-1121.