A Green Burial Forest is good for our community.
It is good for people as they take their final journey on, and into, our Earth.
And it is good for our environment.
It seems that the controversy about having a Green Burial Forest in Brooks Township has to do with the fear of something new and not understood. That it may have negative impacts: either with neighbors’ privacy, contamination of water tables, or added Township costs and responsibilities.
So it’s understandable that Brooks Township created a new Cemetery Ban Ordinance to eliminate the possibility that they would have to tackle something that they don’t understand. Township folks are just you and me – residents with families and jobs. But they also have to make decisions that affect whole communities. That is a huge responsibility.
But the information that has come out of a civil action suit has clearly dispelled those stated concerns. The complaint was submitted to Brooks Township by the Institute for Justice on behalf of local Forest property owners who petitioned to create a Green Burial Conservation Forest.
Brooks Township will not be responsible for the property should the owners fail their responsibility, as it will be a natural Forest in perpetuity under the contract with a Michigan conservancy organization. The conservancy organization will be responsible for its upkeep after the property owners are no longer here or alive - and its upkeep will be as a natural Forest, forever. No headstones falling into disrepair or bodies heaving out of the ground like an abandoned conventional cemetery.
Water tables will not be impacted according to the assessments already completed by DHD#10. Any wells in the area are not close enough to the Forest per regulations. There is more water impact from roads, parking lots, industry, and unsustainably managed farm runoff than could be from this intact Forest. Trees, soil and microbes in the Earth are the best nature created water purifiers we have.
Michigan law already states that a person does not need to be embalmed, and stipulates conditions such as certain diseases or length of time before burial where embalming must take place. Interment in the Green Burial Forest will still require the oversight of a funeral director, and these laws will still need to be followed. So it is not an “anything goes” situation that would jeopardize the health or safety of the community.
Concerns by neighbors are real, because they are their concerns. But a Green Burial Forest will be a place of quiet respect and peace. There is more concern over what neighbors can do, even legally, on their own private property than what a Green Burial Forest would do. Loud parties, noisy target practice, ATV tracks, or even illegal activities - things of that nature will not be an issue. The Green Burial Forest will be an open book as to its activities - which are peaceful burials and nature walks.
I feel for Brooks Township officials in their role. Someone will always be unhappy with whatever decisions they make on any issue. However as they asked for specific assessments, documents and legal contracts from the property owners, and as that couple complied with each step, the Township created and passed the complete Cemetery Ban Ordinance with no fore warning to them.
It is unclear if there was a call for public input by the Township regarding the specific request for a Green Burial Forest. Two residents expressed their concerns in township meeting notes of June 2023, and those concerns have shown to be unfounded. It is unfortunate that was the public input the Township responded to, and passed the Ordinance at that same meeting.
This Green Burial Forest would actually be beneficial to the Township and area businesses. Our local economy relies heavily on the natural beauty of Newaygo County and the tourism it generates. Thousands of people visit every year because of the many tracts of publicly protected lands, hundreds of miles of hiking trails and waterways, thousands of acres of County, State, and Federal Forest land for camping, hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling. Hundreds of people move here because of the environment - I and most of my neighbors did just that!
People not just from our local area have expressed the intention of being interred in a Green Burial Forest such as the one in Brooks Township would be. People from Grand Rapids, Muskegon, even across the State will come here with their families for a Green Forest Burial. They will work with our local funeral directors. They will eat in our restaurants, stay in our lodging accommodations, and shop in our stores. These people will come back frequently to visit the place of their loved ones’ finally rest. They may even come back to enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities of our beautiful Newaygo County. Some may even move here.
It is unfortunate that the only recourse the property owners felt they had since the Cemetery Ban Ordinance was adopted so suddenly by Brooks Township was the one offered to them by the Institute of Justice. It makes this issue and the relationships involved contentious instead of being the positive and collaborative process that it could and should be.
And still can be.
What stands out from the fully vetted complaint submitted by the Institute of Justice is that this intended Green Burial Forest is about positive outcomes for everyone. That the fears and concerns of the Township and two residents are dispelled by the facts presented.
There are people now within their final years or even months of life who cannot wait for a long legal battle to take place. They do not want their lives to end in a cemetery that requires vaults, caskets, or liners; and where they contribute to the need for mowers, lawn fertilizers and pesticides for the upkeep of their burial ground. Their honorable wish is to be buried in the way that nearly the whole of humanity’s history has been, without monuments or mausoleums, and as many Holy books say: “Dust to Dust”. Their wish is to have their final repose “decompose” in a way that gives back to the Earth, back to a Forest.
Repealing the Cemetery Ban Ordinance to allow for a Green Burial Forest is a positive thing that Brooks Township can do. It is positive not just for the Forest property owners, but also for our local communities, the economy, and for people facing their end of life. It also promotes a positive image of Brooks Township as a forward moving civic organization to allow this “newer” oldest and fast-growing way of interment to come within their jurisdiction - the first Green Burial Conservation Forest in the State.
If Brooks Township Trustees heard from their community members who believe that a Green Burial Conservation Forest is a desired and positive service for our area, perhaps then we can all come together for fruitful dialogue and understanding. That we can work together to repeal the Cemetery Ban Ordinance and prevent a lengthy, costly (for Brooks Township taxpayers) and unnecessary legal battle. That it will be accomplished with respect for all involved. And that this beautiful, diverse and lush Forest will be placed in perpetuity as the intended vision of the property owners - and as the final Sacred resting place of family, friends and neighbors.
Newaygo County Resident
As January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month, I want to ask you, what comes to mind when you hear the words “human trafficking?” If you are like most Americans, your awareness is very vague and based on movies like "Taken." Most people who are trafficked in the United States are not kidnapped. In fact, most individuals who are trafficked know their perpetrators.
So what exactly is human trafficking? It is modern day slavery. According to the U.S. State Department, there are 49.6 million people enslaved in the world today. Human Trafficking is a 150-billion-dollar global criminal enterprise and the 2nd fastest growing criminal industry second to drugs. Human traffickers can be anyone, and anyone can become a victim of human trafficking. Traffickers are often someone the victim is familiar with or someone the victim met on the internet who became “their friend.” Traffickers are relentless in their attempts to manipulate vulnerable victims into trusting them to sexually exploit or traffick them.
According to the federal government, human trafficking falls into two categories: Labor and Sex Trafficking. The federal definition of human trafficking is when perpetrators use force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex acts from their victims. The federal definition of child trafficking is any minor under the age of 18 who is induced to perform any type of commercial sex or labor act, or who is commercially sexually exploited for something of value: money, shelter, drugs, or transportation. A minor is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion can be proven.
One of the common tools traffickers use to lure and manipulate vulnerable children, youth, and adults is grooming. Grooming can occur either in person or online. Here are six typical stages of the grooming process for sex trafficking: (Labor trafficking will look different).
Human trafficking is a horrific crime that is hidden in plain sight. It is tearing at the social fabric of our society. Human trafficking won’t end until we as a society stop the cycle by removing the demand for sexual content and activities that lead to sexual exploitation and trafficking. The Newaygo Human Trafficking Task Force is committed to helping combat this horrific crime that is happening to our vulnerable children, youth, and adults in our communities, backyards, and even in our homes. Please join our efforts to stop this evil crime. Too many people say, “It’s not happening here!” or “Too dark to talk about it.” The reality is when good men do nothing, evil persists and prevails.
Please join our fight by becoming informed and involved. Here are some resources you can learn more about human trafficking and ways to help. Read our Facebook posts, learn about the pros and dangers of social media apps and gaming devices and parental safety controls on Protect Young Eyes ; research and watch free training videos on websites such as A21.org , the Blue Campaign | Homeland Security , and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children ; do not allow your child to sleep with their electronic devices and delay social media Wait Until 8th Grade Campaign . Share what you have learned about human trafficking with family and others. Also, we will be hosting a Human Trafficking 101 Community Seminar at the Grant Fine Arts Center this spring. Please be on the lookout for the time and date of this event.
Report Human Trafficking! If you see something, say something! Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline # 888-378-7888 or text BE FREE 233733.
You can also call local resources like the Newaygo County Sheriff's Department 231-689-7303, The Hope Project 231-747-8555, Silent Observer 231-652-1121, or call #911.
Teresa Fetterley, LLP, LSC Newaygo County Human Trafficking Task Force, Chair
Jamie Presler, Board Vice-Chair
Mary Suplinskas, Board Secretary
Gena Dietz, Board Member
Lisa Piccard, Board Member
Tabatha Lathrop, Board Member
Ashley Luchies, Board Member
Kevin Akin, Board Member
By Ken De Laat
Wow quite a weekend huh?
A Debacle in Dallas.
The Lions got jobbed. I’m not prone to conspiracy theories (other than an ongoing suspicion about why there are so many solitary shoes making appearances along the roadway) so I don’t believe there was any kind of fix on. Just because it was a big night for the Dallas crowd with their old Coach being inducted into the Ring of Honor, aka ego-inflated Jerry Jones’ personal HOF where he alone gets to decide who’s in, and those yahoos in the booth, Joe F Buck and ex Cowboy Troy Aikman falling all over themselves praising the proud Cowboy tradition.
But, in my Lion loyal opinion, whether it was a referee choke or an overzealous call you don't toss such a bs flag with the game on the line. They got jobbed.
But what’s done is done.
What I want to see is a rematch. A rematch in the playoffs. Hopefully for the title. And because of seeding it would likely be back in Dallas and that’s ok too.
Because the Lions are the better team. They outplayed a good Cowboys squad for most of the game and kept getting up off the canvas time and time again like they have all year. Take a poll out there. I would bet there aren’t many teams relishing the thought of playing the boys in Honolulu Blue.
And to all the second guessers about Coach Dan’s decisions, it might give pause to remember who this team was before he got here. They didn’t take chances because there were often no chances to take. The Lions weren’t a factor. You can Monday morning quarterback all the right moves but criticizing the guy who knows his team better than any couch sitting wannabe coach out there seems a bit absurd given what he and the personnel folks have done to this chronically moribound team.
UM in the title game.
This was sweet. Not only do they exorcise some demons by beating ‘Bama for the first time since Tom Brady called the signals in the 2000 Orange Bowl, they knocked the SEC out of the title game. Can’t imagine too many FSU fans disappointed with this outcome.
And the dessert for the day was seeing Texas get beat by the Huskies, because, well, because it’s Texas.
Now we have what in the past would have been the traditional Rose Bowl matchup with the Big 10 and the Pac 12 champs facing off except this time it’s in Houston for the national title and next year they’re both in the Big Ten.
The runner-ups will also be playing in the same conference next year as the ‘Horns join the SEC. And for those who wanted to see a UM/Texas tilt you will get your wish next season when the Longhorns visit the Big House on September 7th.
They also have a rematch with the Huskies in early October out West. Hopefully it will be Washington seeking revenge in that one.
The Pathos of the Pistons.
One of the toughest things about a lengthy losing streak is that teams really get up for the game when they play you. No one wants to be the team who gets beat by the Pistons. The Raptors finally became that team when Detroit edged them by a bucket to end a 28 game, 2 month drought. The next game they began what looks to be another streak after a 23 point beatdown by the Rockets.
I’ve tried to watch the team I have followed since White Sox pitcher Dave DeBusschere hung up his baseball spikes and became their Player/Coach at the age of 24, but they are truly just not a very good team. Heck they aren’t even close to being kind of a good team. They just don’t have the depth of players to effectively put a solid rotation on the floor against the best basketballers in the world. This despite practically having a chair with your name on it at the lottery drawing event since they have been in it 12 of the last 14 years. I had to check and see if Matt Millen had been secretly hired years ago to rebuild the team.
Go front office. Please, just go.
Baseball on the horizon
As of this writing we are 53 days away from the first exhibition game against the Yankees and the beginning of what could be a promising year for fans hungry for a winner.
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