By Kathy Morrison
Photos By Rylan Edmistone
N3 friend and occasional contributor Kathy Morrison recently posted an opportunity for local folks to help with the ravages resulting from the disastrous fires down under.
Here she delivers a bit of a progress report on what's being done thus far with the money raised to assist the efforts of the Edmistone family, long time friends of their world wandering son, Max Morrison.
About 75 miles southwest of Sydney, nestled in “the bush” of New South Wales, lies Budgong, an area of once extreme beauty, dotted with small communities and farms, lush wooded landscapes, rolling hills which give way to mountainous areas and steep escarpments and to amazing views of the surrounding area. Home to more kangaroos, wombats, and wallabies than people, it is one of the numerous wildlife areas that was recently ravaged by the enormous wildfires that have grown and damaged so much of the Australian East coast landscape since September. Budgong is also home to Rylan Edmistone and his parents, Anne and Greg, friends of our son, Max, where he has visited and stayed numerous times. It is a place and landscape that Max loves dearly. Asking Max to describe the flora and fauna of that place, he reports, “The area is surrounded by Eucalyptus, Gum, and Iron Bark trees. In my experience: Everyday on a walkabout, it's almost certain or a good chance you'll see several wallabies spitting a trail of dust as they bounce away, lyrebirds gracefully tiptoeing through the underbrush, kookaburra with their tittering turning to a boisterous cachinnate, cockatoos squawking, willie wagtails out and about wagging their willies, goanas on the prowl for slurpy eggs, a snake or two - keep an eye out for red-bellies or browns, a family of pygmy possums if you're looking in the crannies, an occasional rambling echidna and of course those gentle beasts, the wombats, emerge at dusk. And I can't forget 'Old Swampy,' an old granny of a kangaroo that loves to pilfer from the fresh shoots of vines. Crafty as ever, even in her old age.” It has been hard to get my head around Max’s description and photos of Budgong against the photos I have been viewing recently. It is hard to imagine it was recently so idyllic until just a few short weeks ago when fire swept through– the woodlands now covered in ash with little cover or vegetation for the wildlife and the thought that so many of its animals have been lost. It pains me to think of area people, who have been through a living hell, as fire raged through their community, destroying so much in its path.
As we read stories and hear news reports about these colossal fires raging in Australia, we have all, most likely, become a bit more familiar with the country geographically. About the same land size as the U.S., minus Alaska and Hawaii, Australia is made up of six states: five on the mainland and one, the island state of Tasmania, lies some 150 miles from its southeastern coast. The Northwest Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland round out the six states. Each and every state has been hit by fires at some point over their 2019-2020 “fire season”, which varies regionally depending on where you are at any given time and place in that vast country. Bush fires have always been a part of life in all of Australia. However, December 2019 was officially the hottest, driest year on record in “the Land Down-under”, with numerous days reaching well above 100 degrees F. Officially the hottest place on Earth, on January 4th, Penrith, a town west of Sydney saw 120 degrees F. By late December, NSW was less than halfway through its traditional six month “fire season” which usually runs from October through March. This year, it began a month earlier and is proving to be one of the area’s worse on record dues in part to the dry, hot conditions. Australia has been overly dry and experiencing drought in many locations for unusually long stretches. Weather conditions have, without question, increased the potential for and size of these infernos. However, another issue is at play in many of these fires which lies with land/fire management. Rylan Edmistone believes that a respect, knowledge, and use of some of these currently undervalued ways of the Aboriginal Australians need to make a comeback to help reduce the size and destructive force of the fires. Rylan describes what happened in his area and how fires of this magnitude might be reduced in the future. “After progressing north through the Ettrema Gorge Wilderness area of Morton National park, the ‘Currowan Bushfire’ burnt through the Budgong rural township area on the 4th of January. This particular fire has currently impacted 312000 hectares of country. The unprecedented heat and intensity of these fires is a direct result of negligent vegetation, biodiversity and land management practices post-the year 1788. We have ignored the deep-knowledge base of the first Australians. It is time to change. Three books that promote a way forward are: The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australiaby Bill Gammage, Call of the Reed Warbler- Charles Massy and Dark Emu byBruce Pascoe.” Indeed, perhaps some of the older ways of managing the bushlands need to be brought back into practice. An interesting piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, told the story of a New South Wales resident who had hired someone practiced in this ancient technique, to conduct cultural burns on his land three years ago. These traditional fires are slow, low, and cooler than standard controlled burns. They take into consideration the landscapes, the flora and fauna and leave the canopy intact, having less impact on the animals of the area. The landowner credits the recent survival of his home through the fires to these Aboriginal Australian’s techniques.
Perhaps there will be a renewed interest in this type of practice now that it is apparent that more effective management techniques need to be considered and used once again.
The immediate threat of fire is over in the Budgong area, though many fires remain out of control in Australia. The job of recovering has begun in many areas, including near the Edmistone’s farm. We wanted to try to help the people of Australia in their recovery efforts, but after realizing that large fundraisers sometimes do not get money to places as swiftly as we would hope, we decided to send money directly to the Edmistones to allow them to use it for wildlife feeding and to help locals whose homes may have been damaged or lost in the fires. Knowing others in our community who wanted to give to Australia, we decided to extend the invitation to friends, family and our Newaygo County/Muskegon county area neighbors to give directly this way. As of January 16th, we have collected over $3200. An enormous thank you to all who have so generously given and a hearty thank you to those of you who plan to. We hope to collect all donations by the end of January, so there is still time to give. Any and all amounts are greatly appreciated. There are no overhead costs or salaries being taken from this money and all proceeds are being directly used to help the animals and people in the community near Budgong, NSW.
Already funds are being put to good use. The kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and possum as well as other critters who survived the fire are now able to find food and water at the stations that Rylan Edmistone and others have been setting up in the ash filled woodlands around their area. Between private lands that he can access and government lands, he has set feed/water stations over a 250 acre area. Obviously, animals outside that range would also be entering to seek food. He has reached out to others in his community who also want to help in this feeding effort for the animals who have so little left at present on which to survive. As owners of a family Bed and Breakfast, the Edmistones have extra space where they have kindly housed neighbors whose well and septic were ruined by fire and will continue to extend housing and food to those in need of accommodations due to their losses. Rylan and his mother, Anne, are also conferring with community leaders as how to best help other area residents who are in need. Donations may be mailed or dropped off to Kathy and John Morrison 6128 S Maple Island Road, Fremont, MI 49412.
By Sally Wagoner
It is human to care for things that we know and that we love.
Perhaps that is one reason why our Earth is suffering so, as many humans do not have a personal relationship with nature.
When nature is viewed as something outside of our lives or outside of the human species, it is much easier to take it for granted and for profit. When nature is acknowledged as a complex web of life within which we are embedded and upon which we depend, it causes us to be conscientious of how we alter or use nature to fit our needs.
And when we learn to love nature, to develop that personal relationship with the animals, plants, waters, forests, sky and earth, we then care for it like the family that it is: with respect, with compassion, and with a desire to have it be healthy and sustainable for our future generations.
“It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong….” wrote Randy California of the band Spirit in 1970. (Click here for the song “Nature's Way” on YouTube).
Try listening to this song, with its haunting melody and lyrical premonitions, while watching the apocalyptic fires in Australia that have killed a billion animals, some to the point of possible extinction. Or seeing how glaciers are disappearing at a rate much quicker than predicted, raising ocean levels and warming the atmosphere. Or even while looking in your own back yard and noting the meager number of butterflies and bees. If you are of my era, you will remember the plethora of fireflies sparkling in the dark night as a child.
Residents of Newaygo County already have a love for the nature that abounds all around us. Whether your Indigenous roots go back centuries here, or if you are a newcomer from more recent history, this area has drawn us for its beauty and diversity of life. But this beauty that we know and love is not immune to the rippling effects of environmental changes that may occur in the next county or in the next hemisphere. How we live our lives within nature’s web today affects how well we live tomorrow, and what we leave for our children in the future.
So how do we begin, or expand, that personal relationship with the natural world around us? How do we relate to all these amazing living beings with in a way that doesn’t objectify them, but leads us to love them as family, and work with them in a manner that is respectful and sustainable?
“It’s nature’s way of receiving you, it nature’s way of retrieving you….” continues the Spirit song, insinuating the way is already in motion.
People much smarter than me teach us how to nurture this relationship: go outside, breathe, look, touch, listen and learn. The paths of farmers, poets, scientists and shamans have merged at this place where we step from the often daily routine of ignoring nature, or viewing it as merely a resource or commodity – and journey into a world of wonder and reciprocity.
But don’t take my word for it. Consider how the following people have crossed that threshold, and who now urge us all to learn how to live and relate to nature in a way, perhaps the only way, that will stem the devastations that are affecting our Earth and our own human lives:
* Dr. Monica Gagliano, Research Associate Professor in Evolutionary Ecology; author of “Thus Spoke the Plant: A Remarkable Journey of Groundbreaking Scientific Discoveries and Personal Encounters with Plants”. Click here for Plant Speak Podcast.
* Dr. Robin Kimmerer, Citizen Potawatomi , Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology; author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants”. Click here for Our Plant Teachers Podcast.
“It’s Nature’s Way” hopes to inform the citizens of Newaygo County on issues of interest and necessity about our environment from both the global outlook and its local impact. The intention is to help all of us grow a more personal relationship with our web of nature and all its manifestations so we may learn how to care for it in the best ways possible – not only for the survival of our children and grandchildren, but for the healthy sustainability of our Earth as well.
Upcoming article: Loving our Local Web at Brooks Oak-Pine Barrens Nature Sanctuary
Kathy Morrison is an occasional contributor to NNN who is spearheading an effort to help a family befriended by her son Max who are doing what they can to help during the current conflgaration being experienced down under.
For more photos and details please visit their Morrison Orchards fb page.
Many people are concerned about the horrific bushfires in Australia that are ravaging the homes of thousands of people and millions upon millions of Australia's unique animals. Millions of acres of their human and animal habitat has been turned to ash. It is early in their “fire season” but already, well over 20 million acres have burned – an area larger than all of Ireland. They have a long season ahead of them and the number of deaths of both humans and animals is sure to rise. Though some areas saw a short respite from the intensity of the fires in the past few days, another round of dry, hot and windy weather is forecast for Friday and will, no doubt, whip up fires again in areas already still burning and spread it to areas yet unscathed. I know some of you have donated to causes already for their firefighting and rescue efforts. Thank you so very much.
We have a connection and point family if you are looking to give more or for the first time. Our son, Max, as many of you know studied, worked, and traveled in Australia for some time. Now in New Zealand, Max is far from the fires but has personal friends, the Edmistones, who live in Budgong, NSW, an area of the once lush Kangaroo Valley, that already has been greatly affected by the fires in the past few weeks. There, they operate a family winery and Bed and Breakfast. They were fortunate to have only lost one outbuilding at their place, but people in the surrounding community have not been as lucky. People have lost housing and property in the fires. The normally wildlife rich and lush woodlands surrounding their area have been decimated and the remaining animals are thirsty, hungry, and scared. No one is completely free from threat, as the fires continue to burn and the forecasted dry and windy weather may reignite some of these areas in the coming days. The Edminstones have generously opened up their B-n-B to those in need of housing and food. They are also creating feed/water stations to care for the wildlife and are purchasing approved feed pellets as well as fruits and other foods to help the helpless critters that are scared, hungry and without understanding of what is happening.
In an international crisis like this, I find myself troubled, trying to discern just which organization to give money - wondering how funds will be distributed and whether or not the organization has large overhead or huge CEO salaries. It is reassuring when I know ALL of my donated money will go directly to the cause I hope it to go - - no fees, no overhead, no administration or salaries taken out. This is an opportunity to give directly to a community of people and animals that will benefit directly and immediately from our money.
We are in the process of wiring money to them this week but would like to do more for the Budgong area by reaching out beyond ourselves. If any of you are looking for a way to donate directly to help the needs of the Australian people and animals, I am collecting funds to make another transfer to this family for them to use for aiding both people and animals in their immediate community. As locals, they will know where the needs are greatest and how the money might be best spent to ease the burden of both the people who are in need, and to aid the animals whose food source has been decimated. They will document the use of the money, showing how it was spent and keep us updated on how the donations were able to help local Aussies and animals in their area. I want to do the collection swiftly, as those in immediate need cannot wait for funds from larger scale fundraisers to be disbursed, in some cases, months from now. If you are interested in making a donation, I will be doing another one time wire transfer later this month. You may drop checks, money orders, and cash off at our farm or mail checks to us at 6128 S Maple Island Rd, Fremont, MI, any checks made out to John or Kathleen Morrison. I will finish collecting funds on January 30th and wire the money the following day, so if you are interested please make sure any donations will arrive before then.
Thank you so much for your thoughts, prayers, and generosity toward the people and animal victims of Australia’s bushfires.
State Representative Scott VanSingel to speak at NCMHC
The Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center is pleased to welcome Representative Scott VanSingel for the January Speaker Series at the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center Thursday, January 16th, at 6:30 PM.
“An inside look at the Michigan Legislature” will discuss his history, including his upbringing in a small town, his farming background, and how he ended up in state government. Further elements of the non-partisan discussion will highlight day-to-day operations – how the House of Representative’s works, and general background on the legislative process.
Scott is the 5th generation of his family to reside in Grant. He lives within 3 miles of where his family settled to farm in the late 1800’s. Growing up, he spent countless hours working on the family farm which taught him the value of hard and honest work. He has deep roots in the community of Grant and Newaygo County.
Scott is a proud graduate of Grant High School where he graduated in the top 10% of his class and excelled at various sports. He later went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from Central Michigan University with majors in Finance and Accounting. In 2011, he earned his Master’s in Business from Cornerstone University. Along with his formal education, he is also nearly fluent in Spanish.
Scott has worked in public accounting for the world’s largest CPA firm. He later went on to work as a Financial Analyst for Dematic Corp. in Grand Rapids. During this time, he started a successful rental real estate company which continues to grow and thrive. He has also served as Treasurer of numerous organizations.
Scott enjoys many hobbies and is active in the community when not working. He is an avid hunter and trout fisherman along with other hobbies which include gardening, cutting firewood and distance running. He has been active in the community serving as a Deacon for several years at Grant Reformed Church, Treasurer of the Newaygo Co. Republican Party, member and volunteer for various conservation groups, scholarship committee volunteer, and participant in numerous mission trips to Central America.
State Representative Scott VanSingel was first elected in November 2016 to the Michigan House to represent the people of the 100th District, which includes Lake, Oceana and Newaygo counties. In the Legislature, Representative VanSingel serves on the Appropriations committee, as well as acting as the chairman of the Higher Education & Community Colleges Appropriations subcommittee. Mr. VanSingel also serves on the Corrections, Natural Resources & Environmental Quality, and Licensing & Regulatory Affairs Appropriations subcommittees.
N3 asked the Mayors of our local cities to provide us with a bit of a review of the past year as well as a little preview for what might be coming down the pike for 2020.
Our first offering featured the city of Grant.
Our next piece vivited the county seat of White Cloud
Now we head west to get the skinny on what’s happening as well as what might be on tap in the fine city of Fremont.
In 2019 the Darling Walkway Project was completed, with benches contributed by community members.
For the ever growing and avid pickleballers among us an outdoor court was opened on Sheridan Street.
The much anticipated arrival of the Meijer Superstore became a reality in May and Wesco opened the doors to a new Superstation on Stewart.
The ‘Farmlandscape’ at Ceres Solutions Co-Op was relocated and the Cedar Street Extension was completed offering an alternate truck route to help relieve downtown traffic congestion.
The Locust Hill development saw the opening of four new condominiums and Green Acres, the popular Senior Transitional Housing completed ‘Phase 2’ adding 20 additional residential spaces.
And in order to save on the cost of ‘off year’ elections voting for city officials will now take place on even years.
Plans for 2020 include the “Inspired Hands mural which will be installed at One East Mainon the east wall and a celebration for the 25th anniversary of the Friendship City Program with Yahaba Japan.
The city will continue to promote the need for more market value as well as income based housing and move forward with video marketing of our industrial park.
By Gail Howarth
My name is Gail Howarth. I am a photographer and storyteller. I recently started a project that I hope will tell the story of gratitude. It is called the Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo. Though this undertaking is all about gratitude, it was born from a tough time in my life.
Several years ago, I experienced a period of loss, grief, and depression. The days, too many to count, were painful and felt endless. Then one day, a switch flipped. The darkness that I had grown to expect did not come. Instead, the bright sun shone across my face, and I felt held, warm, and loved. As I emerged from my slumber, I realized that I had changed. I felt free and unafraid, led by something larger than me, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all things.
I began to wonder about gratitude all the time. What is it? Can everyone feel it? For what are people grateful? And, lastly, what does it look like? The last question led me to ask friends to think about their gratitude while I photographed them. The project took flight when several friends accepted my request.
Since its inception, The Gratitude Project has changed significantly. Initially, I just wanted to capture images of gratitude and share them with others on my Facebook page. I expected the photos to be community-building and raw. And, that is true for most folks. However, I have learned that the face of gratitude is different for everyone.
Today, my vision for The Gratitude Project is very different. At the very least, I hope the project will encourage better living through gratitude. The loftier goal is that it be used as a community-building opportunity throughout the United States and perhaps even beyond. We live in a time when our differences so easily divide us. Why not, instead, find what we have in common and begin to build relationships that create unity.
I am currently seeking individuals, and groups of people that are bound by a common interest, to photograph and to share their experience of gratitude. Groups could be but are not limited to a book club, a church choir, a group of farmers that meet for coffee, or folks that work together for a service organization. Please contact me at Gail@Lakehousecc.com if you have questions or would like to participate.
More information about The Gratitude Project is located at https://lakehousecc.com. Additionally, consider following me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/
To the Editor:
Over the weekend, Camp Henry received some negative social media commentary that quickly went viral on Facebook. We wanted to let you know about this situation, so you have accurate information.
On Jan. 4, a person who sold a horse to Camp Henry posted on social media that this horse, Tessa, as well as other horses here, are being neglected. This is absolutely not the case.
Her post went viral, with significant negative and inaccurate commentary following her post.
We take all comments, complaints and accusations very seriously. We also want to be sure the facts are presented fairly and accurately.
Please be assured that Tessa and all of our horses are under the care of our veterinarians as well as our on-staff certified Horse Program Coordinator.
Some background: A couple of months ago while pastured on our rural property near Newaygo, Tessa was attacked by a wild animal – possibly a bobcat. The animal harmed Tessa’s jaw and lip area – creating a facial wound and causing paralysis of the lower lip – which made it difficult for Tessa to eat and she lost weight.
After the attack, we immediately contacted our veterinarians and have been working closely with medical professionals to ensure Tessa’s recovery. We've been keeping her in our corral to make sure she gets fed a good diet every day. We’re also providing additional care to other horses that require special treatment, including feeding them special rations. Again, these and all our horses, are under the care of our vet and our Horse Program Coordinator.
When the person posted yesterday about Tessa, we wanted to affirm to everyone that Tessa is healing and that all of our horses are well-cared for. Although our veterinarian has been treating Tessa and the other horses all along, we immediately contacted the vet again, and he examined Tessa and the herd today. Our vet affirms that Tessa and all of the other horses are under good care. Both the vet and the farrier (a specialist in equine hoof care) are regularly at our camp to ensure the health of our horses.
Our veterinarian’s report from today’s visit states: “The entire herd was presented to me to review. With the above-mentioned exceptions [Tessa’s injury and the needs of three other horses receiving special supplementation], the herd is in good condition. I do not find evidence of neglect or misuse of the horses at Camp Henry. On the contrary, it should be remembered that a number of these horses are in some sense ‘rescue’ animals. That means they have issues. Some have chronically bad teeth and a couple have swayback. Many are old. These situations are, by definition, not ‘curable.’ They can only be managed. As a result, they may not look like a stable full of equine athletes. They do however have a good life there, and they provide campers experiences they may never be exposed to elsewhere in their lives.”
If you would like a copy of our veterinarian’s report from today’s visit, we would be happy to provide it.
In response to the concerns expressed on social media yesterday, we also invited Newaygo County Animal Control to visit us as soon as possible to see for themselves the condition of our horses and living environment. At this time, we have not received a response from Animal Control, yet we will accommodate any requested site visit at their convenience.
We welcome all questions, comments and concerns. We also welcome the opportunity to engage more horse lovers and community members in the care of our horses. If you have questions, comments, concerns or would like to learn how to help us and our horses here at Camp Henry, please contact us at 616-459-2267 or me personally at 616-717-5565. We are very appreciative of all of the folks that have reached out to offer support and assistance.
We are happy that a Camp Henry experience for so many campers and guests includes our equestrian program with our 22 horses – giving many children and even adults their first experience with riding and handling horses. Our horses are a part of what brings campers and guests back year after year, and their care and health are very important to us. We’ve been a camp and retreat destination since 1937 and are very glad to provide this experience for thousands of campers and guests each year, as well as a loving place for animals to reside and connect with people.
For more information about Camp Henry, visit us online at www.camphenry.org – or contact us as indicated above.
We appreciate your support!
N3 asked the Mayors of our local cities to provide us with a bit of a review of the past year as well as a little preview for what might be coming down the pike for 2020.
Our first offering featured the city of Grant. https://www.nearnorthnow.com/the-pulse/the-cities-of-our-county-a-review-a-preview
Now we move north to the county seat of White Cloud, a designated Trail Town where one will find “A Trail for Every Season” and a place “Where the North Begins and Pure Waters Flow”.
The City of White Cloud is poised to be the "break-out" city of West Michigan in future years. Being the intersection of two major highways, the county seat, a trailhead for the North Country Trail, and a variety of outdoor activities, White Cloud is working hard to set up our vision for the future.
This Spring we hit a bit of a setback with the White Cloud Mill Pond Dam having some damage after the thaw. However, the dam worked exactly the way it was supposed to work, and the damage and repair were minimal. Working with the State we were able to use primarily grant/emergency money for the work.
Our Airport has a new runway lighting system, LED, to step up our level of service to those that use our airport. Usage is still small at this time, but we are still looking forward to our airport being used much more with future business opportunities, as well as, the opening of the Dragon Trail.
Some of the biggest decisions this year have come by way of new laws in the state. This past Spring White Cloud ushered in the opening of our first Medical Marijuana Facility, and they have been a pleasure to work with. With the State of Michigan laws allowing for recreational marijuana as an option, the City Council has decided to work within this new business opportunity and opened up the option for recreational sales in White Cloud. With just the discussion of these new policies coming into play, we have received several calls on our status of the ordinances, and our vision of how the applications will be accepted. As of December, our ordinances are in place and many businesses are beginning to vet White Cloud as a potential home.
One of the biggest concerns in White Cloud over the last twenty-plus years has been our Industrial Park. Sadly, it has spent years being unsold and undeveloped. This past year, with the help of our City Manager, Lora Kalkofen, we have sold (or with option) every parcel in the industrial park. Some sights have already begun clearing trees, and others are working with our planning commission on their sight review process. In a short time, our industrial complex should be seeing some incredible growth. Our downtown industrial park even saw some growth this year with our first 70,000 sq ft marijuana grow facility.
One of the biggest needs in Newaygo County, and White Cloud specifically, is affordable housing. After a three-year commitment of searching for, touring, and selling our city to a variety of developers, it seems White Cloud may be getting close to seeing a new housing development. We have been working with the Hope Network over the last few months on finding them not only a location but a sense of 'fit' without community. We have hosted several informational times, and Hope Network even rented out space for questions. We are hoping early this year we will be able to shake hands and move forward with plans for new development.
How can you talk about White Cloud and not discuss our roads? In 2018, we were able to commit a little over $150,000 to do some badly needed "band-aid" repairs to a number of our roads. One major project, James Street, was left off that list. James street was even mentioned in recent years as being one of the "10 worst roads in Michigan". I don't think anyone in White Cloud would deny that. This year the city worked with a grant writer and we were able to get matching funds from the State to work towards the repair of James Street. Timelines, strikes, water line work, and Michigan weather got in the way and sadly, we didn't get the repair job finished. We are excited for the Spring to get this paved and in a standard that we can be proud of. We just ask for a bit more time.
Where is White Cloud going in 2020 and beyond? That is one of our goals for the year. With new and returning faces on our City Council, Downtown Development Board, and Planning Commission, we are working this year on a complete revamp of our City's Master Plan and will need input from our residents for that. Our downtown area is ready for growth with business, and our community is looking to help build our town back to its former glory. We welcome our most recent business additions and are looking forward to working with them as they grow and succeed with us.
I want to thank the City residents for my first term as Mayor and hope to continue to serve positively. I am continually learning how our city works and am hopeful we can make it successful.
Mayor, City of White Cloud
N3 asked the Mayors of our local cities to provide us with a bit of a review of the past year as well as a little preview for what might be coming down the pike for 2020.
We start with the town that serves as our gateway city, is home to one of the few wooden water towers in the state and has been traditionally known as the onion capital of the world….Grant
The City of Grant has seen several changes in this past year:
In May of 2019 voters approved the Expanded Community Policing Millage by 73%, the additional revenue helped the Police Department hire a full-time officer to expand coverage hours and help lower turn-over. New hire Sgt. Steve Paulsen is a great fit for Grant and a familiar face which brings knowledge of our community and stability. Sgt. Paulsen will also be undergoing Medical First Responder training in the new year.
Additionally, Chief Bradley Wade has made several great hires and implemented a solid reserve program, the reserve unit now has nine (9) members working alongside certified officers on a volunteer basis. Chief Wade is also working on increasing lighting and surveillance coverage of the City Office parking lot which will provide for a secure area to complete sales started on social media sites as well as child custody exchanges.
For several months beginning in January 2019, the City Commission contemplated allowing for one medical marijuana provisioning retail center after hearing from an impressive group interested in operating such a venture. After much discussion the Commission decided 7-0 to adopt an ordinance and rules for such facilities. The Commission agreed that it is best not to prohibit an alternative form of medicine desired by some in the community. The provisioning center will be located at 262 S Maple St, which is the location of the former Swinehart Furniture Store. This location will be divided into three (3) units, and will also house a new Heating and Cooling Contractor and a therapist that specializes in youth who have experienced traumatic situations.
Furthermore, a local developer is constructing a new residential duplex in town, this will be the first new housing in town since 2015.
The past year was the first full-year for new City Manager, Kasey Jernberg. This year Jernberg helped the City receive $15,000 in grant funding for a new public works vehicle. He also led an initiative to replace 25% of the high-pressure sodium streetlights with less costly LED lights, and worked with our auditors to eliminate a deficit in the sewer fund. Additionally, he worked with our sewer contractor to complete improvements to the waste-water treatment plant polishing pond which will help keep the effluent in compliance with our discharge permit. Jernberg was also appointed to a three-year term on the County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority board.
After the November 2019 election, the City Commission welcomed new Commissioner Mark Dietz to the group. Dietz was a write-in candidate for one of three City Commission positions. Commissioner Kate Block was re-elected as well as Mayor Julie Hallman. Currently the Commission has one vacant seat.
In 2019, the City Commission also allocated funds to pave the parking lot around the Farmer’s Market / Water Tower Park. Engineering work is underway with construction planned this summer. The City envisions this site to be a vibrant market providing local growers with a popular venue to sell their goods and a destination for area residents and travelers to spend time and money in Grant; that will help support the local economy.
A D.C. trip in search of Christmas spirit
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
Pack it up, it is time for a road trip. After living in huge cities and working for the Airlines for a combined fifty plus years my designated travel companion and I must frequently return to the hive. We like big cities and busy airports and the hustle and bustle in small bites. I have found that it is often gratifying to disregard the world that is portrayed in the popular and social media and on the Hallmark channel and go somewhere and have a look around.
This weekend trip was to Washington DC to find that elusive Christmas spirit. The thought was with the current political proceedings it could be an interesting time to visit the “Hill.” Also, seeing the National Christmas Tree and attending some kind of event in the National Cathedral would surely bring on a little holiday merriment.
After a short flight from our beautiful and recently renovated Gerald R Ford Airport in Grand Rapids we made an acceptable short field landing, just skimming the Potomac before screeching to a halt. We deplaned into the drizzle at the old, yellow, cluttered Reagan National Airport, got into waiting buses and after a long ride we were offloaded into what appeared to be the boiler room and left to find our way through an underground labyrinth to baggage claim. A short ride to our hotel to check-in and dump the bags and we were off to see the Wizard.
Our plan was to visit the Library of Congress Christmas Tree on Saturday, then go across the street to Capital, stop in at the visitor center and make reservations for a tour on Monday. From there we would venture out into the Mall to visit the Capitol Christmas tree. This year it is a 60-foot Blue Spruce harvested in the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. The decorations were designed and made by school children and being from New Mexico there was an abundance of lovely dream catchers, effigy figures, sun symbols, and flying saucers. With “a few look, isn’t that one cute” and the obligatory photos it was off to see the National Christmas Tree.
The hike from the Capitol to the White House feels like it gets longer every time I make it. On the way down Pennsylvania Ave, we were passed by fleets of fire trucks, police cars, and emergency vehicles. When we finally reached the Ellipse the entrance to the National Christmas Tree was closed. Frustration and disappointment, there had been some sort of event at the tree and the Police had it blocked off and offered no explanation as to when it would be open. According to one UBER driver last year some guy tried to climb the tree in the nude and pulled a bunch of the wires down, so who knows what just happened. My traveling partner is goal-oriented and no explanation for the closure of the National Christmas Tree was sufficient. Take it from me full disclosure is often not sufficient.
By this time, it was dark and we were tired and hungry so it was off to Legal Sea Food for an incredible dinner. Fresh east coast seafood is incomparable. We did return the next day and were able to see the National Tree and the 50 smaller State trees. Sorry to say but I was a bit underwhelmed, the National tree, and our smaller Michigan state tree, and associated decorations were kind of cheesy. It could have been the bright sunlight or maybe the mood of the City?
On Sunday it was on to the Church Houses. The first was The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We are not of the faith but wanted to visit this awesome Shrine, between Masses and see the art, architecture, and decorations. It is a great place of worship and cannot be described, only visited. “It is truly the embodiment of the people who are the fabric of the Catholic faith and a mosaic of our great nation.”
Saint John Paul II, the first pope to visit the National Shrine, perhaps best expressed its essence:
“This Shrine speaks to us with the voice of all America, with the voice of all the sons and daughters of America, who have come here from various countries…. When they came, they brought with them in their hearts the same love for the Mother of God that was characteristic of their ancestors and of themselves in their native lands. These people, speaking different languages, coming from different backgrounds of history and traditions in their own countries, came together around the heart of a Mother they all had in common.” https://www.nationalshrine.org/
In the evening it was the National Cathedral for an event filled with light, storytelling, dance, great music and the magic of Christmas. This Cathedral is a “house of prayer for all people, conceived by our founders to serve as a great church for national purposes. Washington National Cathedral holds a unique place at the intersection of sacred and civic life. As the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, we strive to serve God and our neighbors as agents of reconciliation, a trusted voice of moral leadership and sacred space where the country gathers during moments of national significance.”
The Church leaders are advocates for Veteran's rights and support, LGBTQ rights and support, Race in America, advocates against gun violence and interfaith dialog. https://cathedral.org/
On Monday it was off to visit the big house. I am happy to report that the Temple of Freedom still stands. The money changers haven’t sold it. The Statue of Freedom still stands atop the dome and faces east. She is impressive indeed and the massive block of granite and beautiful columns of marble are still stacked and holding her up. They will certainly still be standing long after this current little fracas is over with. Our Capital and our government building are resplendent and I strongly recommend that every American make several pilgrimages to Washington DC. It is after all the seats of OUR government. We own the place; we are the landlords and the people that work there are our tenants and employees and should be looking out for our best interest. Lest we forget, we must give them directions, performance reviews and if they do not perform to the required standards set out in the Constitution then they must be frequently evicted.
The tour of our Capitol is a history lesson presented in stone and art. The rotunda and Capitol Dome are incomparable. As we enjoyed the art and architecture, we also enjoyed another favorite big city pastime. People Watching. Our tour group was a typical composition of international tourists, mostly rich Asian with a smattering of young Americans. We were the only couple of that certain age in our group.
I would like to quietly mention that our government and Washington DC are inhabited and managed by “minorities” and or very young adults. Often both. The staff whizzing around us doing our government's business looked like teen agers. So do all the airline pilots and police. All the service folks, guides, guards, security agents, UBER drivers, wait staff in the restaurants, and hotels, ticket agents and so on are minorities and or young adults. For many English is not their first language. I found it interesting that our Capitol tour guide was a cheeky young Britt. He at one point unapologetically reminded us that the reason the British burned down our first Capitol during the War of 1812 was that we had foolishly invaded Canada. And that young Nations and teenagers often make bad choices.”
While we are on this subject of demographics and choices. I was very courteous to these young Washingtonians. Maybe a little self-serving, because according to the Brookings Institute and Census data “racial minorities are projected to account for all of the nation’s youthful population growth over the next 42 years.” Minorities will be the source of all of the growth in the nation’s youth and working-age population, most of the growth in its voters, and much of the growth in its consumers and tax base as far into the future as we can see. Hence, the more rapidly growing, the largely white senior population will be increasingly dependent on their contributions to the economy and to government programs such as Medicare and Social Security. This suggests the necessity for continued investments in the nation’s diverse youth and young adults as the population continues to age.”
Ok, Boomers we probably need to rethink our immigration policy and really, really support STEM and vocational education funding. I would like to further suggest that these minorities will be populating our military and other service organization like the police and fire departments.
This is not new news. We are a Nation of Immigrants after all. I noticed that the statues in the Capitol visitors center honoring our great Americans were mostly women, African Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants. As you look around the Capitol and at our other great buildings you will notice that they too were designed, engineered and built by “others.” So, what is all this divisive fuss about? Our Social scientists report that we are trending toward tribalism- a code word for partisanship. We have begun to look at our politics like our sporting events. Our side wins or loses and we feel good or bad. Probably not a good approach to running a great and complex country like ours.
I walked out to the backyard of the Capitol and there wasn’t a football field marked off with 10-yard lines and goalposts on either end. No bleachers on the left side for the Democrats or on the right side for the Republicans. I also looked down that Mall toward all the moments and war memorials honoring our founders and fallen heroes. I don’t recall seeing their party affiliation carved in stone. Just their name and the day they gave their lives for our country.
While being a little preachy, if we Michiganders recall when we had that little divisive impeachment dust-up with President Richard Nixon it was our own Gerald Ford that was chosen to calm the waters and right the ship of state. To restate a little history about this remarkable man of that important moment in our history, he had been the first Vice President chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, and was succeeding the first President ever to resign. Ford was confronted with almost insuperable tasks. There were the challenges of mastering inflation, reviving a depressed economy, solving chronic energy shortages, and trying to ensure world peace.
Ford’s reputation for integrity and openness had made him popular during his 25 years in Congress. From 1965 to 1973, he was House Minority Leader. Ford described his philosophy as "a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy. Ford was known to his colleagues in the House as a "Congressman's Congressman.” When I looked at his Statue in the Rotunda, I wished he was here now to handle the mess that was going on down the halls in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Wishful thinking perhaps because as our young British guide stated to our tour group, “your America is a country of many nationalities and various ethnic groups, all with different cultural practices and spiritual and philosophical beliefs. You are governed by laws that change frequently and you argue and reargue about everything. These Congressmen and Women and the Supreme Court Judges that are around here today are all arguing over some rule of law.”
Thanks for the lecture young Mr Brit.
All trips must come to an end. It was with mixed feelings as we headed back to the dingy old maze that is Regan Airport. We really didn’t have that great moment where you get that warm, light, gleeful holiday spirit. We finally found the chaotic departure lounge for our flight down to Grand Rapids. We settled in for a few minutes of people watching, coffee drinking and me asking my travel partner “could you understand that last PA announcement.” In a few minutes the folks going to Michigan started to show up. You could tell them by their heavy long coats worn over sweaters and hoodies. Young men in sensible shoes, wearing watch hats and Carhart jackets. As Johnny Cash said, “These Are My People.”
After a bit this lovely little Mom, blond, blue eyes, probably about five feet, two inches tall, maybe 100 pounds arrived. She was followed by two little girls who were perfect images of Mom, maybe five and seven years old. The third about a year old was in one of those chest carriers. All were loaded with little packs, carry-on bags and baby gear. To round out the entourage was what appeared to be an Asian Au Pair. All were well dressed and well behaved. What a brave little Mom to be wrangling three small children and an Au Pair through this Christmas traffic. Soon in broken English someone announced our flight and we were headed outside into the drizzle, loaded on these huge buses and taken to our airplane. You know the drill, find your seat, stow your bags, buckle up and go through the departure briefing. Then we waited and waited a bit more. Next, we received the dreaded announcement from the Captain, we were on a maintenance delay. Wait some more then, more bad news, deplane. Repeat the process in reverse.
On the bus trip back to old grimy, I was standing and hanging on the strap and facing toward the back of the bus. In a moment I heard some noise and someone touched my shoulder and there was a small tug on my jacket. I turned and looked straight into the face of a little Christmas Angel. Huge Michigan sky blue eyes, tousled blond hair, our eyes locked for a moment while she held onto my jacket with a tiny hand. Then her face lit up like we were long lost pals and she smiled this huge smile exposing not one but two perfect little white baby teeth. She was hanging over the shoulder of her little five-foot-two Mom working the crowd. O my goodness, what now?
I summoned my traveling partner, and she joined in. Miss blue eyes talked to us in her delightful one-year-old language for a few minutes, and then her Mom turned to see who she had captured. We were scanned and found to be harmless doting grandparent types. After offloading, a brief wait and a gate change we were on a functioning airplane on our way to Grand Rapids. Miss blue eyes was two rows in front of us and soon she popped up looking for her adoring fans. A game of peek a boo began. We would hear her call and then we would take turns shamelessly playing this endless game all the way down to Grand Rapids. She and her lovely little family disappeared into the night, hopefully on their way to a peaceful Christmas Holiday.
On the way up to Newaygo County with the Celtic Woman CD playing a rendition of Silent Night I was thinking wasn’t it a baby born on a cold starlight night like this one that began this Christmas whatever you think it is. I guess that Christmas spirit is where you find it or when it tugs on your shoulder looking for a little game of peek a boo.
You know if Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell would play a game of Peek a Boo with an adorable one year old maybe they wouldn’t be so grumpy.
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