General

‘Dropped Dead!’ (What was the Editor Thinking?)

It’s interesting to read old newspapers. You never know what tidbits of information you will find that brings history to life. Even if the article has to do with death.

deadTake this one that appeared in the front page of the May 2, 1884 issue of The Clare County Press about the death of Rebecca Rulapaugh.  I ran across the article while doing some research on another topic, and the headline and subhead made me want to read it.

Dropped Dead!

Sudden Demise of Mrs. Rebecca Rulapaugh at the Dinner Table Tuesday.

In the Best of Health one Minute and the next a Corpse.

Mrs. Rebecca Rulapaugh wife of John Rulapaugh who lives north of Clare, died very suddenly on Tuesday. The family had just taken their seats at the table for their midday meal when the wife and mother fell from her chair to the floor. Her husband immediately went to her assistance and she was placed upon a bed but she expired almost as soon as she was laid down. The deceased had been feeling as well as usual Tuesday morning and she was subject to no trouble that the family knew of. Her sudden death was a great shock to her family and friends. She was 57 years of age and leaves behind a husband and seven children to bear the loss…

When I first read the piece my first reaction was one of laughing atRebecca the headline.  However, one would expect Rebecca’s death would have devastated her husband and the entire family.   After all, Rebecca was only 56 and had been in the best of health-or so it appeared.  We have no other information on the cause of death but do know that Rebecca was buried in Woods cemetery in Clare County thanks to information posted on “Find a Grave” by someone with the username of twkistle.  Her husband John would join her in death two years later at age 64.  Whether his wife’s death was a factor in John’s passing, we do not know. 

What did John and the family think when they read that article? Were they horrified at the wording?  Or was this just considered the norm a century or more ago.  Maybe the Rulapaugh’s didn’t have the time, money or desire to read the paper, and so never saw the article.  This is not the first time I’ve run across articles that have seemed to sensationalize a death (if, in fact, this is what the editors intended)  Yet, I wonder what was the goal of using those headlines and subheads and did they regret their decision later.  We will never know. However, is does make me wonder, what were they thinking?

Categories: Clare County, General, History, Home life, Michigan | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Hard Work to Make the Green Pine Lake Pathway Enjoyable

This press release was written on behalf of the Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation and a group called Hiking Michigan.  It concerns a state pathway in western Clare County that was quite overgrown.  In fact, I got lost on the pathway a couple of years ago and blogged about it.  That post caught the attention of Mark Wilson who is the director of the North/Central branch of Hiking Michigan.  He contacted me and put him in touch with Friends and the two groups worked together since Friends was looking for a way to get more people interested in the pathway. And who says good can’t come out of blogging? 

Hard Work to Make the Green Pine Lake Pathway Enjoyable

Beavers may have a different priority

Green Pine Trail MapThe Green Pine Lake Pathway is one of Clare County’s hidden treasures. The Pathway—really three loops and one connector trail—is located in Freeman Township in the western part of the county. Two of the loops are accessible from a parking lot on the south side of M-115, just west of Lake Station Ave., while the connector trail leads to a state forest campground and nature trail on Big Mud Lake (off Brown Road near Garfield).

In the past, the overgrown trails and lack of markings have posed big challenges to those who have ventured to walk either location. Now, thanks to the hard work of numerous volunteers during the last weekend in April, visitors can focus more on the beauty of their surroundings, and less on determining which direction the trails go.

According to Gerry Schmiedicke, president of Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation, a local non-profit that seeks to improve and promote the county’s parks and recreational opportunities, his group wanted to get the word out about the wonderful hiking experience residents and visitors along would find. However, “Friends” did not want to promote the Pathway until the trails looked better and people could use them safely. The group’s small number of members meant it could not accomplish all the tasks by themselves. (While increasing numbers is something the Friends group is working to change, the trail work needed tackling ASAP.)

Enter the North/Central Branch of Hiking Michigan, an organization that encourages and invites people to explore and better the natural environments while enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded outdoor people.  “Their Director, Mark Wilson, contacted us and said the group was interested in re-marking and clearing the trails,” Schmiedicke said. “We were happy to partner with them on this project and much appreciate the hard work of everyone who turned out.”

“The three trails that make up the Pathway have a lot of potential to attract visitors,” Wilson said talking about what attracted his group to the project. “The small 2.5-mile loop off the parking lot that skirts Pike Lake offers a nice little day hike and the trail is now well defined. The same is true for the nature trail at the Mud Lake State Forest Campground. And those looking for more of a challenge should enjoy the hike from the parking lot at M-115 to Mud Lake via the east leg of the trail that loops around Green Pine Lake.”

Green Pine Lake CleaningWhile Wilson credits the volunteers and staff from the DNR for the work done so far, more work remains. A few of the bridges and boardwalks need work; and signage is needed at a few intersections. (The signage, an Eagle Scout project, is currently being restored.) “We hope to complete those tasks at second work project this summer,” said Wilson.  There’s one project he admits might not get done—at least not for a while because of a beaver dam that has flooded a portion of the 5-mile long southern loop.  But Wilson isn’t going to complain, saying that we just need to remember we are visitors here while the beaver call Green Pine Lakes their home. “Plus,” he adds, “There are plenty of other trails for those of us who like terrain that’s a bit on the drier side.”

A parking lot on the south side of M-115 just west of Lake Station Road provides plenty of parking to access to trail with its two lakes. To learn more about Hiking Michigan, go to www.hikingmichigan.com.  For Hiking Michigan’s free downloadable map of the trail, go to www.hikingmichigan.com/PDFinfo/GreenPineLake.pdf.

Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation invites you to their annual Gateway Event on June 1, 2013 to help raise funds to improve recreation in Clare County. Learn more at clarecountyrecreation.org.

Categories: Clare County, ecology, General, Michigan, recreation, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going For the Jugular

We may think of newspaper stories meant more to thrill than to inform as something from the latter part of the 20th century, but, as the story below illustrates, papers haven’t been shy about going for the jugular for a very long time (no pun intended). This story was published in a Michigan newspaper in 1896. I ran across it while searching for some information on Clare County.

old article on explosion

Categories: General, History | Leave a comment

The Gerald Mast WPA Murals: Clare, Michigan

In 1938, four murals by Grand Rapids painter, mural painter, mosaicist, and educator Gerald Mast (1928-1972) were installed in the Clare, Michigan High School (now its middle school) auditorium, as part of the Works Project Administration art project. Each of the four panels that make up the mural are approximately 20-feet high and 8-feet wide. The panels were installed after being painted at the Detroit Institute of Arts, wrapped about stovepipe and transported by flatbed truck the 170-or-so odd miles to Clare.

Dayton Spence, an art restoration specialist and historian of 19th, 20th and 21st century American art, came to Clare in 1988 to clean and restore the murals. Dr. Thomas Moline was superintendent of Clare Public Schools at that time and on Sept. 8, 2012, Dr. Moline returned to Clare from his home in Illinois to take part in a fundraiser and Depression-era art tour sponsored by the Clare County Arts Council. Standing in the auditorium with the murals to his right, Dr Moline gave those in attendance the keynote address–as well as a history lesson.

According to Dr. Moline, the Mast Murals are some of the largest WPA murals in existence composed by a single artist and are snapshots in time. “They represent what was important to the Clare community and surrounding area at a time when the nation was wrestling with the effects of the Great Depression and the subject of the murals was chosen by Mast and the community.”

Moving from the back of the auditorium to the front (left to right in the photos) the murals illustrate agriculture, peacetime activities, science & education and the emerging gas & oil industry.

From picture to picture, the look on the people’s faces was the same, said Moline. No one seems to be smiling. Why is it that all, even the giants on both sides, look so somber and as if staring off into space? The following is taken mostly verbatim from Dr. Moline’s talk and based on his conversations with Dayton Spence and Moline’s own research:

“Many WPA works of art chronicle the effects of the Great Depression upon the people living through those years. During that period there was great debate about the actual effects of a capitalist democracy.

“There are two periods in the history of the United States that shook our nation’s foundation due to internal events. The most notable was our nations’ Civil War. The second was the Great Depression.

An emerging middle class that was gaining momentum in the 1920’s was leveled during the Great Depression. A great tide of resentment rose up against government by a nation that felt they should have been far better protected. Resentment formed even faster against the ‘capitalists’ who were viewed as being financially capable of weathering the Depression.

“As unemployment rose, as families lost homes, as individuals’ educations were squandered, a major debate took place within large cities and regions about the form and operation of government that would better serve and protect ‘the people.’ Variant forms of socialism and even communism were openly debated within a nation that was searching hard for answers to remedy economic and service delivery problems. In the 1930s, capitalism and the free market economy also became suspect for their perceived ability to make some rich while many laborers worked for subsistence wages.

“Dayton Spence related that WPA artists purposely injected the look of disassociation in their subjects to generate a feeling of questioning within the viewer…There seems an expression of loss in the faces in the Mast Murals,…or maybe a sense of being let down. Or is it a sense of looking out of the present situation…to something…beyond?

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts, completed in 1933, have the same faces, the same expressions, the same staring off to the beyond. The message was very much the same as conveyed in the Mast Murals, except that one can also discern in Rivera’s work a critical treatment of the “capitalists” who appeared to be running the show. That criticism was not well received by those with large holdings in the automobile industry, some of whom supported an unsuccessful campaign to whitewash the Detroit Industry Murals out of existence. Rivera’s influence definitely shows in Mast’s art.”

Spence estimated each panel could demand a price (based on what the offshore consortiums were willing to pay) of approximately $5 million–or $20 million for the set of four. The federal government made it again clear in 1999, in a letter to then Clare Public Schools Superintendent, William Courliss, that the art belongs to the people of the United States and remains bequeathed to Clare Public Schools and its community, and shall not be offered for sale. (In fact, the Federal Government is making a concerted effort to recover WPA art.)

Moline ended his talk by commending the Clare County Arts Council for the important work they are doing to care, maintain and preserve the Gerald Mast Murals stating, “They are an historic treasure that will rise in national prominence with each passing year.”

Arrangements can be made to view the murals during the school year by contacting the Clare Middle School at (989) 386-9979.

Along with the Mast Murals, there is also another piece of WPA art on the school grounds, an 8-foot high statue called “Pioneer Mother,” by Samual Cashwan. It is deteriorating due to time and exposure to the elements, and in serious need of restoration. Unlike the Mast Murals, the statue has never been stabilized much less restored, Costs for work on the statue could run as high as $20,000.

Even the Mast Murals should be attended to every 20 years. Doing the math, that means an expert in restoration should have been called in 2008 to examine them; however, because of lack of funding that did not occur–and there are no plans to work on them any time soon. Although heavy drapes were installed on auditorium windows at one time to slow the murals’ deterioration due to sunlight little else has been done to protect them.

Mail Comes to Clare Painting in the Clare Post Office. Clare also has two other depression-era works of art of note. One, a mural called “The Mail comes to Clare”  is at the Clare post office and can be viewed during open hours. There is also a light-hearted mural that shows leprechauns making beer that covers approximately 70-feet of the wall in the restaurant of the Doherty Hotel. This mural can be viewed at any time. A. J. Doherty, owner of the Dhoerty Hotel in Clare, discusses the painting on the making of beer that covers the walls of his restaurant and bar.

Note: The information in this post on the Mast Murals is based on Dr. Moline’s talk of Sept. 8, 2012. Following his talk, Dr. Moline generously passed along his address and I am endebted to him for doing so. I hope my changes did not materially alter what was a highly educational and entertaining address. I hope to post an unedited copy of his address soon. 

Photos by Marty Johnson. Close-ups of the Mast Murals come from postcards sold by the Clare County Arts Council. Membership is $10/year. If you would like to help preserve the murals of the statute of the Pioneer Mother or wish to contribute toward work on the Mast Murals, please contact the Arts Council at clarecountyartscouncil@hotmail.com. Tell them “Marty” sent you!

Categories: Clare County, General, History, logging, Michigan, recreation, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rules for Clare Bank Employees — 1909

The following rules were found in the book “Clare Remembered 1879 – 1979,” published by the Clare Area Centennial Committee. Citizens bank stood on the corner of Fourth and MeEwan and operated for 70 years ,beginning in 1908.

Clare Citizens BankCitizens Bank of Clare — Rules for Employees       
March 10, 1909

  1. Office employees will daily sweep the floors, dust the furniture, shelves and counters.
  2. Each day fill lamps, clean chimneys, and trim wicks. Wash the windows once a week.
  3. Each clerk will bring in a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s business.
  4. Make your pens carefully; You may whittle nibs to suit your individual taste.
  5. The office is will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. daily except on the Sabbath, on which day it will remain closed. Each employee is expected to spend the Sabbath by attending church.
  6. Men employees will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes, or two evening off a week of they go regularly to church.
  7. Every employee should lay aside for each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden upon the charity of his betters.
  8. Any employee who smokes Spanish cigars, uses liquor in any form, gets shaved at a barber shop, or frequents pool or public halls, will give us good reason to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity of honesty.
  9. The employee who has performed his labor faithfully, and without fault for a period of five years in our service, and who has been thrifty, and is looked upon by his fellow men as a law abiding citizen, will be given an increase of ten cents per day in his pay, provided a just return in profits from the business permits it.
Categories: Clare County, General, History, Jobs and the economy, Life, Michigan | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Amerigas: Worst Customer Service in the World (well, maybe not that bad but it ain’t good)

Man pulling hair in frustration(Note: This post contains several updates.)

I use Amerigas up here in Clare County. I use them only because the former owner of my property leased the tank from the company so I have continued to do so. However, I wish I didn’t. Amerigas has the worst customer service in the world.

Here’s the story: I have an online account with them and recently needed to change my credit card number because Amerigas couldn’t bill me. My bad. I had not updated my credit card with them.

When I attempted to do so, I was unable to get into my Amerigas account using the password I had been using. No big deal, I thought  so I requested a new password using the Amerigas online system. Sadly, their online system would not respond. I tried again and again got the same lack of response. So I gave up and decided to call instead. Then suddenly a temporary password showed up from Amerigas in my mailbox. Problem over, I thought.

Wrong, as it turned out.

The system would not let me in using the new password and finally locked me out. So I tried to call them using the phone number in the email. The email also said their call center was open until 8 p.m. EST. Very convenient I thought as I called one early evening.  I went through the many prompts on the Amerigas phone system only to be told the office closed at 5 p.m. Thinking I was mistaken I reread the email. “Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.” it read.

So I tried again the next day about the same time after receiving yet another email from them that gave the 8 p.m. closing time. Same result.

So the third day I called earlier and was placed on hold. After a time a message came on saying I could just leave my name, account number and phone number and someone would try to call me back within the half hour. So I waited. And waited and waited.

The few days later I called again. This time midday. Was placed on hold, left a message when prompted and waited. Still no response. Today I called yet a third time and the wait continues although more than two hours has already elapsed.

So each day, Amerigas tries to bill my account and sends me an email when they are unable to do so. And each day I call. I am happy to report however that their email now gives the 5 p.m. closing time so that’s a step in the right direction. But not a big one and it doesn’t change my opinion of the company.

I have always hated Amerigas and I don’t hate too many companies. It stems from a few years ago when I didn’t lock in my rate for propane because gas prices were low and the price of propane (which is petroleum-based) basically follows the price of gas. Also, by not locking in my rate I saved $100.

Amerigas monitors my tank and normally come out whenever the propane level in my tank is 30 percent or less. On this particular day a few years ago, the tank was nearly full when the truck came out. I was not alarmed. They were there so they filled the tank.  When I got the bill however, I about hit the ceiling. Amerigas had charged me around $5/gallon for propane.

I immediately called their call center (this time I had easily gotten through). Their explanation: On that particular day the price of propane had spiked for some reason to $5/gallon in that region. Just that day. No, they didn’t know why. No, they couldn’t tell me anything more. No, they couldn’t cut my bill. No. No. No. And yes, I should have locked in the rate. Luckily for me my tank hadn’t been  empty or I would have been looking at a $3000 bill.

I should have left them that year but with fees for turning off service and disconnecting service and picking up the tank I didn’t. And that’s why today I sit and wait for Amerigas to call me back although I realize the call may never come.  So while I sit and wait I continue to hate. Amerigas sucks. Stay away.

Dec. 20 Update: Amerigas called me back at 7:15 p.m. last night but I was not available to answer the phone so I called them back this morning (Dec. 20) a few minutes after they opened. I was on hold for 10 minutes before a polite gentleman named Jason answered the phone and reset my password. All my delays and time spent waiting for something that took Jason all of two minutes. I thanked Jason for his help and told him Amerigas customer service was horrible and asked that he pass that up to the powers-that-be within the company. I reset my password and updated my account. For now, all is well.

Dec. 22 Update: I thought all was well with my Amerigas account but I was sadly mistaken. Yesterday I received an email that Amerigas had successfully billed my new credit card for a $20.09 payment. Now this payment attempt goes back to early December when I received the first indication that I had an invalid card attached to my account. And while I tried to get it all sorted out, I DID send them the payment via check so my account was up to date. In fact, when I talked to Jason he assured me it was up to date and when I was able to access my account online I verified it was up to date. Well, apparently with everyone but the computer at Amerigas, which billed my credit card. Thank goodness it is a relatively small amount. Had it been my entire bill for propane it could be devastating to my account. I contacted Amerigas yesterday to ask that the amount be credited. I have not heard back from them. My battle continues.

Graphic is from Photobucket.com

Categories: Clare County, General, Harrison, Michigan | Tags: | 4 Comments

Almost Time for Flannel-Lined Blue Jeans

Iflanneljeans graphic am a big believer in flannel-lined blue jeans during the winter months. They are one of the best ways to survive a Michigan (or any other northern state) winter.

Why? Because cotton jeans seem to attract the cold and the wind whips right through them. But flannel-lined? Ahhh, the flannel feels warm against the legs, especially when you have skinny chicken legs like mine. And the flannel helps combat the cold north wind. Furthermore, you can wear them indoors as well as out and dial down the thermostat a bit. But even if you don’t lower the inside temps you won’t overheat and drop from heatstroke. Lastly, no one knows you are wearing them. The stiffness of the cotton fabric helps the jeans keep their shape. (I have worn flannel-lined docker pants and they don’t look nearly as good, although I am at that age where I’d rather be warm than look stylish.)

I’ve gotten mine from Penney’s and Eddie Bauer (when on sale) but the Duluth Trading Company has them at a good price. So, if you are looking for a gift to give or need to put something on your holiday gift list, think flannel and think warm.

Categories: General, Home life, Michigan | Leave a comment

Christmas Music Already–oh the Horrors

Stopped in yesterday (Oct. 26) to my neighborhood Family Dollar store in Harrison, Michigan. As I wandered the aisle I heard “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” a great hymn. I was humming along thinking how nice it was to hear a Christian hymn in a store when suddenly the thought struck me: I wasn’t listening to a hymn, I was listening to CHRISTMAS MUSIC. In October. Days before Halloween. I grabbed my purchase and headed for the cashier. As I paid for my purchase I commented on how terrible it was the store was already playing CHRISTMAS MUSIC. “I’ll be tired of it by Christmas, that’s for sure,” she growled.

That’s the Christmas spirit I thought as I headed out the door, wishing the cashier a “ho,ho ho, as I left.

Categories: General, Harrison, Home life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Cops, Doughnuts, a Small Town, a Growing Tourist Draw

Cops and Doughnuts storefrontPeanut butter and jelly, ying and yang, orange juice and breakfast. They go together like, well like Cops and Doughnuts. No, not the stereotype connection of police officers snacking on the fried snack, but the real thing: The Cops and Doughnuts bakery in Clare, Michigan. The particular bakery has good coffee, a wide assortment of tasty baked goods, clever bakery related merchandise, a strong connection to the community and a great story to tell that all began a couple of years ago on the back of a pizza box.

In 2009, the only bakery in Clare, established in 1896, was in danger of closing. That’s when the nine full-time members of the city’s Police Department banded together to save it. They drafted a business plan of sorts on the back of a pizza box, pooled their resources and purchased the bakery housed in an historic building on the city’s main street. They then set to hiring additional staff and broadened the offerings. The place took off—and not because the bakery’s owners were its own best customers. Locals were glad to still have the bakery. Plus, it was a clever concept and the police officers added to it by installing displays of police related items like badges and photos. The bakery’s opening received press coverage all over the state, which helped contribute to its early success.

The bakery itself was small, with barely room for the counter and a few tables, so when a store next door became available, the bakery expanded into the building, adding even more tables, free Wi-Fi, merchandise including t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers and even Cops and Doughnuts branded coffees produced by Paramount Coffee of Lansing, MI. Their coffee is sold in stores in five states. The merchandise sports clever statements like “Don’t glaze me, bro,” “Fighting Crime One Doughnuts at a Time and D.W.I. Doughnuts Were Involved. The merchandise is also being sold online at copsdoughnuts.com. While some of the merchandise sports a photo of the nine owners in uniform, all of it mentions the bakery’s location n Clare.

And Clare, Michigan can use the promotion. A town of slightly more than 3,000, it was once a vibrant lumbering town in the late-1800s as trains and wagons brought men and machinery to harvest the giant white pine that grew in the surrounding county.  The money those pines represented then brought retailers, bar owners and other to the area. However, once the trees were gone, the lumbermen moved onto greener pastures, Clare became a sleepy town relying on agriculture and tourism. The city is home to a number of nice shops and boutiques but many are struggling because they lack the number of shoppers needed to survive, much less prosper.

The bakery is helping to grow tourism. While not quite yet “world famous” as some of the bakery’s ads state, people are coming to Clare to visit the bakery.  In fact, the bakery was recently recognized as one of 2011’s “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” by the Edward Lowe Foundation and presented the Michigan Celebrates Small Business. McEwen, Clare’s main street, was recently one of five main streets in Michigan chosen to receive branding services from the Michigan Main Street Center at Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Among the services were be help in developing a brand to help distinguish main street along with a new logo and a new website.

Cops and Doughnuts is a great example of a community coming together to save a community asset and then taking advantage of branding opportunities to market and grow a business. Whether the police officers knew what they were doing when they developed their initial plan or not, they have done a great job of promoting their business and getting others to help them do so.

The Cops and Doughnuts doughnut logo

The other day I was sitting in the bakery using its free Wi-Fi and overheard one of the owners talking about the fact the bakery’s sign out front sports pink glaze on the doughnut.

According to the conversation, a young girl came into the bakery along with her parents not long after the place reopened. When asked what kind of doughnut she wanted, the girl responded that she had hoped for one with “pink frosting and sprinkles,” but didn’t see a doughnut like that among all the other doughnuts in the display case.

The woman behind the counter told the girl conspiratorially, “We knew you were coming and didn’t want anyone else to buy it so I kept the doughnut with the pink frosting in the back. Wait here.” She then headed into the back.

The owner, who was telling the story, said he followed the woman to see what she was up to because he knew the bakery didn’t have pink frosting. He watched the woman take the red and white frosting they did have, mix them together, smear the resulting frosting on a doughnut, add some sprinkles and head back to the front where she presented the doughnut to the little girl who was amazed to have gotten the doughnut with  pink frosting she was craving.

“I tell that story to all our new employees as an example of the customer service we give here at our bakery,” the owner said, adding that when the bakery’s logo designer asked what color frosting the bakery owners wanted on its sign on the bakery  everyone was in agreement color should be pink, as a reminder of the little girl and the bakery’s commitment to service.

It’s a great story in a bakery with a great doughnuts and a great future. And, as its website states, with cops as owners the bakery is easily one of the safest places around.

Categories: Economy, General, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Bridges, Trails and Vandalism in the Holliday Nature Preserve

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I, both members of the Holliday Nature Preserve Association, took a walk into a section of the Holliday Nature Preserve off Newburgh Road north of Warren Road.  What we found shocked us beyond belief.  Some group had installed bridges and trails in the Preserve.  These were not simple bridges of fallen trees or made by dropping a couple of 2 x 4s between riverbanks by a couple of kids or narrow trails.  There were three very solid, bridges consisting of pressurized lumber and very competently installed.  The bridges measured 23×4 feet, 16 x 4 feet and 9×4 feet.  There was also a trail about four feet wide in spots and nearly a mile long that appeared to be created with an ATV and a riding mower.  The trail obliterated wildflower areas in spots and even crossed an EPA Supersite that lies in the Preserve.

In addition, the letters “MBT” (Mountain Bike Trail?) were stenciled in fluorescent green paint on what seemed every possible surface: board walks installed by volunteers during Rouge Rescue, onto trees, and the bridges.  And if that wasn’t enough, to ensure no one got lost, pieces of florescent tape were affixed to tree limbs up and down the trail.

No group has claimed responsibility and nothing has appeared on any mountain bike websites as of this point. A rogue group of mountain bikers seems to be the likely culprits since bike tracks were clearly visible and this group has been very vocal in its support of a mountain bike trail in Holliday, even though mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are strictly prohibited.

But why this unknown  group would go onto public property and build bridges and a trail system is beyond me.  The Preserve is not their property and they did not have permission to work in it.  As I mentioned in an article on the HNPA website, they wouldn’t dream of going into a Michigan State Park or a regional Metro Park or even a Westland city park without permission to work.  So whatever possessed them to think they could do this in a Wayne County Park?

The Holliday Nature Preserve runs along a tributary of the Rouge River in Westland.  It’s basically a ribbon park, only a couple of hundred yards wide in spots.  The Preserve was created in the 1960’s thanks to a gift from Arthur Richardson in the name of his uncle William P. Holliday. (See my blog on the Preserve’s history for more information.)

Houses, apartments and even businesses back up to the Preserve putting it under intense urban pressure from everything from kids building tree forts to homeowners treating it as their backyard (some have even installed playground equipment or tried to drain wetlands).  Mountain bikers are another threat as they enjoy riding up and down the walking trails and even have built small bridges.

However, never before has any group gone in and adversely impacted the Preserve in so short a period.

And, this time, they apparently went too far because when HNPA reported the work to Wayne County Parks, employees responded quickly, cutting up the bridges and posting signs from the sheriff’s department ordering that no more work take place in the Preserve.

HNPA is pleased by the fast response.

The question remains of why some group would go to the time and expense (this was a fairly expensive and time-intensive project).  Perhaps they felt they were doing EVERYONE a favor by extending the trail system and building bridge across streams to give the public better access to various sections of the Preserve. If they did, they were very wrong. In fact, they may have done all mountain bikers and even groups like the Michigan Mountain Bikers Association a disfavor by their arrogance.

And why aren’t mountain bikes allowed in the Holliday Nature Preserve? That’s a subject for another blog and for our next HNPA newsletter.

Categories: ecology, General, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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