Posts Tagged With: Harrison

A no-win Scenario in Harrison

It’s the Kobayashi Maru–a no-win situation–come to Harrison, Michigan.

We support Michigan Moto Mania lawn signHarrison is a community of some 2,000 people located near the middle of the state’s lower peninsula. Harrison and the surrounding area are relatively poor lacking any major industries and having to depend on tourism and agriculture to stoke its economic engine. And even in regards to tourism, Harrison is more of a stopping point than a destination.  That’s why when Doug and Robin Longenecker, came to town with the promise to being in more tourists and their dollars, the Longeneckers were welcomed with open arms by most of Harrison’s citizens. Unfortunately, one important group of citizens, a group that really matters most–its neighbors–don’t want it.

The facts of the story are this: The Longeneckers purchased 200 acres of land located about 4 miles east of Harrison on Mostetler Road for an attraction they called Michigan Moto Mania. It would be a  road park for motorcycles, quads and various other vehicles. The property the Longeneckers chose consisted of rolling terrain off of a lightly traveled country road. The surrounding area had few residents, but most of the land was in private hands with some state land sprinkled about.

Mosteller RoadThe Longeneckers purchased the property on land contract  after receiving a variance from the township zoning board that the land could be used for the purpose the new owner intended. The township zoning board, consisting of volunteers, was more than happy to grant that  variance, especially since it would mean additional visitors and dollars to the community.

There was just one problem. The zoning board gave its blessing to the plan without giving the neighbors in the immediate vicinity proper notification as required by law. So when the Longeneckers began to cut down trees and bulldoze trails for MMM, several neighbors went ballistic–and one can’t blame them. Most of the neighbors purchased their property in order to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside, to watch deer in their yards along with wild turkeys, fox, birds and other assorted wildlife. They didn’t have anything against a resort for motorized vehicles, they just didn’t want it located on Mostetler Road where they would be subjected to the whine of small motors and the roar of large motors day in and day out.

So the neighbors filed suit and have stopped MMM in its tracks and trails. Although the Township Board andMMM property and trails Township Planning Commission have both voted in favor of MMM, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the township attorney have ruled against it.  The courts have so far failed to rule other than to keep the track from opening and tossing the problem back to the township to resolve.

So it’s neighbor against neighbor. The Longeneckers played by the rules, but may lose their investment due to the incompetence of a zoning board that consisted of volunteers who were trying to do what they thought was the right thing. However, members of that board failed in their duty to protect the rights of nearby landowners who should have had a voice and who just want to enjoy their isolated homesteads in peace.

MMM has a Facebook page and has more than 2,100 friends. At least one blogger opposed to the resort posts on a blog called the Hayes Township Watchdog. Sadly, both sides demonize the other. So no matter what happens, someone is going to be harmed and someone’s rights will be trampled. It’s an ugly situation in a town my wife and I have grown to love.

Update: According to an article in the January 13, 2011 issue of the Clare County Cleaver,a local newspaper, the Longneckers have submitted a new plan “complete with a variety of nature-themed activities including horseback riding, cross country skiing, hiking and camping.” The same article states that the opposition seeks removal of  Zoning Board Chairman Lyle Criscuolo from the Zoning Board stating he is biased toward granting a permit to Longeneckers to open their resort.

Categories: Economy, Harrison, Jobs and the economy, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Railroad runs Through it

Last month, my wife and I went looking for narrow-gauge railroads in Clare County.  Well, narrow-gauge railroad beds, to be honest since the tracks and trains are long gone and have been for more than a century.

Clare county is a quiet county of some 32,000 residents in central Michigan.  But it wasn’t always so.  At one time, the ground shook with the fall of giant pines and the woods echoed with shouts of lumberjacks and the sound of trains hauling trees out of the woods to sawmills and then on to growing cities like Detroit and Chicago.

Preparing logs for transport

Narrow-gauge railroads were the transportation method of choice for hauling trees in many Michigan counties during that logging era.  Those trains could run wherever workers laid track and  carry heavy loads year around (something horses and carts couldn’t do).

Steam locomotive

And Clare county was perfect for narrow-gauge railroads as it is relatively flat, which made it relatively easy to lay track.   As a result, at one time Clare county had more miles of railroad track than any other in Michigan, wrote Roy Dodge in his book “Michigan Ghost Towns.”

Narrow-gauge railroads had another advantage:   The tracks could be pulled up and reused once the the valuable timber in an area was exhausted–something that eventually happened.   Then the workers, trains and track moved on leaving a barren landscape behind that slowly healed and the forests regrew.

Finding those former railroad beds now is a challenge since many of them lie deep in the woods with dense foliage around and on top of them.  What makes them noticeable is the fact that beds are often raised up above the surface of the surrounding land since workers had to make sure the ground on which the train tracks would be laid was somewhat flat.  In addition, hunters and hikers often have used them over the years to access the back country establishing trails or two-track roads.

It’s cool to find them and walk them.  Sometimes one even finds coal.  I’m hoping to someday find a rail spike, although that’s unlikely.  Most were taken to be reused and any that are left are buried under more than a century of soil and plants. Still, it’s a dream, kinda like the one in which I find some arrowheads and dinosaur bones (but not at the same time).

Take a trip to Clare County sometime and join in the search.  Late winter and spring are great times since the foliage hasn’t grown up and the mosquitoes aren’t yet looking to dine on man and beast.  But the country is pretty anytime of year.

See you on the trails, er railroad beds.

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

Red-winged Blackbird Heralds Return of Spring

Spring has spung, the grass has riz
I wonder where the birdies is?

Anonymous (and probably with good reason)

Red-winged blackbird photoFor me, one of the first signs of spring is the Red-winged Blackbird.

It’s a familiar summer visitor in Michigan and can easily be identified by its scarlet and yellow wing stripes.  The bird is about the size of a robin and arrives early in our state, often before  the snow has completely melted and just as the first green shoots are stirring from their winter slumber.

I saw the blackbird for the first time this season at our place in Harrison, Michigan this weekend, or should I say I heard one.  I never did glimpse the bird that was sitting somewhere in the cattail rushes at the west end of our two-acre pond.  I heard its call as I was walking out onto the ice, just a moment or so before I fell through the surface into the pond’s frigid knee-deep water.

Thin ice: that’s another way I knew spring would soon arrive.

Categories: ecology, Home life | Tags: | Leave a comment

Moving out of Winter into Spring. Sorta

Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog saw his shadow today.   That means six more weeks of winter instead of a month-and-a-half of frigid temps and snow. So it goes.

There is some additional meteorological information associated with this date that is more telling: The average daily temperatures in my Detroit Metro area has stopped falling and is beginning to slowly rise.

thermometerAlthough the amount of time the sun has been above the horizon has increased since the winter solstice on Dec.23–in fact we’ve already gained 30 minutes of sunlight per day since that date–the temperatures have continued to fall.  Until today, that is.  Beginning today, we start enjoying warmer temps in the southern part of Michigan.  And in another week, so will my adopted town of Harrison in Michigan’s midsection.  (Being a little further north with slightly shorter summers, it takes a little longer for that area’s average temperatures to begin their rise.)

But don’t put that winter coat away just yet.  Unlike sunlight that increases by a minute or two (or three) each day, we are not so lucky in regards to outdoor temperatures.  Since we are talking long-term averages, we will still have some horrendous bone-chilling cold snaps in the next month or two.   But as my sainted mother used to say, “two steps forward and one step back,” as she would count down the days until spring. (Mom hated winter, by the way.)

I may be my mother’s son, but I hope winter doesn’t end too fast. I have yet to use my cross-country skis or strap on my snowshoes, either down here or up north.  That means I want snow but also some seasonal temperatures and sunny days on which to use them.

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