Posts Tagged With: michigan

Biking at Mid-Michigan Community College

Maple tree in fall on Mid-Michigan bike trailThere are four miles of great hiking trails at Mid-Michigan Community College‘s Harrison campus. I’ve walked all of them at one time or another during all seasons. One of the trails even follows an old railroad bed for a time where steam locomotives once ran regularly from Clare through logging towns (and now ghost towns) such as  Hatton, Mannsiding and Mostetler up to the present day community of Dodge hauling lumberman and their families and taking back timber for the growing cities of the Midwest.

But until this week I never took the biking trails. And I missed out. Like their brother hiking trails, these pass through some wonderful stands of maple, beech and pine and are uncrowded. However, unlike the hiking trails that are relatively level and 12-feet wide, these biking trails are very narrow and transverse the hills around the campus.

I enjoyed the ride. However, it showed me just how out of shape I am. It took me two days to cover it all and I must admit I walked a portion of it. These middle-aged legs and my cheap little bike just wouldn’t take me up all the hills. And in some cases I was afraid to ride down ’em. I am proud that I didn’t break any bones and I am not too sore (except maybe my bottom).

This fall is a great time to be out there. Temperatures are mild, the trees are exploding in color, the trails are dry and the bugs are non-existent.

So it you are able, grab a bike and a helmet, tuck in those elbows (the trees in spots are very close together) and go for a ride. You might even see me…well, on the hiking trails. When it comes to riding, I think I will stick to the Pere-Marquette Rail Trail that now runs from Midland nearly to Reed City. Maybe I’m a wimp but I prefer my trails for my two-wheeler to be broad and flat.

Categories: Clare County, ecology, Harrison, History, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Gas Prices–All Over the Board

I took a trip to Metro Detroit yesterday (Sept.25, 2011) from Harrison and enjoyed the changing colors and the scenery. What I didn’t enjoy (or understand) were the differences in gas prices I encountered along the way. I found them to be $3.56 in Beaverton; $3.26 in Flint; $3.68 near Highland and $3.46 in Livonia.

I make that trip on a fairly regular basis and the cheapest gas prices seem to be in the Saginaw-Flint corridor along I-75. Not sure why. One would think gas would be cheaper in the Detroit area but it is not, at least not in the stations I saw. Makes no sense to me, but then few things in this world do. For example, just read an article in the Detroit Free Press Sunday on how much of a premium air travelers pay who take Delta Air Lines out of Detroit Metro compared to those who fly from Lansing, Flint, K-zoo or even Pellston to Detroit, connect at Detroit Metro and then on to Asia. The differences can total in the thousands of dollars. It’s the free market at work, supply and demand and the effects of competition, I supposed mixed in with a little greed.

Anyway, it’s frustrating and it hurts at the wallet but there’s not much one can do to avoid the high prices but stay home. And while I like my home in Harrison I’m not yet ready to do that, so I climb into my car, belly up to the gas pump and pay (and sometimes save 5 cents a gallon by using my Meijer credit card). Oh, and I don’t fly to Asia. That I can’t afford to do at any price.

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

Death of a Cemetery

“At the end of the fight is a tombstone,
white with the name of the deceased…”
The Naulahks
Rudyard Kimpling

Meredith, Michigan cemeteryIn Meredith, Michigan lies a cemetery, or more correctly, a former cemetery.  Like the town itself, little remains to mark what once may have been the burying ground for those whose lives ended in this town in the northeast corner of Clare County.

Meredith was once home to nearly 2,000 people and sported a three-story school, an opera house, a roundhouse for the numerous trains that rolled into town and saloons to help slake the thirst of the lumberjacks that came to the area in the mid- to late-1880s to cut the massive pines that once grew here. Now, Meredith is home to perhaps 300 hardy souls who enjoy the solitude this town offers.

Marker of Ebbie Coffill in Meredith, Michigan cemeteryFor nearly 20 years this town prospered, grew and was the home of not only lumberjacks but storekeepers, laborers, and railroad men and their families.It prospered. But once the lumber was cut, the jobs, like the trees that brought people to this north woods town, disappeared.

And so did the people.  They too left to find new jobs, taking with them memories and leaving behind the graves of loved ones like Edna Ross, who died  in 1885 at the age of 10 and was buried in one of two local cemeteries.

Now, Edna’s stone is one of two that can be seen in one of those cemeteries. The other visible tombstone lies some 40 paces away and belongs to a Ebbie Coffill, age unknown. Between the stones, trees grow and weeds flourish over ground where families and friends once mourned the passing of loved ones.

Rumor has it that stones that once marked many of the other graves. Unmarked stones the size of pillows that the families picked out to mark the site where their loved ones would lies for all eternity or until the resurrection, while they, the living, would moved on in search of jobs and better lives.

Did they know that someday, the cemetery would fall into private hands and that a the future landowner would sell those stones to a landscaper and placed as an attractive marker in someone’s yard? That someday, no one would ever know that a mother, father, son or daughter was buried under that spot. That nothing would be left to mark their passing or no one remember their lives.

How many cemeteries are there like that in Clare county? Or in Michigan? No one knows. And they may always remain hidden unless a shovel or a piece of excavating equipment disturbs them as the living go about their lives.

Although the fact the cemetery is gone may be sad for us the living, the fact the cemetery is gone may not matter to the dead. They are gone from this world and may not care. And if they don’t, should we?

Categories: Clare County, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

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

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.

Categories: General | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Man. A Plan. A Canal. A Fish

There’s a battle going on before the U.S. Supreme Court by a man with a plan to close a canal because of a fish.

The fight involves Illinois and Michigan.  In this state vs. state battle, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (the man) is suing to close the Chicago Canal (the plan and the canal), a man-made waterway that connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan.  The reason he is looking to do so is because of  the Asian Carp (the fish).

This carp is an invasive.  They were brought in by catfish farmers down south several decades ago and have been working there way north since large floods in the early 1990s caused many of the catfish farm ponds to overflow their banks.  The fish are now poised to invade the Great Lakes through the canal.  Closing the locks appears to be only way to keep them out.

This carp is a nasty fish that has a tendency to jump out of the water when startled. Because of its size and the speed at which it exits the water, it can cause serious injury to boaters and fisherman.  Check out any of the videos on YouTube if you want to see the carp in action.  In addition, the fish has a voracious appetite and has the potential to harm the Great Lakes ecosystem.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency:

“Asian Carp are a significant threat to the Great Lakes because they are large, extremely prolific, and consume vast amounts of food.  They can weigh up to 100 pounds, and can grow to a length of more than four feet.  They are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to their native Asian habitats.

“Researchers expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes.  Due to their large size, ravenous appetites, and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.”

Illinois disagrees about the closure .  It claims the canal is needed to transport goods into and out of the Great Lakes and closing the canal would cause it great economic loss to the tune of $300 million a year.  What they don’t mention is that the fish threatens tourism and fishing interests valued at $7 billion per year (including losses to Illinois since it also borders Lake Michigan).

Michigan wants the canal closed for all the above reasons. Other states that border the Great Lakes and Ontario agree.  So do I.  The canal should be closed.  The damage the fish can do to the Great Lakes region as a whole is far greater than the economic benefit the canal brings to Illinois.

Illinois disagrees. It appears to see nothing but the dollars the canal brings in; the Great Lakes and the rest of us be damned.   Even the Obama administration weighed into this fight and took the side of Illinois.  So much for the president and his environmental stand…

The Wall Street Journal, in an article this past December, included the comment below from a reader.  If you have any doubt about the validity of closing the canal, what this person wrote might just change your mind.

“I have a 100 ft boat on the Mississippi. The bow of my boat is at least 10 feet up from the river. These slimy fish jump into my boat. They bleed profusely from the impact and you have not smelled something as foul as an Asian Carp.

“My grandkids used to jet-ski on the river. They can’t now because I sold the jet-skis after one of them was knocked off the machine and injured by a jumping carp. Furthermore, you can’t fish or swim in the river any longer.

“These fish are destroying the ecosystems of our rivers and must be stopped.”

Go Mike Cox.

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

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