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Archive for the ‘Elsewhere in BenCo…’ Category

Tombstone Tourism: Exploring the Past Through Gravestones and Monuments

In Calendar, Culture Bluffs, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Historic Elberta on June 10, 2013 at 10:15 am

By Mary Link

Al Bryant, a local taphophile (someone who studies gravestones) gave a presentation for the Benzie Genealogical Society monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 8.

Showing pictures of tombstones of the famous and infamous, including his distant cousin, Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame), Mr. Bryant explained the symbolism used in designing gravestones and the various types of markers.

Religious and fraternal groups have had their own special symbols and identification for posterity. In the nineteenth century there were more than 300 national fraternal organizations, the most obvious in Benzie County being the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), whose markers are in our local cemeteries.

Crosses on tombstones used to indicate a person of the Roman Catholic faith but today are used by/for anyone. An anchor symbolizes hope, a heart charity, and the combination of a cross, anchor, and heart is faith, hope, and charity. The language of flowers symbolizing friendship (white roses), sensitivity (lily of the valley), modesty (violets), and a message of love (pansies) is used in grave markers as well. Other symbols are: a lamb or dove indicating a child’s grave; weeping willow tree for sorrow; an open book for a life well spent, or openness; a closed book for “life is over”; gates for the gates of heaven. An ax cutting a tree indicates a life cut short. Read the rest of this entry »

New Sleeping Bear Birding Trail Is First in State

In Breaking, Education, Elsewhere in BenCo..., GOOD NEWS, Green Elbertians, On and off the Apron, Open Season on May 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (from Douglas Cook, president, Benzie Audubon Club)

April 2013


Michigan’s coastline and habitat diversity have long been a draw to bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.  Birders and eco-tourists spend millions each year in the enjoyment of their pursuits.  Now, the Sleeping Bear Birding Trail, Michigan’s first birding trail, has been formed to connect exceptional birding areas and promote an area that Good Morning America awarded the Most Beautiful Place in America.

The Trail’s new website,, will help guide birders to 35 recommended birding sites scattered along 123 miles of Michigan’s Highway M-22.  The website is smartphone compatible and includes a web-based map that will lead travelers from Manistee, northward  through Benzie County, around the Leelanau peninsula and eventually to Traverse City.

The Trail is anchored by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which has over 71,000 acres of public land and 35 miles of beaches, including vital habitat for the Piping Plover, an endangered shorebird that needs vast stretches of undisturbed beach.  Another rare species, the Kirtland’s Warbler, nests in an area that is an hour’s drive from the Trail.  The National Lakeshore is an Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society and there have been 321 different species recorded along the Trail.

Birding trails are successful in Texas, Arizona, and along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.   Dave Barrons, chairman and co-founder of this grassroots effort says the Sleeping Bear area’s distinct seasons, diverse topography, extensive shoreline and large number of natural areas with public access make it a naturalist’s paradise.  Barrons says: “I always knew we had the resources to add birding to the area’s tourism brand but the surprise was just how much access to diverse, public land there is along M-22.  We have been able to build from a wide range of birding sites that already have public parking and strong stewardship. Some trail initiatives have to attack that challenge first.”  “This is not just a single trail where you get out and hike around looking for birds,” he says. “It’s a travel route, a way of connecting a number of birding sites in a way that allows you to include them in your itinerary and enjoy some incredible scenery.”

Mick Seymour, Operations Director and co-founder says, “Birders have never had a better opportunity to make a difference and contribute to citizen science.  We now have the ability to meticulously record what we see and hear through the use of eBird and the built-in GPS technology.  Birders all over the world are recording where, when, and how many and this data is enormously valuable to the science and understanding of species distribution and abundance.  Our Trail embraces this technology and aims to be a microcosm and model for the eBird initiative.” The Trail is especially committed to developing electronic reporting and interactive mapping features which will distinguish it from existing trails.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes Birding Trail is being developed in partnership with Michigan Audubon, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, The Leelanau Conservancy, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


–      48 million Americans report they are active birdwatchers; approx 16 million birdwatch while traveling

–      more than $32 billion in retail sales

–      more than $13 billion in state and federal taxes

–      more than 863, 000 jobs

………… Us Fish and Wildlife Service:  Birding in the US; A Demographic and Economic Analysis, 2001


Grand Vision Meeting: Assisting Government or Agenda 21?

In Elsewhere in BenCo..., Gov't Watch, Green Elbertians, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Politics on April 22, 2013 at 10:44 pm

By Eric Pyne

UPDATED 4/29/13

UPDATED 4/24/13

MILLS COMMUNITY HOUSE, April 22, 2013—The “Framework for Our Future” Input Expo at the Mills Community House in Benzonia drew members of the public and some protesters.  “The Grand Vision,” a project of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, held an open house from 4-7 pm Monday.  Scott Gest, one of the presenters, is a regional planner for the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments and is also the founder of the Elberta Land Holding Company, which owns property on either side of Elberta’s Waterfront Park, including the old Koch Fuel property and the former Ann Arbor car ferry aprons. (ELHC is not a partner with NWMCoG in the Framework for Our Future.) Gest described the evening as a chance for the public to walk through and see what the organization was about. He said that the NMCoG was presenting a “toolbox” of guidelines to assist local units of government in planning and zoning.  He stressed that adopting these guidelines is completely up to the local units.

The Alert spoke with two of the protesters after the presentation. Kevin McGinty said, “They are bringing in Agenda 21 from the United Nations. This will result in the dissolution of property rights as we have known them.”

Ed Bianco, another protester, told me, tapping my notebook, “Write down U.N. Now there’s ICLEI [the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives].  That’s who is doing this Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. They are the first regional affiliate pilot in the midwest.”

A release on the ICLEI’s blog, October 4, 2010, confirms that NWMCoG was ICLEI’s first regional affiliate pilot. According to the release: “ICLEI developed the program because of the growing emphasis on regional planning in many places around the country and the need for accessible, streamlined regional data for local governments to make timely, informed decisions about climate protection and sustainability. Pilots are also underway in New York and California. The official program will launch in early 2011.”

Kevin McGinty went on to say that ICLEI wants to move people off the land and into cities. “They use the Delphi technique, to make senior citizens feel happy. But who are they to go someplace else and make a final decision? We can handle it right here.”

Bianco said another NGO (not NWMCoG) had proposed a master plan and zoning for Springdale Township, where he lives. Some members of the community, including Bianco, felt the organization was promoting some of the tenets of the United Nations Agenda 21. “We voted them out,” he says.

See the schedule for the other expos here.

Framework for Our Future Press Release

Benzie Conservation District Fracking Forum (Video)

In Elsewhere in BenCo..., Green Elbertians, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season on April 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

On February 27, the Benzie Conservation District hosted a forum on the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a natural gas extraction practice that, in part because of fairly recent technological and chemical innovations, is creating a natural gas boom across the nation. Jonathan Maue took this great video of the forum and graciously let us post it here.

Jeffery Stratton on the Benzie Bus

In Elsewhere in BenCo..., Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Transportation on March 26, 2013 at 5:44 pm

The first in what we hope will be a series of stories by local people on their investigations of transportation issues. Submit yours to Doesn’t have to be long, and we’ll check your spelling. Till then, safe travels!

By Jeffery Stratton

I decided I would take public transportation the other day, because the Benzie Bus goes by my house several times a day. I wondered what my tax money was being used for in these buses. Could I just flag a bus down and ride to town on a whim? Why were they always parked down by the church on the corner of Pioneer and Cinder? Here is what I found out on my Benzie Bus trip.

I called the dispatcher and asked the first question. Can I flag down a bus and ride it? They said no, because the bus may not be going where you want to go. You need to schedule an appointment. You can schedule an appointment as little as 4 hours ahead of time, but 24 hours would be better. Since I had them on the phone, I did that. They were set to pick me up in the late afternoon that day. I later ended up calling them back to cancel that appointment because I had another appointment in Frankfort that evening and would be cutting it close.

When I called them back to cancel my appointment it seemed to be a bit of an issue. But nonetheless they figured something out for the next day.

I went to the end of my driveway the day—I was headed to Beulah to get my mail. The bus was on time, 11:20 a.m. I boarded the bus. Gary, the driver, greeted me and took my $3 (the cost for a one-way bus ride). He said we needed to go and pick someone else up down the road.

I asked Gary what his average ridership is on an average day. He said that on average he gets about 15 riders per day. He does the Frankfort to Interlochen route in the morning and does the dial-a-ride in the afternoon.

The older gentleman down the road rides the bus about three times a week. He was on his way to the Maples in Frankfort to visit his wife.

Gary got a call on our way to Beulah, saying the next bus was ready to pick me up at the post office, just as we were pulling into town.

I ran in, got my mail, and jumped on the next bus, waiting for me there outside the post office.

The next bus driver’s name was Andy. I was the only rider on his bus. It was another $3.00 to ride back home from town. So a total of $6 for a round-trip bus ride.

I asked Andy the same question about ridership on his bus. The answer was the same, about 15 people per day.

On the way home I asked Andy why the buses sit at the church on the corner. Andy said, “We sit there because we may have another pickup in the area in the next 15 minutes or so. We shut the buses off to conserve on fuel, because we do have a tight budget.” He told me that the white buses are diesel powered and the gray buses are propane powered.

He said most of the frequent riders use the punch card. It costs $30 and you have 12 punches on it. It saves you about $6 compared with paying cash.

I’ve got a fairly long driveway, but Andy drove me right up to my front door. It was the end of his shift and he was heading back to the bus garage.

So my overall experience with the Benzie Bus was good. Other than the inconvenience of scheduling a ride and trying to make a change, it worked out. Plus you might get to meet neighbors that you would not normally ever meet.

The buses were clean and smooth riding. The drivers were friendly and knowledgeable. I might be more inclined to ride the bus in the summer. All the buses have bike racks on them. So I could take my bike into town and do my running around. Once I was done I could call the bus to pick me up and take me back home.

My total time from being picked up at the end of my driveway, picking up the neighbor, and getting to the post office and back to my front door was 34 minutes. Which I thought was pretty good.

As a taxpayer I really needed to get a feel for what my money was being used for. I would advise you to ride it once. You pay for it every time you pay your property taxes to the township and county.

That’s what I found out on the BENZIE BUS. Ψ


photo (43)

Jeffery Stratton about to get on the bus.



News from Homestead Township

In Elsewhere in BenCo..., Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Public Safety on March 6, 2013 at 3:07 pm

By Jeffery D. Stratton

The Homestead Township board of trustees met March 4, 2013, at 7 pm in the Township Hall in the Village of Honor. The meeting started with the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, approval of the agenda, and the approval of last month’s minutes.


The board only received one bid for the township park maintenance contract for this year. They tabled a decision on that bid until the next meeting, in April.

The township sexton is asking for a pay increase of $50 for all the service that he currently offers. His contract ends May 7, 2013. The position will be put out for bid in April. This position is a four-year contract with the township.

The board is seeking someone to run the concession stand at the ball fields for the 2013 session. Concessioners pay a one-time fee of $375 but otherwise keep any proceeds. The concession booth “rent” fee is used to test the water in the well site. The well is shut down at the end of each season and has to be retested each year before the concession can be used.

The board, which is made up of people who are mostly new to board membership, went over the new year’s business for 2013, including meeting dates, Robert’s Rules of Order, who will make deposits for the township, and truth in taxation.

The board looked at the one bid for maintaining the large ball field. It was from Northern Green Lawn for $838. Northern Green Lawn has done this for the township for years. The board decided to hold off until April’s meeting to award this bid, since the newspaper ad said people had until March 5 to get bids in.

OLD BUSINESS No one had yet volunteered to be on the township park board.

The fire department’s mutual aid agreement was on hold again. The board asked that some of the language in the agreement be changed or added. They want a 30-day review if the ambulance was going to be stored at the township fire hall for more than 30 days for whatever reason. Also they wanted a definition of “short-term.”

Ambulance numbers are up for January and February due to flu season. County EMS is getting a new ambulance in the next few weeks as well.

By role-call vote of 3 for and 2 against, the board gave the go-ahead for the fire department to go after bids for a new pumper truck. This does not mean that the fire department is OK’d to purchase the truck at this time. The bids for the new tanker must be in by the next April’s board meeting.

The reason for the hesitation of the board’s part was they felt the fire department was falling apart with the fact that firemen keep leaving the department and with morale issues with the chief.

Research was still being done on the air packs and there was nothing to report.

The Township Hall contract was tabled.

The township moved a certificate of deposit of $104K to the Central State Bank.

The township cleanup day was going to continue this year as usual. There was some discussion by the board to limit this event to every other year, to charge a fee, or not to do it at all. This event costs an average of $8K–$9K to put on each year. One board member thought we could better utilize this money for other projects. Another board member felt this was the only thing that the township did for the people of the township. There will be a survey in the summer tax bill about this annual event.


PUBLIC COMMENT  Jeffrey Stratton had some questions for the board about the fire tanker and the township cleanup.


JDS: Does the fire department have the money to purchase this new tanker?


Homestead Township Board: Yes. We voted on a millage for $65K over the next 6 years to help purchase this new tanker for the department.


JDS: Does the fire department have any capital reverses for the purchase of this new tanker?


HTB: Yes. They currently have $100K in an account for equipment replacement and repair. Plus the $65K from the millage that has been collected to date—a total of $165K so far for the purchase of a new tanker.


JDS: What is the cost roughly of this new tanker?


HTB: About $250K. Since they do not have that full amount they would have to apply for a loan to pay for the tanker, until all the monies have been collected from the millage.


JDS: So I do not understand why the fire department is not getting the go ahead to purchase the new tanker? Why was there even any discussion about this, once all the bids have been received in April? They have some of the money and the voters approved the millage for the rest.


Stratton told them about the upcoming event in Traverse City March 10, put on by Michigan Green Consortium, to which he belongs, at the American Waste facility on Hughes Drive. This is a free event and anyone can bring trash there for disposal. This event happens twice a year when there is a time change in the spring and fall. The board hadn’t heard of this event.


JDS: My question to you is why start charging for the township cleanup event? You are already using taxpayer money to do this. Do you think that will get people to come? My neighbors just throw their garbage out in their yard and in the woods, which I can see from my house. If they can’t pay for garbage pickup now, how are they going to pay for this? Have you not looked at Google Maps lately? There is trash everywhere.


HTB: We are hoping they will not do these things and will get rid of it here [at the cleanup]. Again if they don’t participate then we could use the money somewhere else. We have a trash ordinance but we don’t enforce it because of the attorney fees.


The meeting was adjourned around 9 pm. . Ψ

News from Homestead Township

In Elsewhere in BenCo..., Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Public Safety on February 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

By Jeffery D. Stratton

The Homestead Township board met February 4, 2013, at 7 pm in the township hall in the Village of Honor. The meeting started with the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, approval of the agenda, and the approval of last month’s minutes.

PUBLIC COMMENT Eagle Scout Travis Oder, who is working on a badge, presented a project to the board to clean up the Homestead Township Park. He would power wash the bleachers, and paint and stain them where needed. He asked the board for their help in providing the necessary items to make this happen. The Board, who are in the process of doing the budget, said they would get back to him.

NEW BUSINESS The fire department presented a new fire protection agreement with Platte Township. Homestead Township will continue to provide fire service protection for Platte.

The fire department asked the board to look over a request for bids to purchase a new tanker/pumper truck at an estimated cost of $240K–$280K. The current truck has many mechanical issues: leaking tank, underpowered engine, and braking issues.

The fire department is also looking to replace their air pack systems for breathing in a burning house. Currently they have 14 air packs bought in 1998 and would like to replace them with more current and safe systems. The old units weigh 29 lbs. and the newer units weigh 14 lbs.

The board reviewed their current wages. The Clerk and Treasurer would be getting a 2% pay increase since they have not had an increase in a few years. The Supervisor declined her increase because she felt that since she was new to the board that it was not warranted at this time. The board trustees would not be receiving an increase at this time.

The Village of Honor came to the township board asking if the board would be willing to help with the issue of the ? (“Wonderland”) building. The building has been condemned and the Village is still in litigation with the property owner.

The township board is currently looking for people to sit on the Parks Board. These positions are strictly volunteer.

OLD BUSINESS The board is still looking for a grant for a generator to power the fire department in case of power failure.

The board is reviewing whether to allow the hall to be rented for commercial events. Currently township residents can use the hall for free for things such as weddings and graduations.

Habitat for Humanity has removed all the old cupboards and doors from the rental house next to the township hall. The fire department will be using it as a training building on February 20. The house was bought for future expansion to the current facility.

The fire department has a 1953 fire truck they wish to sell. They still are trying to research the value of the truck as it is before they put it up for sale.

The meeting was adjourned around 9pm. Ψ