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Archive | Outdoors

Archery deer season: know the new rules


Michigan is the top state in the nation for deer taken with archery equipment, and archery season started Oct. 1. The DNR wishes all archery deer hunters a safe and successful hunting season. Below are a few reminders and clarifications for those heading to the field.


  • Archery hunters in the Lower Peninsula can use a deer combo, deer or antlerless license during this season. 
  • There are no safety zones when using archery equipment.
  • Over-the-counter antlerless licenses are still available in select deer management units; see michigan.gov/deer.
  • Crossbows are legal to use in entire state Oct. 1-Nov. 14 and additionally in the Lower Peninsula from Dec. 1-Jan. 1.

CWD Areas

CWD and other regulations

  • To learn more about chronic wasting disease (CWD), including a map of where the disease has been found, visit michigan.gov/cwd.
  • Carcass disposal and transportation restrictions can be found in the Hunting Digest (pages 39 and 52) or under Hunting Information at michigan.gov/cwd.
  • To understand baiting and feeding restrictions for certain locations within the state, see page 50 of Hunting Digest.
  • Approved urine and lure attractants can be found at michigan.gov/cwd page 49 of Hunting Digest.
  • For antler point restrictions throughout the state, see page 36 of Hunting Digest.
  • For hunting hours, see page 13 of Hunting Digest.

Mandatory check, deer check stations and drop boxes

There is no longer mandatory check anywhere in the state unless you move your deer out of CWD areas! If you are in the Core CWD Area or the CWD Management Zone, there are carcass transportation restrictions in place (click map for larger map image).

If you hunt in one of the CWD areas and will not be leaving the area, you do not have to have your deer checked nor are you subject to transportation restrictions.

If you are leaving CWD areas (including taking deer from the Core Area to the remaining counties in the Management Zone), you may do so only with the following:

  • deboned meat;
  • quarters or other parts of a cervid that do not have any part of the spinal column or head attached;
  • antlers;
  • antlers attached to a skull cap cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue;
  • hides;
  • upper canine teeth; or
  • a finished taxidermy mount.

OR you must present your deer to any DNR check station in the state (including partnering processors or taxidermists) or place the head in a drop box within 24 hours of harvest.

  • Find DNR check station and drop box locations, , including partnering meat processors and taxidermists, at michigan.gov/deercheck. On the interactive map, it is important to check the open dates and times for each check station. These are not consistent throughout the state.
  • Some drop boxes are open 24 hours as indicated on the interactive map.
  • CWD test results may take up to 14 business days during the busier times of the season. Visit michigan.gov/dnrlab to check your test results.

Drop boxes are self-serve, and you should assume that you will have to leave the deer head in the box unless you are doing a European or shoulder deer mount. If this is the case, you should visit a drop box, electronically register the deer through your smartphone, then take a CWD specimen tag from the drop box and keep the tag with the deer. Once the taxidermist capes out your deer, you need to bring the skinned-out head back to the drop box or to any DNR check station and submit the head with the CWD specimen tag.

Partnering processor check stations may or may not remove your deer head, so you should be prepared to remove the head yourself so that it can submitted for testing.

NEW antlerless license opportunity

Hunters hunting on private land in the CWD Management Zone have the option of purchasing discounted antlerless licenses at 40 percent off the usual price. These licenses are good for private land anywhere within the CWD Management Zone through Nov. 4, 2018, when they expire. Ask for Hunt # – 2CWD when purchasing this license. In addition to these discounted licenses, hunters can still purchase regular, over-the-counter antlerless deer licenses (see pages 39 and 40 of the Hunting Digest). Note: This not a separate season. This license only may be used to take antlerless deer during the archery season on private land with archery equipment from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1.

Tree-stand safety

  • Always use a fall-arrest system full body harness.
  • Always use a haul line—a line anchored to the tree stand that reaches the ground, to lift your unloaded firearm, crossbow and other equipment in and out of the tree stand. Be sure the barrel is pointed down and that the line is not attached through the trigger guard.
  • Always let someone know where you will be hunting and the exact times you will be gone.
  • Carry a communication device that you know receives a signal in the area you will be hunting.
  • Refrain from using screw-in steps on your tree stand.
  • Always step down onto your raised platform (tree stand) to ensure it is secured properly.
  • Always maintain three points of contact when climbing up to or down from your tree stand.

Help Michigan families in need this hunting season 

Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger is an organization that works with the DNR to help feed families in your community. You can help by making a donation when you buy your hunting license OR by donating a harvested deer and delivering it to a participating processor. Each deer donated will provide more than 125 meals, and financial donations offset the cost of processing, packaging and transporting donated venison. To find a participating processor or learn more, visit sportsmenagainsthunger.org.

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State-record hybrid sunfish caught in southwest Michigan

Joel Heeringa of St. Joseph, Michigan, caught a new state-record hybrid sunfish July 9, 2018, on Lake Anne at Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County). The fish (confirmed as a hybrid sunfish by University of Michigan fish experts) weighed 1.8 pounds and measured 11.7 inches.

Michigan has a new state-record hybrid sunfish, out of Lake Anne in Grand Mere State Park in Berrien County. Joel Heeringa, of St. Joseph, Michigan, caught the fish July 9, while still fishing with a crawler. The record fish weighed 1.8 pounds and measured 11.7 inches.

Brian Gunderman, a DNR fisheries unit manager for southern Lake Michigan, verified the record. Because the fish was believed to be a hybrid, additional identification was required, delaying final confirmation. University of Michigan fisheries experts also examined the fish and confirmed it was indeed a hybrid sunfish. 

According to Gunderman, Michigan has several sunfish species in Michigan that can hybridize with each other. This group includes native species such as bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, and warmouth. It also includes redear sunfish (native to the southern United States), which he said were stocked in a number of lakes in southern Michigan during the 1990s-early 2000s. 

“Hybrid sunfish commonly occur in nature, and we catch hybrids during most of our lake surveys in this region of the state,” he explained. “Hybrid sunfish (usually male bluegill and green sunfish female crosses) also are produced in private fish hatcheries for stocking in ponds. There is a common misconception that hybrid sunfish are infertile. Hybrid sunfish are fertile. However, about 80-90 percent of hybrid sunfish are males, so it is rare for two hybrids to mate with each other. They are more likely to spawn with a purebred of one of their parent species.”

Gunderman said the new state record definitely was a hybrid sunfish, but it is not possible to conclusively identify the parent species without genetic testing. “The external characteristics were consistent with a bluegill/green sunfish hybrid. For the purposes of our State Record and Master Angler programs, all types of hybrid sunfish are lumped into one category.”

The previous hybrid sunfish state record actually was a tie between two fish: one caught May 28, 1988, by Daniel Manville on Arbutus Lake in Grand Traverse County and one caught June 1, 1988, by Lloyd Jarman, Jr. on Doan’s Lake in Allegan County. Both fish weighed 1.44 pounds.

State records in Michigan are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.

For more information, visit michigan.gov/masterangler or contact Brian Gunderman at 269-685-6851, ext. 145.

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Guardabosque Esteban


By Ranger Steve Mueller


Fall is a good time to plant trees. Here, I am known as Ranger Steve. When I took middle school students to Costa Rica from Kent County, we worked with students from their communities to plant trees in damaged rainforests. There I was called Guardabosque Esteban. As “forest guard Steven,” the effort was to help young people learn how to protect the environment that supported community health, water, and the economy. 

Our students were paired with Costa Rican students and they planted nursery-grown trees. It was a wonderful experience for all, including the trees that could establish a good root system in a suitable nature niche.

Those middle school students are now 25 years older and I hope they show their kids the trees they planted. It was a fun and thrilling experience where the young people recognized how they could do something in their community to help maintain a healthy sustainable environment. 

Here at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary our girls planted trees yearly. We planted seedling Christmas trees to harvest for our personal use. In order to harvest a tree at Christmas, it was required we plant trees so they would learn how to maintain a sustainable supply. 

Pine trees need care as they grow. Sawflies, a type of wasp, would eat limbs bare of needles. The girls were responsible for protecting the trees from the foraging damage and manually removed the insects rather than use poisons. The caterpillar like larvae were placed on ant mounds as a special treat for the ants. 

We wanted fir and spruce trees to provide winter cover for birds and to block visual and sound impacts from the road. They were planted in several locations. The trees were only knee high. Within a few years they were taller than the girls and heavily used by birds and rabbits for shelter. Now the trees are 30 plus feet tall. 

It started with the family act of planting. Fall has cooler weather that is good for plants and tree planters. We prefer to work in cool weather. It is even great to plant during a light rain. It protects the roots from drying. Fall soil is still warm and allows the tree to grow and establish before the ground freezes. 

Fall showers aid root survival. Trees were planted in locations that are not accessible to the garden hose and carrying water long distances is difficult. We hoped adequate rain would come as needed but that is always a gamble. During dry periods carrying water helps survival. Properly planting is important. 

Fertilizer is not recommended with fall planting. It encourages new root growth that will be killed by winter weather. Allow the tree to establish on its own in the warm fall soil with available moisture. When planted properly it should survive the winter and grow vigorously in the spring. I have noticed slow growth during the first few years as the roots establish out of sight and rapid stem growth follows.

It is best to plant trees and shrubs a few weeks before freezing weather cools the ground. Keep newly planted trees well-watered when possible so they go into winter dormancy well hydrated. 

Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree root mass and properly deep so the base of the stem meets the ground surface. Do not bury the stem or have the root trunk exposed above ground. Use the same soil removed from the hole when planting. Using other soil is not recommended because new root growth will stay in the richer amended soil. Let the tree seek nutrients from the surrounding area and reach outward. 

Hold the tree upright as it is planted and pack the soil so air pockets are eliminated. Watering helps eliminate air pockets that can cause roots to dry and die. Mulching around the tree prevents plant growth that will compete to make living difficult. Keep mulch away from the stem. Watch the tree grow. It will add zest and beauty to the yard for you and wildlife. Select native trees species because they have adaptations to the local environment.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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FFA Booster Group is Formed


By Brent Willett

The Cedar Springs FFA Alumni Association & Friends is excited to announce that their FFA Alumni chapter has officially been charted at the national and state level, as a non-profit organization, to support and grow the local agricultural education program and the FFA chapter at Cedar Springs Public Schools. The National FFA Alumni Organization is encouraging locals across the country to organize a local support system for the agricultural education program by forming an official FFA Alumni chapter. 

The Alumni chapter is open to anyone who is interested in supporting and promoting agriculture, agricultural education and FFA. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept 27 T 6:30 in the High School Agriculture room. The alumni chapter will be made up of a wide variety of supporters. You do not have to have been in FFA or have a child in the FFA program to be a member of the Cedar Springs FFA Alumni Association & Friends. FFA Alumni members are proud of FFA and want to help the local members acquire knowledge and experience from agricultural education and FFA activities. 

“As alumni, it is our responsibility to serve as a source of relief for our agriculture educators as well as attract new volunteers and supporters to help our FFA programs,” said National FFA Alumni Executive Director Josh Rusk. 

The Cedar Springs FFA Alumni Association & Friends is looking for more community members to become alumni members today. Find us on Facebook or contact President Brent Willett at brent.willett16@gmail.com to find out more information on how to become an FFA alumni member. Community members without an email may contact Advisor, Larry Reyburn at 616-616-1200 Ext. 6331.  

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is also supported by 344,239 alumni members in 2,051 alumni chapters throughout the U.S. Please consider joining the Cedar Springs FFA Alumni Association & Friends to help support our local FFA chapter and ensure the future of local agriculture for the next generation. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at FFA.org and on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

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Enjoy a free pancake breakfast & learn how to protect your waterways


 The Rogue River Watershed Partners are joining forces with Trout Unlimited’s Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative to host an educational breakfast served on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 from 7am to 9 am at the Cannon Township Hall: 6878 Belding Road, Rockford. All are welcome, stop by just for breakfast or stay for the Rogue River Watershed Partner’s monthly meeting at 9:30 a.m.

You will learn why the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds and others have teamed up to bring farmers and forestland owners access to a unique pool of $2.8 million in funding to help them take actions on their land to help prevent soil loss, and to create and improve fish and wildlife habitat in the Rogue River and Indian Mill Creek watersheds, a 250 square mile area in northern and western Kent County. Financial assistance is available now to help you plant: filter strips, grassed waterways, cover crops, and riparian forest buffers, as well as many other options to help in this effort. This special opportunity is available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) over the next four years. Call Matt Soehnel, NRCS District Conservationist, at (616) 942-4111 x 3 to learn more.

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Nature center to get full restitution


By Judy Reed

It’s going to take nine years, but the Howard Christensen Nature Center will be getting back the $16,812 embezzled by a former director.

David Kieft was charged in February with one count of embezzlement over $1,000 but less thank $20,000 of a non-profit or charity. He later pled no contest to attempted embezzlement as part of a plea agreement. He was sentenced in June to three years probation; 90 days in jail at the end of his probation; 200 hours of work crew in lieu of 100 days in jail (that is separate from the 90 days he will serve at the end of probation); and restitution. At the time, restitution was set at $4,000, but the Nature Center contested it because they had evidence of much more than that.

The restitution hearing was held on September 17 before Judge Sullivan in 17th Circuit Court. Kieft and his lawyer agreed to the larger amount of restitution as long as the Nature Center did not file a civil claim. 

The Internal Revenue Service has their own investigation yet to complete, so there could possibly be more charges yet to come.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: What about those mosquitoes

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Have you experienced this many mosquitoes in the neighborhood as have been present this month? Usually September is free of most biting insects and a time of year when insect repellent is not needed. Recent weather provided ideal conditions for the mosquitoes’ population explosion. 

Twelve inches of rain in two weeks saturated the ground making puddles suitable for the mosquito life cycle. Temperature and humidity aided development. All that was needed were puddles in tree hollows or depressions on the ground that lasted over a week to allow mosquitoes larvae time to mature. 

Generally, our concern is limited to the adult female mosquitoes because they are the individuals that bother us. The nuisance of being bitten is a concern but the possibility of getting diseases spread by mosquitoes has many of us on edge. As the human population grows, the spread of disease becomes more likely. We are concerned about our pets getting heartworm. The recent death from West Nile Virus transmitted by Culex mosquitoes killed a neighbor aged 80 in our county and raised concern for our own health. It was reported another neighbor from the county, aged 60, was comatose from the virus. 

The spread of malaria is unlikely in our neighborhood even though the disease is a major population control factor in parts of the world. Usually the young, old, and those with existing health issues are most vulnerable. Humans are not the only species adversely affected by diseases. Throughout history diseases have been responsible for keeping species from becoming too abundant and preventing them from destroying the environment that supports them. Diseases are more important than predators. Even more important are environmental factors like climate change, hurricanes, drought and soil loss. These factors are not new. 

Our scientific ability to influence control over vectors of disease is new. By controlling mosquitoes, we save lives allowing our population to grow. By reducing nature niche population controls we are faced with different survival challenges. Human population growth from 3 billion to 7 billion in my lifetime is changing climate in ways as deadly as disease. Naturally, we take joy in scientific discoveries that protect our families from direct death assault. Vaccines protect us from malaria. Unfortunately, no vaccine protects us from West Nile Virus. 

We are reluctant to address indirect assaults on life even if they are enhanced by our daily activities. Such behavior does not come as naturally as stopping direct assaults on life. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports that excessive use of fossil fuels emitting CO2, increased cattle abundance with methane release from their farts, and habitat clearing to provide human housing space threaten human life. Deaths are not as obvious or immediate. Our behaviors are a death vector for humans similar to mosquitoes carrying diseases. 

To avoid being vectors of death, we can maintain a smaller sustainable population by limiting family size to no more than two children and waiting to have children until we are in our thirties. Times are different from when it was common for a family to lose 6 of 8 children before they reached adulthood. We are not mosquitoes. We can think, reason, and behave in ways to maintain a sustainable population if we choose.  

This means electing people to create society policies that use benefits from scientific discoveries. We cannot safely eliminate population controls like diseases spread by mosquitoes without compensating by voluntarily controlling our population in favorable ways to protect life. We disagree regarding the rate for reduction of fossil fuel use that threatens long term economic, social, and environmental survival. Some leaders dismiss supported evidence as fabricated science. We should not act like mosquitoes and reproduce excessively just because we can. Behaving intelligently and applying science wisely will serve present and long-term needs. 

I suggest people choose appropriate use of science and apply responsible actions instead of living like mosquitoes that reproduce uncontrollably with the result of a short-term population spike. This is supported by both science and by religious mandates entrusting us with creation care. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Michigan Trails Week 


Sept. 22-29

When it comes to quality trails, many Michigan residents already know there’s no place like home. With more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails that connect communities and provide health and economic benefits, it’s easy for hikers, bikers, equestrians, snowmobilers, off-roaders, mountain bikers and even kayakers to find a trail just about anywhere in the state.

Michigan Trails Week (proclaimed this year by Gov. Rick Snyder as Sept. 22-29) is a perfect time for first-time trail users and seasoned outdoor explorers to get out and enjoy the Trails State. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail, the longest designated state trail in the nation, is a 2,000-mile hiking and biking journey from Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle Park in Detroit, connecting more than half of the state’s counties.
  • A growing partner-based water trails program, building on the popularity of paddle sports as one of the fastest-growing recreation activities, as well as Michigan’s thousands of miles of rivers and streams and more miles of Great Lakes coastline than any other state.
  • Thousands of miles of ORV trails that are continually upgraded through funding generated by the sale of ORV licenses and trail permits.

More than 2,600 miles of rail-trail (leading the nation), old railroad lines that have been converted for recreational use. (Such as the White Pine Trail.)

  • Thousands of miles of equestrian, snowmobile and water trail opportunities in some of the state’s most scenic areas.
  • The Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town designation program, announced earlier this year, highlighting some of the state’s best trail resources.

“Michigan offers four full seasons of opportunity to enjoy trails,” said DNR state trails coordinator Paul Yauk. “Michigan Trails Week is a good time for people to start out autumn on the right foot, celebrating the thousands of miles of scenic trails statewide.”

Michigan Trails Week ends Saturday, Sept. 29, which is National Public Lands Day, traditionally a day for volunteer-led efforts to beautify and build awareness about the value and extent of the country’s public lands.

Learn more about events and opportunities at michigan.gov/trailsweek or michigan.gov/dnrtrails or contact Doug Donnelly at 517-284-6109.

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What you need to know about fishing early autumn walleye

DNR Volunteer Dick Callen with a hen walleye with ripe eggs.


Targeting walleye in the fall can offer some of the best fishing of the season. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you target this sportfish in the near future.

  1. In early fall, walleye can be found in a variety of locations within the water body, including deep, shallow or anywhere in between. Keep that in mind and don’t stick to one depth range.
  2. If you’re out in the morning, check the areas where deep water meets the shallow spots.
  3. As the day progresses start heading deeper, as walleye can be photosensitive.
  4. Don’t forget to try your luck during the nighttime hours! This can be a very productive time during the fall, especially along rock points and flat areas.

To learn more about fishing for walleye, go to michigan.gov/dnr and click on fishing, and then on walleye/perch.

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The Sun Clock


Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller


Another ranger naturalist did not carry a watch. To be on time to lead guided walks, Steve Carlisle used the sun to tell time. He asked park visitors for the time to make sure he was on time for his duties. 

Being outdoors daily allowed me to learn to tell time within 15-minutes by the sun’s location. It is an accuracy skill I have lost by not staying in practice. Like lure casting, volleyball, golf, or canoeing, one must stay in practice to be proficient. I carried a watch as a backup tool to meet arrival responsibilities for park ranger work assignments. The watch is more accurate than the 15-minute accuracy I developed by sun watching.

The sun does not rise at the same time daily. It is in a slightly different location along the Zodiac path as the Earth moves around the sun creating yearly seasonal progression. That is a reason weather forecasters post daily sunrise and sunset times. It is the Earth’s rotation that makes it appear that the sun moves overhead daily. 

The Earth revolves around the sun on a 365-day journey. Revolution is responsible for the shift in the sun not rising or setting at the same time daily. It complicates telling time accurately. People living before the sundials or watches, paid close attention to the sun’s position. It helped them arrive home before dark and allowed them to plant crops when it was reasonably safe to avoid killing spring frost. 

Begin practicing telling time by looking at the sun at sunrise and compare it to clock time. Every 15 minutes check your watch and the sun’s position. It is best to practice during the early or late hours of the day. During the evening, start observing one hour before the time weather forecasters indicate the sun will set and check its position at fifteen-minute intervals. Soon you will not need to compare time with a watch.

It is important to use early or late day observations when it is easier to gage the celestial position compared to objects like the horizon, hills, or trees. Those hours allow us to relax and enjoy how the sun plays into our own nature niche activity routines. Enjoy the beauty of changing light on clouds. Notice cloud silver linings and experience colors deepen and change as the sun dips below the evening horizon.

When the sun’s lower edge first touches the horizon, time how long it takes for the ball’s top edge to slip from sight. Always be careful when looking toward the sun. Quick glances are essential. Special viewing glasses are available. You might still have a pair that was provided for observing the solar eclipse. 

Early and late day observations are safest because sun intensity is reduced by atmospheric interference. Its light must past through more atmosphere and suspended particulate matter before reaching our eyes. The sun appears larger during those witching hours because of atmospheric light dispersal. Even more importantly, there are objects to compare with the sun like trees and hills that make it appear larger at that time of day.  

When the sun reaches high noon, it is the same size as when rising or setting but it looks smaller because we lack objects for comparison. Telling time to fifteen-minute increments midday is more challenging without objects for comparison. It can be done but takes more practice. Telling time in half hour increments is more reasonable when the sun does not have nearby comparison objects. It is fun to use the sun in ways that were required by early civilizations. It creates more independence from human tools. Become more self-sufficient. 

Celestial objects were used as maps before paper and ink or cell phone Apps. Free Apps can be downloaded for identifying constellations. They do little to help us understand how to tell time by observing the sun. Apps do not connect us with natural world in a manner sky-watching can for developing time telling skills. Connect with the real world while enjoying the everchanging sky.

Take time to practice telling time using the sun’s position and later use stars to determine where on Earth you are and how to navigate without modern technology. Depend on your skills instead of someone else’s.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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