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Tag Archive | "Howard Christensen Nature Center"

Former nature center director sentenced


David Keift. Facebook photo.

By Judy Reed

David Kieft, the former director of Howard Christensen Nature Center, was sentenced this week in connection with embezzling money from the center.

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 on Tuesday, June 12, by Judge Paul Sullivan, in Kent County Circuit Court. According to the court, he received 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. Restitution is currently set at $4,000 but a hearing date is not yet set to determine the full amount, which will likely be more. 

Kieft, of Kent City, was employed at the HCNC, located in Tyrone Township, for about four years. He resigned on August 28, 2017, reportedly because he had opened a new sandwich shop and wanted to spend more time there and with his family. Upon his resignation, one of the board members noticed that some of the bills had not been paid, and began digging into all the financial activities of Kieft. On September 3, the board member called the Kent County Sheriff Department to report he had embezzled funds.

Kieft reportedly wrote himself numerous checks, which he made out to unregistered businesses, and used the Nature Center Paypal account to purchase a multitude of items for himself and his businesses. The investigation found a minimum of $4,000 to $5,000 in misappropriated funds, mainly through the Paypal account.

There are IRS and Michigan State Treasury investigations separate from the Kent County Sheriff investigation, and more charges could eventually be leveled on Kieft.

Treasurer Kim Gillow read a victim impact statement to the court that listed a litany of offenses committed by Kieft that have put the nature center at risk of closing. Most of the offenses involving missing money (including several grants); lack of payment on necessary bills and taxes; late fees; and payments to himself. She noted that they have incurred expenses of over $5,000 to make up payments and late fees, change locks, etc. and that’s over and above the money that was missing. She also said he converted a handicap accessible bathroom to a personal shower without notifying KISD, who owns the Nature Center. She said it was not installed properly, and caused several plumbing issues. It is estimated it will cost about $6,000 to fix.

Gillow is happy that this part of the case is finally over. And she understands why the judge sentenced him to probation first. “The judge said if he was in jail it wasn’t going to help us get our money,” she explained.

The Nature Center is located at 16190 Red Pine Dr. Kent City, MI 49330. 

The Center is also looking for donors to help sustain the center. You can visit them online at www.howardchristensen.org to donate.

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Building of North Country Trail begins


Workers began establishing a new portion of the 4,600 mile North Country Trail through our area late last month.

by Carolee Cole

On Saturday, April 21, 30-plus people gathered at the North Country Trail (NCT) trailhead on Red Pine Ave. near the Howard Christensen Nature Center. The weather was ideal for building new trail from the east side of Red Pine Dr. West to Division Ave, within the Rogue River State Game Area. The peepers in the nearby wetland areas were thrilled that spring had finally put in an appearance and sang loudly enough to drown out just common conversation. 

Jim Bradley, Vice President of the Western Michigan Chapter for the North Country Trail Association, headed up the effort. Within the Chapter’s tool trailer, an assortment of unfamiliar tools were brought for volunteers to use. A hoe/axe (pulaksi) style tool did a great job of removing small roots from young brush and trees. A large sort of rake/hoe (McLeod) was used to scrape the ground and break up the top growth. Roughing up and scraping away the top layer of duff protects the trail from regrowth of small plants and roots that would hide the trail while it is being established by walkers. Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus provided a great lunch for everyone at noon and we all rested our weary bones. I even saw one of the smarter workers taking a nap! And then it was back to work. The walk out to the work site was a lot longer in the afternoon than it had been in the morning as we had made good progress earlier in the day. We might have been less productive due to the vigorous workout in the morning, but there was a goal and these volunteers were die-hard trail builders!  

You might wonder what would attract 30-plus people to use the larger part of the first beautiful Saturday in Spring volunteering to work so hard and accrue over 20,000 steps per person. The North Country National Scenic Trail is a 4,600 mile linear National Park and local Michiganders are proud to have it cross through our State. Trail hiking or walking is becoming an increasingly “cool” way to exercise, meditate, build positive internal energy, get outside and experience nature, and it’s a great activity for friends and families to enjoy together. Most housing developments include trails and green space to serve their people. Connecting with a trail that offers an opportunity to get in a real workout, or an enjoyable family picnic outing, without the noise and danger of motorized vehicles, is a huge benefit. 

Cedar Springs is extra proud that we are home to both the NCT and the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park. Both trails cross right behind the Cedar Springs Brewing Company providing our people double the opportunity and the advantage of two very different types of trails all in our own hometown! 

  Over the next few months and years the NCT will continue to be developed in our area. We are looking for citizens living in Solon Township between Cedar Springs and the State Game Area who might be willing to explore opportunities on your property for trail walkers to have access to off road trail. 

There will also be another trail building day on Saturday, May 12. If you have an interest in building trail, providing access, planning a trail activity, or just working with a great group of people, please contact Jim Bradley, jimbradley1033@gmail.com or Kenny Wawsczyk, kwawsczyk@northcountrytrail.org with the North Country Trail Association or Danette Bailey, danetteb@standalelumber.com Chairperson for the North Country Trail effort in Cedar Springs.

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Enjoying the beauty


A Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) perched in the branches of a Weeping Holly tree.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Imagine a bird slightly smaller than a cardinal with a brown crest that it can raise or lay flat on its head at will. It has a black “lone ranger” mask outlined with white “eye-liner” surrounding the black. From head towards the tail, its russet brown head subtly grades to an olive brown on its back to gray wings and rump. On the gray wings are tiny splashes of red on the secondary feathers next to the large primary wing feathers. It appears these smaller wing tip feathers have been dipped in red wax. 

The light golden brown on the head, back, and chest, transitions to become lighter and changes to yellow on the belly and sides. The yellow belly gives way to white under the tail. The tail above is gray with a rather abrupt change to a black crosswise band near the tail’s end. The terminal end has a bright yellow band. 

When the bird stands on branches, it is more erect than many birds. One often expects birds to stand horizontal with head out front and tail protruding backwards like a robin. A cedar waxwing posture angles from head to tail at an angle steeper than 45 degrees. Its black mask provides a penetrating look even though it eyes are quite hidden in the mask. 

Waxwings became a favorite beauty for me in the 1970s because their brilliant colors blend in a manner that creates a gentle over-all appearance that must be studied for details. The beauty of goldfinches, cardinals, and blue jays grab our attention with flamboyance. Cedar waxwing colors are vivid but hidden in plain view among subtle transitions.

Even their calls are someone secretive. They have a high-pitched simple call that I can no longer hear. The calls are not meant for me anyway. The waxwings travel in small to large flocks where they cluster in trees and maintain vocal contact. This morning I saw a half dozen together with four eastern bluebirds. Last week I saw 100 together. 

During the winter, they seek shrubs and trees with berries. As I waded a stream one early summer during a mayfly hatch, waxwings fluttered from tree branches to snatch mayflies in the air like one expects from a flycatcher. 

For today, no bird equals the beauty of these avian wonders. Tomorrow, next week, or month, a different species might claim the title as “my favorite.” Our choice of favorite depends somewhat on where we live and observe. When I was a ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park for nearly a decade, the Green-tailed Towhee provided hidden brilliance of blended colors similar to what we experience with waxwings here.

Use a bird field guide to study the patterns, shapes, distribution, and habitats of moving beauties that come and go in yards. I am an old guy and still prefer to hold a book in hand. An Internet search provides hundreds of outstanding photographs for each species. You could while away the day with beauty on the computer screen but for me it does not match the joy of seeing these neighbors in real life. 

Your outdoor yard is the place to be or at least view from a home window. To attract cedar waxwings, provide for their needs by planting viburnums and other native berry producing shrubs and trees. Waxwings are not attracted to bird feeders. They seek yards with choice berry shrubs and insects. 

It is nice to see a dozen species that visit bird feeders daily. A yard and neighborhood planted to meet bird nature niche needs provides opportunity to enjoy the beauty of 50 to more than 100 species. Enrich your life by inviting birds of beauty by landscaping for wildlife. 

Hope to see you this Saturday, March 24, at the Howard Christensen Nature Center for the Modes of Animal Behavior program at 9 a.m. 

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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Former nature center director charged with embezzlement


David Kieft. Facebook photo.

By Judy Reed

David Kieft, the former director of Howard Christensen Nature Center, was charged Wednesday with embezzling money from the center. The Michigan State Treasury and the IRS have also opened their own investigation into his financial activities while director there.

Kieft, of Kent City, was employed at the HCNC, located in Tyrone Township, for about four years. He resigned on August 28, 2017, reportedly because he had opened a new business (Ridgetown Grub, in Sparta) and wanted to spend more time there and with his family. Upon his resignation, one of the board members noticed that some of the bills had not been paid, and began digging into all the financial activities of Kieft. On September 3, the board member called the Kent County Sheriff Department to report he had embezzled funds.

Kieft reportedly wrote himself numerous checks, which he made out to unregistered businesses, and used the Nature Center Paypal account to purchase a multitude of items for himself and his businesses. The investigation found a minimum of $4,000 to $5,000 in misappropriated funds, mainly through the Paypal account.

The IRS and Michigan State Treasury investigations are separate from the Kent County Sheriff investigation, and more charges could eventually be leveled on Kieft.

He was arraigned on Wednesday, February 28, in 63rd District Court, on one charge of embezzlement of over $1,000, but under $20,000, of a non-profit or charity. Bond was set at $1,000 and he bonded out. His next appearance in court is a probable cause hearing scheduled for March 12, at 10 a.m.

Under the charge, which is a felony, he could face up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of not more than $15,000 or three times the value of the money or property embezzled, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Bruce Mayeda, President of the Board of Directors at the Nature Center, gave us this statement on the arrest of Kieft: “On behalf of Howard Christensen Nature Center, we are cooperating fully with the Sheriffs department, but we cannot comment on an on going investigation of a former employee. We are open! We are under new management and we have some really fun events coming up. We would love to see you all come out and show your support. You can find our event schedule at our website, howardchristensen.org.”

The Nature Center is located at 16190 Red Pine Dr. Kent City, MI 49330. 

The Center is also looking for donors to help sustain the center. You can visit them online at www.howardchristensen.org to donate.

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Hometown Happenings


Hometown Happenings articles are a community service for non-profit agencies only. Due to popular demand for placement in this section, we can no longer run all articles. Deadline for articles is Monday at 5 p.m. This is not guaranteed space. Articles will run as space allows. Guaranteed placement is $10, certain restrictions may apply. You now can email your Hometown Happenings to happenings@cedarspringspost.com please include name and phone number for any questions we may have.


Praise the Lord at Cowboy Church

Jan 28: 2nd Chance will be having Cowboy Church on Sunday, January 28th at 6 pm. It will be at 2nd Chance School at 810 – 17 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs (corner of 17 Mile and Olin Lakes Rd). Music and ministry will be shared by the group, North Country Band, who will share their musical talent. Invite your family and friends. Cowboy Church will be every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. Each service will have different people sharing God’s word and music. Cowboy Church will introduce you to 2nd Chance and its vision. The school is in the building stage, which when completed, will teach troubled teens through God and the horse. If you have questions, call 616-293-2150. See you there! #4

The Family Experience

Feb. 3: Join us for a family fun event full of games, ice cream, skits that teach and lots of laughter! Oh, and did we mention that this is completely FREE for everyone! Check us out on Facebook “FX-The Family Experience”@rockfordres. Resurrection Life Church, 3233 – 10 Mile Rd., Saturday, February 3rd from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. #4

Make your own Valentine Cards

Feb. 5: Make your own valentine cards and other items on February 5th with Cedar Springs Area Parks and Recreation. Classes are $20 and include the supplies to make the card other than adhesives. Pre-registration is required by Friday, February 2nd and can be done online at www.csaparksandrec.com or at the office in CSPS Hilltop Monday-Wednesday. For more information visit the website or call 696-7320. #3,4

The Art of Papermaking

Feb. 6: Back by popular demand! Create unique handcrafted paper with artistic flair and style. Learn techniques to create decorative sheets of paper using various fibers and pulp, a mold and a deckle. Pre-registration required. For adults. Tuesday, February 6th at 6 pm at Spencer Township KDL Branch, 14960 Meddler Ave., Gowen. Visit www.kdl.org for more information, 616-784-2007. #4

Auditions for Actors del Arte

Feb. 8: Actors del Arte Ensemble will be holding auditions and casting calls for the upcoming show “Saw Dust and Magic” a comedy/drama about the early circus life of the 1900’s. Casting call runs through February 8th. Looking for all ages, men women, teens and children. Interested parties please contact the director Patricia Rose at 616-874-5264. #4

Valentine’s Snowshoeing at HCNC

Feb. 10: Bundle up this February for a candle lit snow shoe walk! You will make your way on a guided walk to our bonfire, where you will enjoy refreshments and S’mores, before heading back out on your walk. If the snow decides not to show, this will be a trail walk. Remember to get goodies for your sweetheart at our bake sale. All ages welcome. Snow shoe equipment provided. Saturday, February 10th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Final walk leaves promptly at 8 pm. Non-members $5/ members $3. Pre-registration requested, www.howardchristensen.org. 616-675-3158, Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16160 Red Pine Drive, Kent City. #4

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Outdoor groups for you


Howard Christensen Nature Center on Red Pine Drive offers outdoor opportunities for both adults and children.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The New Year is bright with opportunities for being outdoors with nature organizations. Enjoy being in the natural world with others of common interests. 

There are organizations that address activity interests most important to you. Each takes a different approach and all offer enjoyable opportunities. Support some or all the organizations listed that serve your interests. It is not a complete list but hopefully adds new opportunities for you. Spend time enjoying the outdoors with groups to create connections with nature that will hopefully lead to its protection.

Select local conservation organizations that work to support fun outside in healthy and nature niche ecosystems. Some organizations providing outdoor enjoyment are:

Michigan Botanical Club White Pine Chapter (wild flower field trips and programs); Grand Rapids Audubon (birding field trips); a variety of hunting clubs with most being affiliated with National Wildlife Federation and Michigan United Conservation Clubs; River City Wild Ones (native plant group); Izaak Walton League (fishing and conservation); West Michigan Butterfly Association; Kent, Ottawa and other County Parks; township, city and village parks (Ada, Hudsonville, Grand Rapids, Wyoming and others); Sierra Club (outdoor adventure and conservation); local nature centers (Howard Christensen, Blandford, Calvin College’s Bunker Interpretive Center); Nature Preserves (Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Michigan Nature Association, Grand Rapids Audubon Maher Sanctuary, Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary); county Conservation Districts; MSU Extension agencies; and the Stewardship Network. 

Be thankful for efforts of The Stewardship Network that helps support multiple organizations by:

  • Empowering people to care for land and water by providing field based opportunities using best scientific based practices
  • Protecting biodiversity through activities, education and land management
  • Working to control invasive species that degrade ecosystem functions, our economy, health, and nature niches
  • Safeguarding water to keep nutrients on the land and out of creeks, rivers, lakes and groundwater
  • Caring for habitats that support threatened and endangered species
  • Defending local communities by promoting local ecosystem solutions to prevent flooding
  • Working to prevent human enhanced climate change
  • Supporting organizations with missions to protect land and water ecosystems to sustain our economy, social community structure, and environment.

Do an Internet search or better yet attend any or all of the organizations listed to learn more about them. Most state and national conservation organizations are not listed. This article focuses on local organizations where you can personally get together with others in the outdoors or attend entertaining educational programs.

Spend time outdoors with at least one of the listed organizations to enjoy local natural wonders. Learn from others how the natural world serves your physical and mental wellbeing.  

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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Nature Center fundraiser


 

By Tom Noreen

The Howard Christensen Nature Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that runs operates on donations and fees for events. It is staffed mainly by volunteers and at times has difficulty making ends meet to cover the more than $3,500 monthly required to keep the doors and gates open. Trails, driveways, docks and boardwalks require maintenance, and an often overlooked expense is the insurance they must carry to even let the public on the property. Even for those who “only walk the trails,” without funding, closure of HCNC would also mean closure of the gates and property as a whole.

Now is one of those times donations are needed. Student board member Carlin Bolt has set up a fundraising site on Patronicity to offer folks a chance to help keep the center operating. You can donate by going to patronicity.com, then type “Howard Christensen Nature Center” in the search box in the upper right corner. When it pops up, click on it and it goes to the project details. But hurry, there are only 8 days left. At press time Wednesday evening, they had raised $615 of $15,000 requested. You can also donate by sending your donation directly to PO Box 42, Kent City, MI 49330. You can call 616-675-3158 for more information.

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Hometown Happenings


Hometown Happenings articles are a community service for non-profit agencies only. Due to popular demand for placement in this section, we can no longer run all articles. Deadline for articles is Monday at 5 p.m. This is not guaranteed space. Articles will run as space allows. Guaranteed placement is $10, certain restrictions may apply. You now can email your Hometown Happenings to happenings@cedarspringspost.com please include name and phone number for any questions we may have.


Free Outdoor Family Concert

Aug. 19: The Community Building Development Team is hosting a Free Outdoor Family Concert on Saturday, August 19th from 3 to 7 pm. It will be held in the “Heart of Cedar Springs” (park near the new Library). Two bands will be performing: Barn Cats and Whiskey Bound. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket and enjoy! #31-33p

Open Mic at the CS Library

Aug. 19: You are invited to join local and regional writers in a night of reading original prose and poetry from 6 pm to 8 pm at the new Library in Cedar Springs, 107 N. Main Street. Readers will be initially scheduled for 5 minutes, but may be allowed more time depending on turnout. For more information on reading, email event master of ceremonies Ken at kdn13@hotmail.com. You may reach the Library at 616-901-7173. Feel free just to come to listen. Families welcome! #33

Dinner at the Legion

Aug. 21: American Legion, 80 S. Main St. Cedar Springs, is hosting a Pork Chop dinner on Monday, August 21st, from 5 – 7 pm. Included will be mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, veggies, salad, roll, dessert and drink. The cost is $9 for adults, children (15 and younger) $4.00. Come and enjoy home cooking. Take out is available. 616-696-9160.  #33p

Annual Second Best Sale

Aug. 25,26: Holy Spirit Episcopal Church’s Annual Second Best Sale is Friday, August 25 from 9 am – 4 pm and Saturday, August 26 from 9 am – 2 pm. There is a $5 “Early Bird Admission” charge on Friday only from 8-9 am; after 9 am admission is free! The sale is sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) in support of parish activities. We have something for everyone, and everything is priced to move! Holy Spirit Episcopal Church is located at 1200 Post Drive NE, Belmont (corner of Post & Pine Island, 1/4 mile west of Exit 95 on US 131). #33,34b

HCNC Benefit Auction

Aug. 27: Come join us at Howard Christensen Nature Center on August 27th for our Benefit Auction! Not only are we auctioning off items we no longer have use for, but we will have food, drinks, and other items for sale! Browsing will start at 1:30 pm, with the auction kicking off at 3 pm. Don’t miss out! If you have any questions or gently used items to donate to the auction, please let us know before the date of the event. 16160 Red Pine Drive, Kent City, 616-675-3158. #33

Improv Night at the Kent

Aug. 30: Fans of Improv need look no further than the Kent Theatre as the Cedar Springs Community Players hold Improv Night at 7 pm on Wednesday, August 30th on the stage of the Kent Theatre in downtown Cedar Springs. The Players held its first Improv Night in February and are excited to offer another night of comedy on August 30th. Tickets are available at the door for $5.00. Doors will open at 6:30 pm. Hope to see you there! #33,34b

CSUMC August Rummage Sale

Aug. 30,31: Cedar Springs United Methodist Women will holding our annual rummage sale in the fellowship hall of United Methodist Church at the corner of Main and Church Streets. Wednesday, August 30th, 9 am to 7 pm & Thursday, August 31st, 9 am to 2 pm. There will be a $3.00/bag sale all day Thursday on clothing and linens. #33,34b

Wine and Water Colors

Sept. 9: Meet our resident artist Tracey, as she takes you through the steps of creating your own masterpiece! Joined by Kare our Sommelier, you are sure to have an enjoyable evening, full of laughter. Saturday, September 9th from 6 to 9 pm. $35 per person, $20 for members. This is an adult only event. Location to be determined. Pre-registration requested www.howardchristensen.org, 616-675-3158. #33

Red Flannel Day Talent Show Tryouts

Sept. 13,20,28: Looking for talented kids of all ages. The Red Flannel Talent Show is searching for singers, vocal groups, dancers, instrumentalists and variety acts for the Red Flannel Day Talent Show on October 7th. Come in and show us what you got. Tryouts on Wednesday, September 13th and 20th, Thursday September 28th at 7:00 pm at the Kent Theatre, 8 N. Main St. Cedar Springs. Dress rehearsal will be Thursday, October 5th. So, get together with friends and family and plan your act now. If you have any questions, or can’t make it on tryout day, please contact Len by email, len@laphoto.com or 231-750-2337. #33,34p

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We’re still here: what’s happening at Howard Christensen Nature Center


You will see all kinds of wildlife and plant life at Howard Christensen Nature Center. Courtesy photo.

By Kim Gillow

While riding on our float in several parades, I overheard members of the crowd saying, “I thought they closed.” “I remember going there as a kid.” “My sister got married there.” Well, we are still here. Kids still come with their schools and people still get married here. The Cedar Springs Post has been kind enough to list our events in “Hometown Happenings” but that is just part of our story. We are in the midst of a massive renovation and upgrade. Our biggest project is the building of dioramas inside the Interpretive Center to mimic the various ecosystems on the land. We are also planning to restore the planetarium and create an interactive, hands-on area in the former library space. This is all being done through volunteer time, money and energy. As a nonprofit, with no outside funding, we are totally dependent on revenue from our events and donations. We rent the property from KISD but we are responsible for the upkeep and repairs.

Howard Christensen Nature holds many types of events for all ages. Courtesy photo.

Our mission remains the same: To inspire appreciation and respect for the natural world, to increase awareness of environmental concerns and encourage individual’s to maintain earth’s ecology through scientific and educational activities. We have had to institute an admission fee to help with expenses. It is $3 per person for anyone 16 or older. This has led to some disgruntled comments but we do have to keep the lights on. And we want to be able to keep the cost of school trips and other events at a level that isn’t prohibitive.

We are busy staining our tables and benches at the center and are setting up a picnic area near the playground. Volunteers are repairing the boardwalks that have been damaged by weather and vandals. We have a new shed to house our snowshoes and cross country skis, courtesy of  Daniel Mills’ Eagle Scout Project. Fairy doors are appearing along the trails. We dream of paddle boats on the pond and a challenge course.  Plans are in the works for our fall events: Red Pine 5k Run, Fairy Festival, scarecrow and gourd craft day, pumpkin carving and spooky walk, haunted house, pie making, and  wreath making/make and take to name a few. For more information, call (616) 675-3158 or register on our web site: www.howardchristensen.org.

Planning an event? Rent Camp Lily’s, a private retreat center on the north end of the property. There is a large building with meeting space, full kitchen and rest rooms plus a pavilion and camping areas with picnic tables and fire pits. It is the perfect place for a family reunion, graduation party, wedding or corporate retreat. We continue to improve the venue and hope to have an indoor shower by next spring.

Next big thing! We are cleaning out the barn and other nooks and crannies. Mark and Ann Petersen are offering their services for a benefit auction on Sunday, August 27, starting at 3 p.m. The public is welcome to come any time after 1:30 p.m. to get your bid number and preview our wide variety of items that are ready for a new home. And it is a variety: electric clothes dryer, display cases, waders, filing cabinets, fencing, etc. Watch for a complete list on our web site and sale bills around town when we get closer. There will also be raffles of a child’s quilt and baskets of goodies, a bake sale, and hot dogs, popcorn and drinks for sale.

How can you help? Come and see us, become a member, attend an event, volunteer for an individual project or join us to help with an event, rent Camp Lily’s, make a tax deductible donation, wave at us in a parade, let people know—we’re still here!

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Shifting Sands


A sand dune at Silver Lake swallowed up a house in April. Photo from woodtv.com.

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Reading the landscape is a development skill taught in middle school Earth science. It is taught to preschoolers by parents. Young minds are open to learning.

The local news reported advancing sand dunes are burying homes. An Earth science lessen is easily forgotten without experiential learning. The dangers of building or buying a home too close to the big lake can be seen during family or school outings. It is a gamble to determine exactly which homes will get buried.

A trip to Lake Michigan’s shoreline dune complex for a swim will be a fun outing where one can see trees buried by moving sand at Hoffmaster State Park or in other parks. Some of the trees have adaptations allowing them to produce adventitious roots from tree trunks as their original roots get buried too deep to survive. The new roots give the tree continued life under tough circumstances.

At some future date, the sand dunes will shift and uncover tree trunks, exposing the roots developed from the growing trunk that was previously high in the air before being buried. If fortunate, the tree will have lived and died before sand is blown away to expose its skeleton.

One might refer to sand dunes as a living, moving, entity, but by reading the landscape, we discover they are not. Moving dunes bring life or death to species by the lake and will crush buildings. Contractors build and sell homes close to the shoreline. They arrive, construct and leave with a profit. The buyer that did not learn to read the landscape might lose their home to the crushing weight of sand depending on where the home was built.

The news showed a cottage that collapsed under the weight of moving sand. People were interviewed about nature’s destroying power. Owners are hiring bulldozer operators to move sand to save homes and resorts. The reporters hoped the home owners would win the fight against nature’s forces.

A fight is not necessary. If the people refused to buy homes close to shore or on shifting dunes, their homes would not be endangered. Many want the shoreline view and are willing to gamble their home’s future. The result is their home might be buried or washed into the lake. A Go-fund-me account has been established to help save homes because people cannot afford to hire contactors to keep moving sand.

Learning the school lessen might have resulted in choosing to live in a safer location. In the 1980’s I observed homes falling into Lake Michigan when high lake levels undercut foundations. I witnessed multi-million dollar homes fall into the Pacific Ocean as erosion undercut cliffs. The homes were too large to move and should not have been built close to the ocean.

Homes are built on barrier Islands along the Atlantic Ocean even though barrier islands are known to move and wash away. Classroom education is valuable but field trip experience is essential for learning to read the landscape. Book learning requires supplemental practical experiences to learn to read the landscape. That is the purpose of places like the Howard Christensen Nature Center and for parents to take families to natural areas.

I began as director at HCNC in 1986 when an Environmental Education Advocacy Council and School administrator agreement required some Kent ISD teachers to bring students to HCNC. I was told HCNC was securely funded by property taxes. As time passed, and shifting sands of education politics changed. I was told environmental education was no longer a priority in America after the early 2000’s presidential election. The Kent ISD stopped funding HCNC. An impact of that decision might result in students losing their homes to nature’s forces when they are grown. We are in a phase of political temperament again when many want to focus only on the present without considering the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental impacts for the future. Economic health cannot be sustained without social and environmental sustainability. Security in our personal nature niche depends on the shifting sands of politics and how well people learn to read the landscape to protect their wellbeing and investments.

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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