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Tag Archive | "Howard Christensen Nature Center"

Nature Center and Senior Center partner on fundraiser


Some of the funds raised from the Red Pine Run will go to support activities enjoyed by seniors at the North Kent Senior Center.

Red Pine Run 2018 to be held October 13

The Howard Christensen Nature Center is teaming up with the North Kent Service Center to do the Red Pine Run 2018, an event that will raise funds for both centers.

The event will be held on Saturday, October 13, at Howard Christensen Nature Center at 2 p.m. You can choose to do either the 5K walk/run or the 2.5K walk/run, while enjoying some of the best scenery in West Michigan. It will be a dog-friendly event, so you can bring your four-legged friend to do the walk/run if you wish.

Those who sign up by October 5 will receive a free t-shirt. The cost for the walk/run is $25 for non-members or $20 for members, with proceeds going to both HCNC and the NKSC to help keep them up and running (no pun intended).

It will be a fun-filled day with refreshments after the walk/run and booths to check out. It would be a great day to come out and check out the Nature Center and enjoy the fall beauty.

If you are a senior center and would like to check out the senior center, it is located at 44 N. Park St in Cedar Springs. They gather every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to play games, cards, eat a meal, and play bingo from noon to 1:30 p.m. They also plan senior outings at other times during the week. Their next outing is to the USS Silversides in Muskegon. “We have a great group of people, and we always have a fun time,” said Sue Norton. “So if you are looking for something to do, come and check us out.”

To sign up for the Red Pine Run 2018 or to get answers any questions you have, contact Sue Norton at (616) 443-6468 or go online and register at www.howardchristensen.org.

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Cub Scout presents check to Nature Center


 

Ryan Hess with Howard Christensen board members and Ryan’s younger siblings.

Ryan Hess, of Cub Scout Pack 3220, presented a check of $430.66 to Howard Christensen Nature Center last Saturday, August 4.

“We are so grateful for his donation,” Kim Gillow, on behalf of the Nature Center. “He is the best!”

Ryan needed to raise money for a community project for his Cub Scout badge. His older brother had done a can drive for a student with cancer, so Ryan decided he wanted to do one for HCNC, who had lost money due to an embezzlement. In addition to the can drive, he and his mom invited the Dark Knight of Michigan and the Cosplay Crusaders to the Cedar Springs Historical Society Car Show, where people got a chance to sit in the bike back for a donation. The pack also sold their beef sticks, with the proceeds going to HCNC.

Ryan in the Critter Room and Interpretive Center.

He is optimistic that they will be able to pay some bills or get another animal for the critter room. 

“I’m lucky I got to get in the $400s. It feels awesome,” he said. 

“Thanks to Cub Scout Pack 3220, The Dark Knight of Michigan, Cosplay Crusaders, and Cedar Springs Historical Museum Car Show and our community for making Ryan’s project successful!” said Ryan’s mom, Dana Hess. 

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Car show draws crowds


The Cosplay Crusaders were a big hit at the museum car show last Saturday.

This car was shown in its original condition. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

The annual car show at the Cedar Springs Historical Museum was a huge success last Saturday, July 28, bringing in lots of vehicles and people to their biggest fundraising event of the year. 

“We made $5,000 this year, the best we’ve ever done,” said Sharon Jett, Director at the Museum.

Steve Quigley won best of show, with a 1987 Buick.

Special guests included the Cedar Springs Fire Department, and DJ JoJo Girard from radio station WFGR 98.7. The Kent County Sheriff’s Office also was on hand with one of their tactical vehicles.

Also on hand were the Cosplay Crusaders, as part of a fundraiser organized by Ryan Hess, 8, and Cub Scout pack 3220. Kids were excited to see Thor, the Black Panther, and the Dark Knight of Michigan with his bat bike. For a donation, anyone could sit in the bat bike. Proceeds raised will go to Howard Christensen Nature Center, as will the proceeds from the Cub Scouts beef stick sale, and Ryan’s pop can drive.

“It looks like we will be donating a little over $400 to the nature center,” said Dana Hess, Ryan’s mom.

“Everyone loved the superheroes and the cub scouts sold all their beef sticks,” noted Jett. She also said that Maranatha Baptist Church gave out almost 600 hot dog lunches and dozens of donuts. 

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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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