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Good-bye Cedar Springs Post

By Lois Allen

Our first edition from 1988.

There has been a steady decline of local newspapers since The Cedar Springs Post was created in 1988. Back then everyone was on the same pages. If they wanted to know what was going on in their community, they picked up the local newspaper. Local journalists are disappearing across the country, creating what is known as news deserts. The local paper is the collateral damage of the new largely unregulated social media and internet software controlled take-over of our lives.

As creator and publisher of The Post it is my regret and duty to tell you, a Post reader, that The Cedar Springs Post will be publishing its last issue. We have just enough money in our bank account to produce this week, but it does not look good for next week.

As hard as it is to close, we don’t want our readers to wonder, “Where’s the Post and why isn’t it here?” So I’m letting everyone know. There will be no papers in our 60 plus newsstands, and no online version to view.

There’s a battle going on. It’s a battle for your attention, your business and your money. So, there is no shortage of advertising, just in the local paper.

People often say we should just charge for it, but it isn’t that simple. Postage for a year of mailing is over $40 now. Every publication, including cable, TV, magazines, as well as sporting events, even NPR, which is listener supported, need advertising dollars to survive. And we need it too.

Expenses run about $3,000 weekly with payroll for five employees at around $1,500 or more depending on hours. Printing a 16 page paper is about $800 for 3,000 copies. Then there is insurance, payroll taxes, internet, phone, software, hardware, lights, heat, water bill and other misc expenses.

Someone once said, “All good things come to an end.” Why? For nearly three and a half decades, The Post has been all things Cedar Springs. Its pages were an example of the kind of community we are and the people who live here. 

In these super stressful and uncertain times, it’s nice to be able to read something low-tech that is already downloaded and printed for you without having to log on, create a username, and then a password or any other personal information. You can read it privately. You don’t have to negotiate software or even need electricity! And I guarantee you it won’t crash.

We know you appreciate us and are thankful for the support, donations, and wonderful comments on our go-fund-me campaign that we started last February. We were able, with your help, to continue to publish for an additional six months! Thank you! I was so uplifted that I matched the donations and contributed $6,000 of my own savings to keep us running.

Thirty-four years is not a bad run for an independently owned community paper in a rural area that my dad told me would not succeed. “Cedar Springs can’t afford a newspaper,” he told me. But he was wrong for three and a half decades. I saw growth. I believed the paper would grow with the community. I believed it had great potential. But then shoppers were created. Shoppers were newspapers without journalists. They could print more and sell cheaper advertising because they didn’t have to use space and money for stories (papers don’t make money on stories). And then came the internet and social media and new software programs designed to get your attention—and money.

Every year The Post printed a tax page for our local tax preparers along with tax tips for the year. This year there were no tax preparer ads at all. I like to shop local so I shop the newspaper when I need a plumber, an electrician, a roofer, haircut, tax consultant or any other local services and goods. But they are not there. They don’t need us anymore. 

The paper worked hard to be a valuable service for our residents. The Post helped to reunite hundreds of pets with their owners when they came up missing or were found. All you had to do was call, and at no charge. Now there are several websites for that.

Each week we run animals for adoption in our “pet of the week” for the Humane Society without charge, but could never get a veterinarian to sponsor it. If you wanted to meet new friends and give to a local cause, you could find it in our Hometown Happenings for our non-profit organizations. We had support to run festival schedules for area festivals so you didn’t have to find a brochure ‘cause it was in the paper. Honor rolls for Cedar Springs Schools were possible because the businesses stepped up and sponsored them and we’re grateful for that for sure.

I’ve spent literally half my life keeping this little newspaper in Cedar Springs alive. It feels like the loss of a loved one. With its loss, we lose a tiny piece of democracy. The world is sooo crazy now, the paper was a slice of sanity thanks to our great editor, Judy Reed. It looks awesome because of our talented graphic designer, Belinda Sanderson and it ran smoothly because of our office manager and our rock, Mary Randall. The sales we have are because of our ever cheerful sales rep, Marybeth Ford and it was always in the newsstands every Thursday because of our very dependable delivery guy, Dan Randall. And also, Waldo, our official feline greeter. I know it will be missed greatly.

A local paper was the perfect place to shop local because it was affordable to all small businesses who don’t have the financial means to advertise like the large national corporations. Big corporate wants 200,000 views, not just 20,000. And when local businesses ran their ads in the paper, they were surrounded by exclusive news stories, local people, your neighbors and friends. Children were celebrated for their accomplishments and constructive projects, giving them a sense of pride.

We have had loyal advertisers that have kept us going for many years. Like Larry’s Northtown of Greenville and Ray Winnie Auto, also in Greenville, Sparta Chevy in Sparta, Northend Tire in Cedar Springs, Robinson’s Septic, Kelly’s Restaurant, The Cedar Springs Brewery, Intandem Credit Union (formally Kent County Credit Union), Creative Technologies Academy, Cedar Springs Public Schools, and so many more that have stepped up to support the newspaper. 

But there has been a steady decline of advertisers as prices for everything rises. Smaller businesses are struggling, just like us. It’s been hard to watch the paper grow thinner, running a skeleton crew and struggling to meet expenses. It is sad, and a little scary too. How to find the truth? Who to believe? It’s so confusing now.

But we will leave a legacy. Our paper is bound into hardcover for each year we publish and then donated to the Cedar Springs Historical Society. Our legacy will show a community where everyone gets along and pulls together to make this a better place to live, work and play.

We love you Cedar Springs.

Front of The POST building from 2015.

Publisher note: Email from Donald Hamblin, April 13, 2022

Hi, thank you so much for the article in Hometown Happenings. We had tried several other avenues with no success in getting the word out regarding pickle ball at Magnify Church, but because of this article we had several new people come that turned our evening into a success. Best 10 bucks ever… We were actually thinking about discontinuing the games, but the picture is completely changed due to this article.

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Creative Technologies Academy holds Day of Service to honor 9/11

Students at CTA enjoyed meeting first responders and checking out their equipment. Courtesy photos.

On Friday, September 9, CTA held a ceremony at their campus flagpole, led by Steve Washington, to remember the events of 9/11. After the ceremony, CTA welcomed to their campus Montcalm County: EMS, Ambulance, and Fire Truck; Greenville DPS; Michigan State Police; Walker Police; and the Grand Rapids Police. 

The CTA students and staff spent time connecting with our local heroes, and the students had the opportunity to ask questions and tour the fire trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles. 

“We were honored to have some of our local heroes on our campus. It is important that we continue to remember and honor those that lost their lives on 9/11,” said Autumn Mattson, CTA Superintendent. “We believe at CTA that we are world changers, and it is important that we expose our students to others who each day chose to positively change the world.” 

Creative Technologies Academy is committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership. It has been twenty-one years since 9/11, and every year CTA sets aside time to observe the events that took place on September 11, 2001. 

Through reflection on our past, honoring our service men and women, and building positive relationships with our communities, CTA hopes to create opportunities that foster respect for individual differences and unite to help build a positive foundation for our children’s future. 

CTA believes that by building community connections and participating in acts of service, they can support and grow a new generation of civic-minded Americans. This year CTA partnered with City Impact and hosted a food drive to give back to our community and hosted a Day of Service with a goal to honor and respect our local servicemen and women, while also building connections with our CTA students, staff, and the surrounding community.

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Old fire station torn down

By Judy Reed

The old fire station on W. Maple Street was torn down this week. Post photo by J. Reed.
Photo by Sharon Magoon.

The old Cedar Springs Fire Station that sat near the corner of W. Maple and Main served the community and its firefighters for approximately 40 years. It was torn down earlier this week, after being vacant for the last year and a half.

The Cedar Springs Fire Department outgrew the building on Maple Street, and moved out of the building in 2021 and into the brand new fire station at the corner of Second and Elm, which has three times the amount of space.

We asked City Manager Mike Womack about plans for the property.

“No decisions have been made what to do with the property. The City has discussed two main options, turning it into a small parking area or turning it into a pocket park with seating for library guests. There are pros and cons to both proposals and with so many other developments and projects going on in the downtown area right now, I think that the City might wait a little while before making any final decisions. The goal is look at all of the City’s development through a holistic and comprehensive lens and plan for not just immediate needs and wants but for long term use.”

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Red Hawks kick off season at Wayne State

The Cedar Springs Red Hawks are back and shooting for another great season in the Ok Gold. 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Red Hawks will kick off the 2022 football season this Saturday at 4 p.m. when they take the field against River Rouge, at Tom Adams Field at Wayne State University, in the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic.

The 2022 Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic is described as the premier season-opening high school football showcase in Michigan. Six games will highlight the event over three days, including teams from multiple divisions and powerhouse conferences. The game between River Rouge and Cedar Springs, both Division 3 teams, is the event finale. 

The Red Hawks are back after a great 2021 season, and The Post asked Coach Gus Kapolka about what this season’s team looks like.

“We hope to continue the success we’ve had the past several years and the outlook is good based on who returns and how hard our guys have worked in the off season,” he said.

They have six players returning on defense and four on offense.

“Our strong point is our offensive skill,” said Kapolka. “We return all three running backs—Antwuan  Nicholls, Carter Falan, and Ryan Mitchell—and Ryan West slides into the quarterback spot.”

They also have added some new faces to the coaching staff. “Joe Testerink joins our staff as the JV coach. He coached football in North Carolina for 9 years and has most recently coached at East Kentwood.  Brad Austin will be the freshman coach after coaching the 8th grade the last two years,” he explained.

The Red Hawks have a rough road ahead, with the first four games being some of their toughest—River Rouge, Zeeland West, Catholic Central, and South Christian. We asked Kapolka how they are preparing for that.

“We are trying to improve every day and focus on small immediate goals rather than obsessing over the first 4 games,” he explained.

How does the coach feel about this Saturday’s game against River Rouge? “River Rouge is elite,” remarked Kapolka. “They have Nick Marsh, who recently committed to MSU, and several other highly recruited players. They are the toughest test we’ve had since we played Muskegon in a Regional Final in 2018.”

If you’d like to travel to Wayne State University to cheer on the Red Hawks in the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic, on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 4 p.m., tickets are $12.00 and can be purchased at detroitsports.org. A portion of the ticket purchased will benefit the school. The ticket is good for both games that day.

You can also watch on the NFHS Network.

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Library celebrates end of summer reading program

The Cedar Springs Fire Department kept kids cool at the summer reading program event last Thursday. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

It was hot, sunny day last Thursday, August 4, when the Cedar Springs Public Library celebrated the end of their summer reading program with a special event in the Heart of Cedar Springs park.

There was a special foam event with lots of bubbles, a slip and slide, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit, deputies and their dogs from the Kent County Sheriff’s K9 unit, and the Cedar Springs Fire Department was also on hand to cool kids off. They gave away a lot of cool prizes, too! See the Post next week for more information on their summer reading stats and what’s coming up.

Kids had a lot of fun on the slip and slide. Post photo by J. Reed.

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Primary sets up November races

By Judy Reed

The unofficial results are in from the Tuesday, August 2, primary, and it sets up the races for the midterm November election. This was the first step in determining who will represent constituents in the newly formed districts. All precincts were accounted for in these results, except in the governor’s race, where one precinct had not yet turned in its numbers (at press time Wednesday).

Kent County Commissioner

District 3: In the race for Kent County Commissioner in District 3, the winner was Republican Jennifer Merchant, with 1,708 votes, over Mark Laws, who had 1,312 votes. Merchant will vie for the position against Democrat Janalee Keegstra (467 votes) in November. 

District 4: Republican Katie DeBoer took the win over Diane Jones 3,981 to 2,457. DeBoer will run against Democrat Judy Wood (2,284 votes) in November.

District 2: Democrat Rebecca Diffin (1,691 votes) and Republican Thomas Antor (4,053) ran uncontested and will face off in November.

State house seats

90th state house district: Republican Bryan Posthumus defeated Republican contender Kathy Clark with 11,005 votes to her 5,656. He will run against Democrat Meagan Hintz (5,824 votes) in November.

91st state house district: Democrat Tammy DeVries took the win over her competitor Frank LaFata 2,665 to 1,652. She will vie for the two-year seat in November against Republican Pat Outman (12,225 votes) who ran uncontested.

State senator

33rd District: Republican Rick Outman (37,029 votes) will run against Democrat Mark Bignell (12,588 votes) in November. Both ran uncontested.

U.S. Representatives in Congress

2nd District: Republican John Moolenaar took 65.22 percent of the vote to defeat Thomas Norton 77,391 to 41,272. Moolenaar will take on Democrat Jerry Hilliard (40,953 votes) in November.

3rd District: A close race in the 3rd District resulted in Republican incumbent Peter Meijer being ousted in favor of John Gibbs. Gibbs chalked up 54,065 votes, and Meijer took 50,211. Gibbs will take on Democrat Hillary Scholten (59,408 votes) in November.


 In the race for governor, 82 out of 83 counties had submitted unofficial results by press time Wednesday. Those results showed that Republican Tudor Dixon pulled away from the pack, garnering 40 percent of the vote. Kevin Rinke took 22 percent; Garret Soldano just under 18 percent; Ryan Kelley 15 percent; and Ralph Rebandt 4 percent. Dixon will run against Governor Whitmer in November. 


Kent County Senior Services: The renewal of the Kent County senior services millage passed with 95,064 voting yes and 39,400 voting no.

Kent County Veteran Services: The renewal for the Kent County Veteran Services passed 103,128 to 31,201.

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Man charged in road rage shooting

The photo shows the suspect’s truck as it passed the Hilltop General Store. Courtesy photo.
Brien Scott Velting. Courtesy photo.

A Cedar Springs man has been charged with intent to murder and several other charges after he allegedly shot at another vehicle during a road rage incident last week.

On July 19, the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office asked for the public’s help to locate and identify a suspect involved in a road rage incident that resulted in him firing a shot at the other vehicle. They said the suspect, described as a white male with reddish hair and goatee, was traveling eastbound on Newaygo County’s 36th St into Mecosta County, when he fired and struck an eastbound pickup that had previously passed him on Jefferson Rd. They posted a picture of the suspect’s vehicle, which was obtained through video surveillance as it passed eastbound from the Hilltop General Store. The suspect was the only occupant in the truck.

The next morning, July 20, at about 10:30 a.m., the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan State Police, found the suspect and his vehicle at the park and ride on 17 Mile in Cedar Springs, near US131. The man, identified as Brien Scott Velting, 55, of Cedar Springs, was arrested and taken into custody without incident.

Velting was arraigned in 77th District Court on the following charges: Assault with intent to Murder, Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, (2) counts of Felony Firearm, and Weapons – Carrying Concealed.

Bond was set at $200,000 cash / surety.

Velting is a 20-year veteran and Captain of the Cedar Springs Fire Department but has been on medical leave since November 2021 and not active on any calls. According to Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack, “Mr. Velting has been relieved of his job duties with the City pending an internal investigation regarding the allegations against him.”

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Two killed in plane crash

Courtesy photo

Two men were killed in a single-engine plane crash in Oceana County last week.

According to the Michigan State Police, the crash occurred at approximately 6:15 p.m. on Friday, July 15, south of 102nd Ave in Shelby Township. There were no survivors.

There were two people on the plane. The pilot has been identified as Raymond Gundy, age 56, from Muskegon Co. The passenger was Troy Caris, age 48, from Holton.

The FAA and representatives from the NTSB and Cessna are investigating to determine the cause of the crash.

No other information was available at press time.

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Fire burns Sparta building

A commercial building fire in Sparta Monday covered almost a city block. Photo from Sparta Fire Department’s Facebook page

By Judy Reed

This former cold storage facility on Hickory Street in Sparta was destroyed by fire Monday. Photo by Keith Coalter.

Multiple fire departments battled a fire at a commercial building in downtown Sparta on Monday, July 11.

According to information on the Sparta Fire and Rescue Facebook page, they were dispatched about 11:30 a.m. to the fire on Hickory Street. The building, originally used as a cold storage facility, was in the process of undergoing some renovations. The walls reportedly contained a thick layer of spray foam insulation that contributed to the fire spreading rapidly through the structure.

The cause of the fire was unknown as of Monday, and a phone call and email to the Sparta Fire Department Wednesday to see if they had discovered the cause had not yet been returned by press time.

Multiple fire departments fought the blaze in Sparta Monday. Here a ladder truck from Plainfield Fire helps put out the fire. Photo from Algoma Fire Department Facebook page.

There was a nearby residential structure that did suffer damage to the exterior of the home.  The residents are being assisted by the Red Cross until the utilities to the home can be evaluated and determined safe.  

Assisting Sparta Fire and Rescue at the scene was Alpine Fire, Algoma Fire, Kent City Fire, Plainfield Fire, Sparta Police Department, Sparta Public Works and Water Department, Rockford Ambulance and Kent County Dispatch.

A birds eye view of the destruction caused by the fire in Sparta Monday. Photo from Algoma Fire Facebook page.

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NASA Reveals Webb Telescope’s First Images of Unseen Universe

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.

The dawn of a new era in astronomy is here as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

The full set of the telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data, which uncover a collection of cosmic features elusive until now, released Tuesday, July 12, are available at:


“Today, we present humanity with a groundbreaking new view of the cosmos from the James Webb Space Telescope – a view the world has never seen before,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “These images, including the deepest infrared view of our universe that has ever been taken, show us how Webb will help to uncover the answers to questions we don’t even yet know to ask; questions that will help us better understand our universe and humanity’s place within it.

“The Webb team’s incredible success is a reflection of what NASA does best. We take dreams and turn them into reality for the benefit of humanity. I can’t wait to see the discoveries that we uncover – the team is just getting started!”

NASA explores the unknown in space for the benefit of all, and Webb’s first observations tell the story of the hidden universe through every phase of cosmic history – from neighboring planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. 

“This is a singular and historic moment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It took decades of drive and perseverance to get us here, and I am immensely proud of the Webb team. These first images show us how much we can accomplish when we come together behind a shared goal, to solve the cosmic mysteries that connect us all. It’s a stunning glimpse of the insights yet to come.”

In an enormous new image, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals never-before-seen details of galaxy group “Stephan’s Quintet.” Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.

“We are elated to celebrate this extraordinary day with the world,” said Greg Robinson, Webb program director at NASA Headquarters. “The beautiful diversity and incredible detail of the Webb telescope’s images and data will have a profound impact on our understanding of the universe and inspire us to dream big.”

Webb’s first observations were selected by a group of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. They reveal the capabilities of all four of Webb’s state-of-the-art scientific instruments:

SMACS 0723: Webb has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far – and in only 12.5 hours. For a person standing on Earth looking up, the field of view for this new image, a color composite of multiple exposures each about two hours long, is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. This deep field uses a lensing galaxy cluster to find some of the most distant galaxies ever detected. This image only scratches the surface of Webb’s capabilities in studying deep fields and tracing galaxies back to the beginning of cosmic time.

WASP-96b (spectrum): Webb’s detailed observation of this hot, puffy planet outside our solar system reveals the clear signature of water, along with evidence of haze and clouds that previous studies of this planet did not detect. With Webb’s first detection of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, it will now set out to study hundreds of other systems to understand what other planetary atmospheres are made of.

Southern Ring Nebula: This planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds a dying star, is approximately 2,000 light years away. Here, Webb’s powerful infrared eyes bring a second dying star into full view for the first time. From birth to death as a planetary nebula, Webb can explore the expelling shells of dust and gas of aging stars that may one day become a new star or planet.

Stephan’s Quintet: Webb’s view of this compact group of galaxies, located in the constellation Pegasus, pierced through the shroud of dust surrounding the center of one galaxy, to reveal the velocity and composition of the gas near its supermassive black hole. Now, scientists can get a rare look, in unprecedented detail, at how interacting galaxies are triggering star formation in each other and how the gas in these galaxies is being disturbed.

Carina Nebula: Webb’s look at the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ in the Carina Nebula unveils the earliest, rapid phases of star formation that were previously hidden. Looking at this star-forming region in the southern constellation Carina, as well as others like it, Webb can see newly forming stars and study the gas and dust that made them.

“Absolutely thrilling!” said John Mather, Webb senior project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The equipment is working perfectly, and nature is full of surprising beauty. Congratulations and thanks to our worldwide teams that made it possible.”

The release of Webb’s first images and spectra kicks off the beginning of Webb’s science operations, where astronomers around the world will have their chance to observe anything from objects within our solar system to the early universe using Webb’s four instruments.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far. Webb’s First Deep Field is galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and it is teeming with thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared. Webb’s image covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground – and reveals thousands of galaxies in a tiny sliver of vast universe. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.

The James Webb Space Telescope launched Dec. 25, 2021, on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, South America. After completing a complex deployment sequence in space, Webb underwent months of commissioning where its mirrors were aligned, and its instruments were calibrated to its space environment and prepared for science.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

NASA Headquarters oversees the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages Webb for the agency and oversees work on the mission performed by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Northrop Grumman, and other mission partners. In addition to Goddard, several NASA centers contributed to the project, including the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and others.

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Police seek suspects in dispensary break-ins

Do you know these suspects?

Two marijuana dispensaries in the City of Cedar Springs were broken into within minutes of each other early Saturday morning.

The first burglary alarm occurred just after midnight on Saturday, July 2. Deputies arrived at Meds Cafe on White Creek Ave to find a door broken. Other deputies working the area knew of another dispensary just down the street and immediately left to go check that one. 

A deputy arrived in the area of the Michiganja dispensary on Main Street and saw someone running from the business. The suspect got into a car and fled the area at a high rate of speed without its lights on. 

The car, a white sedan, was pursued by police for a short time until it went out of sight. 

The suspects and vehicle involved appear to be related to both break-ins. The security cameras at Michiganja show the white car and three suspects.

At least one of the businesses had property stolen.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office detectives are continuing to investigate. If you have information that could help to move the investigation forward, please call the KCSO at 616-632-6125, or call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345 to report information safely and anonymously.

The City of Cedar Springs currently has five dispensaries. Lume, Cedar Springs Cannabis, and Michiganja are all on Main Street; Lake Life is on 17 Mile Rd; and Meds Cafe is on White Creek Ave. Two more are in the works, which would reach the city’s limit of seven.

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Ranger Steve Mueller answers the call

By Judy Reed

Ranger Steve Mueller, local naturalist and columnist for the Post, passed away Thursday, June 16.

On Thursday, June 16, Steven Joel Mueller, 72, a local naturalist better known to readers as Ranger Steve, completed his circle of life and said goodbye to the earth he had so fondly nurtured and cared for.

Ranger Steve was a longtime contributor to the Post with his Nature Niche columns, opening the eyes of his readers to the wonders of nature and challenging us all to be better stewards of God’s creation.


Steve’s fascination with nature began at an early age. In his column, The Making of a Naturalist, he revealed the beginnings of his interactions with wildlife.

“Before I was five, we found a turtle and placed it in a confined pen in the backyard. Maybe we were going to keep it as a pet. My mother discovered it missing and learned I released it. It wandered off to live free and happy. I do not recall if that was my intent or if I got it out of the pen and it escaped. We had a chameleon and a goldfish that died because they received inadequate care. Those were difficult lessons that were hardest on the animals. Proper care for life was developing…A squirrel entered and left a tree cavity. I climbed the tree and felt babies in the hollow. I dropped naked blind squirrels to my friend Jimmy who caught them. I planned to raise them but mom said no and to put them back in the nest. We did and hopefully the mother reared them. I was learning how to live with nature.”

He said that scientific inquiry began before age five. “I can recall the timeline because we moved to a new home after ours burned. I pushed a metal paper clip into an electric wall socket in our first house. I got a U-shaped burn on my thumb and it burned a paperclip shape into the wood floor. It was the first time I thought I died.”

Mueller grew up in Saginaw, and graduated from Arthur Hill High School. He was active in cub and boy scouts. Through Camp Rotary, he was exposed to nature and developed naturalist skills.  In 1958, his family took a trip out west to national parks. It was life changing for Steve. “We experienced bears in parks and fed deer salt from our hands…I was greatly impressed when I met a park ranger at Glacier National Park. It was then I decided I wanted to become a ranger,” he said.


This moth species, “Brilliant Virgin Tiger Moth,” or Grammia brillians, was discovered in Southern Utah by Ranger Steve Mueller. Courtesy photo.

Mueller held several different jobs related to the nature field over the years. He was a high school science teacher in Alpena, Michigan, Dry Ridge, Kentucky, and Kenosha, Wisconsin; and while teaching in Manistique in the 1980s, Mueller discovered a breeding colony of butterflies previously unknown in Michigan called the Northern Blue. He was also an urban forester for Dow Chemical in Midland; a state park ranger in Traverse City; a ranger/naturalist at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, the same place he later iscovered a new species of moth—the Brilliant Virgin Tiger Moth; a teacher at Jordan College in Cedar Springs; and did some adjunct college teaching at Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University.

Many know him best as the director of Howard Christiansen Nature Center for over 20 years. When that temporarily closed in 2005, Lowell Schools hired him to direct the program at the Wittenbach/Wege Agri-Science Environmental Center. He retired from there in 2008 due to bone cancer. Besides those programs, Mueller has been President of the Grand Rapids Audubon Club, President for the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education, West Michigan Butterfly Association, and Grand Rapids Camera Club.

Ranger Steve won the Thomas Say Naturalist Award in 2015. Courtesy photo.

He has won many awards, including the prestigious Thomas Say Naturalist Award for Excellence in 2015. “It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by colleagues,” Mueller told the Post at the time. “Colleagues throughout my career mentored me and made it possible for me to excel. I have worked diligently to become competent in a broad spectrum of natural history subjects and to hone interpretive skills.”


Mueller met his future wife, Karen, at Bemidji University, when she was an undergraduate and he was a grad student. They spent time together while working in the Lutheran Campus Ministry there.

“Karen and I spoke personal wedding vows on Aug. 10, 1977 by Water Canyon Falls (in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah) and our official wedding was on Sept. 10, 1977,” wrote Mueller. “Twenty-three years later I discovered the new species at the site in August 2005. A Lepidopterists said I am likely the only person on Earth to discover a new species at the site where I previously spoke wedding vows.”

The couple had two children, Jenny Jo and Julianne. I asked them what it was like growing up with a naturalist for a dad. Karen laughed and said that by two-years old, Jenny Jo had learned 200 animal cards. “You could ask her to find a certain animal and she’d pull it out.”

The girls had this to say: “Growing up with a naturalist for a dad meant that our phone was always ringing with questions about our natural world, while we spent many days as a family hiking, camping, and enjoying Creation. He taught us young to love all creatures, that none were lesser or greater than others.  Whether plant or animal, all are ‘people.’  He taught us to think critically about the world.  And he taught us love.”

I also asked what he was most proud of. Jenny Jo and Karen told me about an international conference he went to, where they had trivia over dinner, mostly about butterflies. And the question came up, “Who is Steve Mueller?”

“There were many experts there, but he is the only one they singled out to recognize,” said Jenni Jo.

“He had a significant impact,” said Karen. “They might not know who Steve Mueller is, but they know who Ranger Steve is.”

They said he was once recognized by someone in Costa Rica. “It was just a random chance,” they said.

Ranger Steve leading a group at Howard Christensen Nature Center. Courtesy photo.

Surrounding his home, he established Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, a nature preserve for enhancing biodiversity and cultivating native species. The site is a hotspot for birds and butterflies. Rare federally threatened American Chestnut trees live in the sanctuary, including the largest one most people have seen. With the support of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, the sanctuary has recently acquired a conservation easement ensuring that the land cannot be developed.

Ranger Steve welcomed visitors who valued and respected the needs of plants and animals. Many local nature groups made regular field trips to the sanctuary, and college interns gained work experience under his guidance. The sanctuary not only provided purpose for his life but was essential medicine while combating Multiple Myeloma, as important as his chemotherapy treatments and bone marrow transplants.

People are still welcome to come to visit the sanctuary, as long as Karen is home. Just park in the driveway at 13010 Northland Drive and call 616-696-1753.

Ranger Steve had been battling multiple myeloma, for 25 years, and fought it bravely. He created a bucket list while on hospice and managed to complete each task. I asked if there was anything he had  wanted to accomplish, but didn’t get a chance to. What was his heart’s desire?

“His parting thought was that 1,000 lifetimes are inadequate to provide service for the benefit of others or for project completion, so carry on his efforts to ensure future generations inherit a sustainable planet. Make your actions for ‘we’ and not ‘me’ and you will enjoy a prosperous purpose and meaning for your life.”

Godspeed Ranger Steve. You were a great example of how to be a good steward of God’s creation..

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