New poetry collection showcases beauty of Northern Michigan

Capital News Service

LANSING — In his most recent book, poet Russell Thorburn imagines familiar characters from around the Upper Peninsula and beyond.

In “John Lennon on the Beach in the Upper Peninsula,” Thorburn imagines the titled celebrity wading on the Lake Superior shoreline:

“Just the idea that John’s here, his arms wrapped around his body,

like some whaler whose ship went down, glows in me like fire.”

A 2013 grassroots fundraising campaign earned Thorburn the unofficial title of the U.P.’s poet laureate. His recent book, “Somewhere We’ll Leave the World,” celebrates the joy of wandering. It’s his seventh poetry collection.

His poems take readers on what Thorburn calls “parallel journeys” through nature and history. He uses familiar characters and personal experiences to call attention to the scenic beauty of Northern Michigan.

“The Lake Superior shoreline is very unique, and I love walking along the water, especially in winter,” said Thorburn, who lives in Marquette. “These characters, the environment, and my relationship within that environment created these poems.”

John Lennon isn’t the only famous name to appear in the book. Walt Whitman, Billy the Kid and Marilyn Monroe co-star in several poems.

But celebrities aren’t the only people featured in the book. Thorburn also connects the landscape with soldiers in the Civil War.

“Union soldiers came back here to heal,” he said. “Quite often I read about people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan — they take a wilderness walk. So I thought, well, this is kind of like a precursor to that.”

Of course, Thorburn didn’t completely ignore the view. Images of nature and animals often surface in his poetry. Foxes are a common sight—sometimes appearing in unusual places. From the poem “Chinese Restaurant:”

“She tells the animal he can eat only what’s

on the carryout menu: egg rolls, noodles.

She shows him a table in the corner, not

understanding why a fox would want Chinese

at this hour.”

Several poems are based on events in Thorburn’s life. It’s those experiences that started his artistic career.

“It began much earlier when I was 18 or 19 in the Detroit area, and I had a garage band,” Thorburn said. “Music was very big back in Detroit, so there’s poems about that. And as a teenager and in my 20s, I wandered around. I hitchhiked. So a little bit of that spirit is in there too.”

Thorburn includes several poems about his time in the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, California. He was a resident artist there in 2012, staying in a desert study center near Soda Lake.

There’s a little bit of something for everyone in the collection—recognizable faces, natural beauty and musical turns of phrase.

In the end, Thorburn’s poetry insists that the journey is worth as much as the destination.

“I’m not trying to educate anybody, or teach,” Thorburn said. “It’s just to have the poem, and they’re on the journey with me as a reader. I hope you get on the bus and go on this journey.”

“Somewhere We’ll Leave the World” is available from Wayne State University Press for $16.99.

Kate Habrel writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Plain old conversation works for lakes’ advocates

Capital News Service

LANSING — Representatives from multiple Great Lakes-based organizations gathered recently in Ann Arbor but not to tackle any threats to the lakes.

They came for happy hour.

“It’s just sort of a casual thing that happens a couple of times a year,” said Kristin Schrader, a communications manager for the Great Lakes Observing System, a regional data-sharing partnership based in Ann Arbor.

It started six years ago, when Schrader was working for Ducks Unlimited. She thought her organization would benefit from conversations with members of other groups – something that happened only at infrequent events with scheduled programs. Schrader wanted an event conducive to casual conversation.

And the Great Lakes Happy Hour was born.

The gathering creates “cross-pollination, in a casual way,” she said. Individuals from nonprofit organizations, government agencies, private firms and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have attended. And the soirees feature a mix of political leanings -– evident in the distinction between self-identifying “conservationists” and “environmentalists.”

Both groups advocate for preservation of natural resources, although environmentalism is often associated with liberal political ideologies and conservation with those of the political right.

Although onlookers might expect some tension there, they won’t find it, said Drew YoungeDyke, a communications coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center.

“We’re all looking out for the Great Lakes,” he said. “We’re all about the resource, though we may have come to appreciate that resource from a different perspective.”

Poor weather at the most recent event forced a last-minute change of venue from a beer garden to a local brewery and drew a smaller crowd than usual. Fewer than 10 attended.

The event has drawn audiences of up to 30 in the past.

Schrader said representatives from the Great Lakes Observing System, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Great Lakes Commission and the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research attended.

Members of Ducks Unlimited, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation and the private environmental science firm LimnoTech have come in the past, she said.

YoungeDyke said, “We get together and have a beer, and just kind of discuss the issues that are going on. Pretty informal, but a good spot to kind of get in the loop on what’s coming up.”

Steven Maier writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Sept. 15, 2017 – CNS Budget

Sept. 15, 2017 — Week 2

To: CNS Editors

From: David Poulson and Sheila Schimpf

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841 or

For other matters, contact Dave Poulson:;

Here is your file:

MARINEPATROL: State funding for county sheriff deputies to patrol lakes and rivers has dropped over the past decade with the decline in the boater registrations that support them. But at the same time the county marine patrols are rescuing an increasing number of canoers and kayakers – who don’t have to register their craft and support the service. That’s leading to calls to register the increasingly popular craft. We talk to DNR and sheriffs in Mackinac, Marquette and Huron counties. By Kaley Fech. FOR MARQUETTE, ST. IGNACE, MANISTEE, CADILLAC, BAY MILLS AND ALL POINTS.

OPIOIDCRISIS: A drug is saving the lives of hundreds of Michigan opioid addicts. But experts say it’s no solution for the epidemic sweeping the state and that it may even encourage further drug use among addicts. We talk to the Ingham County sheriff, the Department of Corrections and health experts from U-M and Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health. By Jack Nissen. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, METRO TIMES AND ALL POINTS.

SECONDARYROADPATROL: Speeding may be less risky business for Michigan drivers — officers are issuing fewer citations each year. But the drop is costing county sheriffs’ departments thousands of dollars each year that fund patrols of the state’s back roads and investigations into vehicle crashes. We hear from the Sheriffs’ Association and Office of Highway Safety Planning. By Stephen Olschanski. FOR ALL POINTS.

MTARVON: You won’t find Mount Arvon listed in many Michigan tour books, despite the peak’s lofty status as the highest point in Michigan. But these days, Mount Arvon is getting more attention from tourists and the just plain curious willing to climb Michigan’s most prominent peak. It also is attracting a national convention of mountain climbers in 2019. By Carl Stoddard. FOR MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, ST. IGNACE, SAULT STE.MARIE AND ALL POINTS.

w/MOUNTARVONSIGN: Mount Arvon is Michigan’s tallest spot. Credit: Baraga County Convention & Visitors Bureau


A new study shows that people who have been affected by weather extremes have polarized perceptions of climate change: some are more concerned and some are more dubious. It found that people who spend more time outdoors are more concerned about climate change. We talk to a Michigan State University professor of agricultural, food and resource economics; the author of the study, a former grad student at MSU; and a national expert on climate change at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change. By Jack Nissen. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, LEELANAU & ALL POINTS.

SUSTAINABILITY: MSU faculty and grad students explore sustainability in the Cadillac-Traverse City-Leelanau Peninsula area, including a trail system linking Northwest Michigan communities, a small-scale organic vegetable farm that supplies local restaurants with fresh produce, citizen-scientists alert for invasive aquatics, apple researchers and critics of an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.  Commentary by Eric Freedman. FOR CADILLAC, TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, PETOSKEY, CHEBOYGAN, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, BIG RAPIDS & ALL POINTS.

           w/SUSTAINABILITYPHOTO1: Seining for Great Lakes fishes with the Cerulean Center at Maple Bay Natural Area. Credit: Shari L. Dann

           w/SUSTAINABILITYPHOTO2: Nic Theisen discusses growing organic vegetables at Loma Farm near Traverse City. Credit: Eric Freedman


Police cite fewer speeders, costing counties patrol dollars

Capital News Service

LANSING — Speeding might be less risky  for drivers in Michigan as police officers are issuing fewer citations annually.

But that drop is costing county sheriffs’ departments thousands of dollars each year for patrolling the state’s back roads and to investigate crashes.

The program, known as secondary road patrol, is a state program of traffic enforcement and crash investigation on non-main roads in the counties, including parts of national and state parks.

It was funded solely by state grant general fund from 1979 to 1992. But now it is self-funded by the surcharge added to fines generated by traffic citations issued by all police. Partial allocation from the general fund continued from 1992 until 2003 when it  was completely eliminated

The average number of  citations issued per deputy has decreased from 582 in 2006 to 444 in 2016, according to a report by Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning.. That resulted in a loss of nearly $3 million to the secondary road patrol program during the past 10 years.

“The two are intertwined,” said Blaine Koops, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association. “The number of citations equals the amount revenue that’s generated.”

There may be multiple reasons for the decrease in citations, Koops said. But more compassionate officers may be among them.

“Part of it is the whole demeanor of the new police officers,” Koops said. “Number one is more compassionate police officers as far as looking at an individual and their individual circumstances but also their looking at their job differently.”

Koops said more officers are looking at their jobs as more community-based as the people they serve are also the people they live among.

Other reasons for the decrease in citations  have to do with changing road environments. Barriers dividing the freeways have made it more difficult for officers to catch violators.

“If they’re tracking opposite direction traffic, they cannot go through the median to track that vehicle,” Koops said. “If indeed they’re going to track that vehicle, they have to go to the next emergency exchange in the middle of the road which can be several miles away.”

Officers are also more cognizant of being filmed or having to use body cameras which may make them less likely to ticket speeders.

The decrease in funding has led also to a decrease in secondary road patrol deputies funded through the program, taking officers off the road. At the program’s’ inception in 1979, 287 officers were funded by the secondary road patrol funds. Now approximately 126 officers are funded through the program.

That shifted costs to local government. The number of county-funded officers has increased from 1,123 in 1979 to approximately 2,184 in 2016.

“There’s just not enough money to put the deputies on the road,” Koops said. “That money is spent really as far as a funding source to augment the general fund that a county puts into traffic enforcement.”

Eighty-eight percent of the program’s expenditures, or about $11.8 million,  are spent on personnel costs. Each deputy costs approximately $97,258.04 including salary, fringes, vehicles and equipment.

The decrease in funds to the program has no quick solution,  Koops said.

“Truthfully, right now there is no solution,” he said.

Decline in boat registrations creating a lack of funding for marine patrols

Capital News Service

LANSING — Over the past decade, state funding for the marine divisions of sheriffs’ offices in Michigan has dwindled with the decline in the number of registered boats.

At the same time, the number of unregistered canoes and kayaks has increased, leading to calls for the owners of those craft to also be required to pay the registration fees that support rescues and other boating programs

“We’ve experienced a dramatic decrease in funding,” said Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait. “It’s roughly one-third of what it was 10 years ago.”  

Marine divisions offer boater safety classes, patrol waterways and conduct search-and- rescue missions on the water, including areas of the Great Lakes.

The  Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers Marine Safety grants to county sheriff departments for marine patrol divisions. The grant money comes from boat registration fees.

However, a decline in registered boats has led to a decrease in the grant money vailable, and sheriffs’ offices across the state are feeling the effects, said Blaine Koops, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

In 2007, there were 827,869 registered boats in Michigan. By 2012, there were only 800,793. Last year that number dropped to 790,425, according to the DNR.

The amount available for Marine Safety grants is decreasing with the decline in registered boats. In 2007, it  was about $3.5 million. In 2012, it fell to about $2.8 million.  In 2016, it was about $2.2 million, according to the DNR.

“Funding here is roughly half of what it was when I first started,” said Sgt. Eric Decker, from the Marquette County special operations division. “Ten to 15 years ago, grant money was somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000. It’s now down to between $17,000 and $20,000.”

In the past, the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office used funds from the DNR grant to purchase new equipment, but he said the lack of funding is now forcing the county to make some tough decisions.

“We haven’t been able to replace equipment,” Decker said. “We have an aging boat, but we haven’t been able to replace it because grant money has gone down. It’s now looking like the county will purchase the boat and will put off getting a new patrol car for another year.”

An increasing problem counties are seeing is the number of calls they receive from canoers and kayakers in distress.

“We’re seeing major issues with kayaks,” said Kelly Hanson, the Huron County dheriff. “We’ve been called out over 70 times this year for kayak rescues.”

In Michigan, canoes and kayaks do not have to be registered. When users call for help, they are using marine division resources without contributing to the funding, Strait said.

Strait said his office is receiving a growing number of calls from kayakers, especially in the Straits of Mackinac. Deckersaid Marquette County is also getting more calls involving kayakers in trouble.

All three sheriffs say that  requiring canoes and kayaks to be registered would improve the funding situation.

They’re not alone.

“This is something we’ve wanted to see happen for years,” said Mark Miltner, vice president of Michigan Association of Paddlesport Providers and owner of Pine River Paddlesports Center in Wellston, about halfway between Manistee and Cadillac.

“The number of people who own personal crafts is increasing, and they’re not always experienced,” he said. “Sheriff marine divisions are getting called out more and more to do search and rescues.”

Decker said the drop in funding  means fewer deputies on the water.

It’s a concern that Hanson shares.

“At one time we had a marine patrol seven days a week,” he said. “Now we just have a weekend patrol.”

Perceptions of climate change more polarized, study shows

Capital News Service

LANSING — For those who don’t remember the 2013-2014 winter, it was a season of icy wrath unleashed by the polar vortex.

Well, it appears memories of ice and record-low temperatures weren’t the only things it left behind. A new study shows memories of that event by people in the Grand Traverse Bay region may have impacted what they think of climate change.

Their views are a little different than the national average, according to a recently published article in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

A survey revealed more people in that region are alarmed or concerned by climate change than the national average. But it also found more people are doubtful or dismissive about climate change than the national average.

Statisticians call a result like this—where a graph showing the data has two peaks separated by a valley—a bimodal distribution. Typically, graphs would have just one peak.

So why do these numbers look different than the national surveys?

“It’s possible that we found that bimodal distribution because of the time of the study,” said Patricia Norris, an agricultural, food and resource economics professor at Michigan State University.

It was conducted in the summer of 2014, after the polar vortex brought with it record low temperatures in the Great Lakes region, including wind chill temperatures in Michigan below minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of how fresh the subfreezing temperatures and frozen lakes were in the minds of those surveyed, it was a frequent point of discussion and served as potential bias in the study, Norris said.

How much was the winter of 2013-2014 on the mind of those surveyed? Many of them discussed the bay freezing over and colder temperatures taking place, Norris said.

The study used “Global Warming’s Six Americas”—a survey that identifies six attitudes held by Americans when thinking about climate change: Alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive.

The Grand Traverse Bay region was chosen because of how close it is to the Lake Michigan coast.

Researchers focused on a coastal community because compared to other places, people tend to be more sensitive to little fluctuations in the climate, said Brockton Feltman, author of the study and a former master’s candidate with the MSU Department of Community and Sustainability.

While the extreme winter event may have thrown a curveball in the results, the study confirmed other hypotheses, Norris said.

Norris and Feltman predicted that respondents with less education would care less about climate change and that those that spent more time outside would care more. Both proved to be true.

The connection between being outside and caring more about climate change is the most interesting takeaway, said Edward Maibach, the director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change and one of the authors of the study that developed the “Six Americas” used to characterize it.

“This makes perfect sense, but to the best of my knowledge, no one has actually found this before,” he wrote in an email. “It is consistent with other literature about the role of personal experience in convincing people of the reality of global warming, but it is a distinct, useful and interesting finding.”

This information can help us connect with people, depending on how they feel about climate change, Norris said.

Maibach said the study could lead to a long term change in perception.

“It is useful in the sense that lots of folks feel that Americans—especially our kids— don’t spend enough time outdoors,” Maibach said. “If encouraging them to spend more time in outdoor activities, which is good for them in many ways, also makes them more likely to become engaged in the problem of climate change, all the better.”

Hikers have a new Michigan favorite: Mount Arvon

Capital News Service

LANSING — You won’t find Mount Arvon listed in many Michigan tour books, despite the peak’s lofty status as the highest point in the state. And until a few decades ago, it wasn’t even recognized as Michigan’s top spot.

But these days, Mount Arvon in the western Upper Peninsula is getting more attention from tourists and the just plain curious willing to climb Michigan’s most prominent peak. It also is attracting a national convention of mountain climbers in 2019.

Tracey Barrett hikes to the summit nearly a dozen times a year.

“It’s a cool place to go,” said Barrett, director of the Baraga County Convention & Visitors Bureau in L’Anse. “There’s a view of Lake Superior and Point Abbaye. It’s really pretty, really remote.”

Mount  Arvon, which is in L’Anse Township, is a 27-mile drive east from the village of L’Anse, Barrett said, and “years ago, there was hardly a road” to the peak.

The road going up the mountain has been improved, she said, and a parking lot near the top was added in 2012. But the road is not plowed in the winter, which can come early in the U.P. So once the snow flies, only visitors on snowshoes or snowmobiles can reach the top, she said.

From the parking lot, it takes just a few minutes to hike to the top of Mount Arvon. Once there, visitors can sign a notebook to verify they reached the summit.

Back in L’Anse, people who have conquered Mount Arvon can pick up a certificate of achievement at the Baraga Visitors & Convention Bureau office, she said.

Barrett says her office also hands out magnets and stickers from the national Highpointers Club, a group that promotes climbing to the highest point in every state.

Each year, the club holds an annual convention in a different part of the country, said Tim Webb,the  president of the Highpointers Club.

The club divided the country into four geographical regions and rotates its annual convention sites through those regions, Webb said.

Club members voted to gather near Mount Arvon in 2019, he said.

“The exact dates are not set for this convention yet. However the traditional timing for our conventions is the third weekend in July,” said Webb, who expects the gathering to draw 200 to 250 attendees.

This year, the Highpointers met in Massachusetts. Next year, the group plans to gather in Arkansas.

Webb said he has climbed Mount Arvon twice, first in the summer of 1997. He returned in 2007, this time with his wife, son and daughter.

Some people who come to climb Mount Arvon  stay at nearby campgrounds or a lodging facility in L’Anse or Baraga, Barrett said.

An increasing number of visitors to the Baraga Lakeside Inn are using it as their base camp for their climb to the top of the mountain, said Lori Thomas, who works at the front desk of the 68-room hotel on the shore of Lake Superior.

The visitors are from all over the country, including California, and many stay for a few days, said Thomas, who said she has climbed Mount Arvon several times.

Although the peak is open to the public, it is on private land owned by the Weyerhaeuser Co., with headquarters in the state of Washington, said Kristine Rice, the L’Anse Township’s treasurer.

There is no way to count exactly how many people climb Mount Arvon each year, said Tom Nemacheck, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association in Iron Mountain.

“But traffic is definitely up. There’s a lot more people asking about going up there,” Nemacheck said.

He said he also is seeing more interest in another Michigan peak, the 1,400-foot Mount Zion near Ironwood.

From the top of Mount Zion, Nemacheck said, there is a “terrific view” that includes Lake Superior and the Black River valley, with its multiple waterfalls.

According to the state’s Pure Michigan website, Mount Arvon rises 1,979 feet above sea level and is part of the Huron Mountains range.

“When you reach the parking lot you are within 300 feet from the top,” the website says. “After you sign in at the register, to the north of the top there is a short walk to a panoramic view of Lake Superior.”

For many years, nearby Mount Curwood, named for author and Owosso native James Oliver Curwood, was considered the highest point in the state. But a new survey in 1982 determined that Mt. Arvon was taller — by 1 foot.

Up north, sustainability is everywhere

Capital News Service  

LANSING — What do a trail system linking Northwest Michigan communities, a small-scale organic vegetable farm that supplies local restaurants with fresh produce, citizen-scientists alert for invasive aquatics, apple researchers and critics of an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac have in common?

All are part of a drive for environmental sustainability and all involve some form of community engagement.

As Michigan State University’s Knight Chair in Environmental Journalism, I was part of a recent Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project (SMEP) study tour in the Cadillac-Traverse City-Leelanau Peninsula area.

Other study tour participants were doctoral students and faculty from a range of departments:  Community Sustainability; Philosophy; Fisheries & Wildlife; Journalism; Planning, Design & Construction; and Agricultural, Food & Resource Economics — including grad students from Togo, South Korea and Colombia. All are involved in researching some aspect of sustainability in Michigan.

Endowed by a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, SMEP “serves as a catalyst and convener of interdisciplinary dialogue and research around existing and emerging sustainability topics and has invested considerable resources in exploring the implications of sustainability particularly for the future of Michigan.”

Last year the group examined environmental justice and sustainability in Detroit. This time the geographic focus was more rural and agricultural: Traverse City, the largest city in Northwest Michigan but with fewer than 16,000 year-round residents.

We began at the Department of Natural Resources’ Carl T. Johnson Hunt and Fish Center in Cadillac. There, amid exhibits about hunting, fishing and wildlife in the state, a DNR interpreter explained the importance of Michigan’s hunting tradition, and the revenue that fishing and hunting licenses generate to support natural resources management and protection.

The next day we went to TART — the nonprofit Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails network — to learn about the community-rooted initiative that promotes outdoor recreation, furthers sustainable transportation and connects trail users with each other and with nature.

“We don’t want to own the trails. We want the community to own the trails,” TART’s Brian Beauchamp told us. “People often fight us on new trails,” Beauchamp, outreach and program director, said, but often discover that the trails increase their property values — and often use the trails themselves.

We met with experts from two environmental nonprofit organizations, For Love of Water (FLOW) and the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, to discuss such issues as the safety of the controversial Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. FLOW’s Dave Dempsey and Groundwork’s Jim Lively explained how groups like theirs are partnering with tribal governments and businesses in an effort to force the state to close the pipeline.

We headed into the field at the Maple Bay Natural Area, a 450-acre Grand Traverse County Park, with fisheries biologist Steve Hensler and forestry expert Jessica Simons of the Cerulean Center and scientist-educator Jeanie Williams of the Inland Seas Education Association. There our focus was biodiversity and the role of citizen-scientists in gathering environmental data such as plant populations and invasive species.

Amidst lapping waves, low sand dunes, water-smoothed rocks and soaring gulls, our fieldwork included helping Hensler to identify hundreds of tiny fish caught in a seine, alert not only for invasives but also for native fish that aren’t usually found in the East Arm of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

We also learned from them about BioBlitz, their two-day effort last year by volunteer amateurs and scientists to inventory as many plants and animals as possible at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

At Michigan State University’s Northern Michigan Horticulture Research Center in Leelanau County, researchers serve farmers and growers in its five-county — Manistee, Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse and  Antrim — that produce nearly half of the U.S. tart cherry crop and 83 percent of the state’s sweet cherry crop. The center is also a key player in research about other fruits, especially apples and grapes.

Center coordinator Nikki Rothwell talked about the importance of building relationships between growers and researchers and about recognizing the potentially deadly impact of climate change and extreme weather — such as late frosts and drought — on fruit crops. She emphasized the need to understand the economics of farming and the pressures of development in Northwest Michigan.

We headed to Shady Lane Cellars, a boutique winery in Suttons Bay, to tour the vineyard with vineyard manager Andy Fles and the wine-making facility with winemaker Kasey Wierzba. From there it was to Loma Farm, an organic vegetable and flower farm near Traverse City, to learn from co-owner Nic Theisen about marketing locally, paying employees fairly, environmental sustainability and respecting the land.

Overall, it was evident how diverse aspects of sustainability in Northwest Michigan are, from vineyards to shoreline dunes, from organic leeks to the oil and natural gas pipeline under Straits of Mackinac, from worker wages to outdoor recreation.

Order Up: The Bear Claw Cafe has bears everywhere but the menu

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Bear Claw Cafe in Copemish is full of bears. Don’t worry — they’re only decorative. But they are part of a unique diner whose owner wants you to look at the animal differently.

The Bear Claw Cafe sits right off a highway not too far from Manistee in the village of Copemish, population 191.

The cafe is hard to miss. Just follow the bear paws painted on the sidewalk — they’ll lead you right to the front door.

The dining room is small — only 10 tables or so — but it has a lot of bears. Teddy bears hang from the banisters, carved wooden bears sit on tables and Polaroids of bears cover walls.

Scott Grant, the café’s owner and operator, describes some of the bear-themed decorations.
“These here are local sightings here in the area of bear that people have gotten to take pictures of,” Grant said. “This guy right here, he’s probably pushing 600 pounds.”

Grant’s not picky when it comes to decorations.

“It’s not hard, anything black bear,” he says. “There’s a story behind most of them.”

Looking around, you might expect a live bear to be flipping your pancakes. In fact, the only thing without bears is the menu, unless you count the burger named after one. “In the fall and in the spring we do a Kodiak Bear Challenge here, which is a 6½-pound burger. You have an hour to eat it. If you eat it, it’s yours. If not, it’s 23 bucks.”

Grant’s passion for bears goes back to when he was a kid, hunting with his family, but he hasn’t gone lately. That’s because in Northwest Michigan, it can take more than a decade to get a bear hunting license. Because of that challenge, a lot of other hunters are eager to shoot a bear, but not him.

The last time he went bear hunting, more than 20 years ago, Grant had a chance to shoot a bear but he says he didn’t want to.

“It just wasn’t what I wanted. I knew that bear was in good shape, and it would probably live for a lot of years, and it was just too small for me,” he said. “It wouldn’t even have made a throw rug. I’m looking for something that will cover my dining room.”

Grant’s other passion is food. After working as a chef in Grand Rapids for more than 25 years, he retired and moved to Copemish. But he couldn’t stay away from the kitchen, so he bought some property and opened the Bear Claw Cafe.

Everything he serves is made from scratch, from the gravy to the bear claws themselves.
“Hanging above my door is my philosophy — ‘simple foods cooked right are delicious’ — and that’s what we do here. Everything is homemade,” Grant said.

Customers may come in for the food, but he wants them to leave with some knowledge.
“People ask me about bear all the time, and I tell them the same thing I’m telling you –you really don’t have to fear bear,” Grant said.

This story was produced under a partnership with Interlochen Public Radio and Great Lakes Echo.

Anglers target bowfishing for carp decrease


Capital News Service

LANSING — Many people consider carp to be a “trash fish,” but fly fishing for carp is popular in northern Michigan. This year though, guides have cancelled trips and lost thousands of dollars because they can’t find the fish.

Some blame another growing sport: bowfishing.

When carp spawn in Grand Traverse Bay, their backs actually protrude from the water like a shark because there are so many packed in shallow waters.

But 15 years ago, no one seriously fished for carp in Michigan.

Carp are a popular game fish in Europe, so local angler Dave McCool gave it a shot and noticed how much fun it was. McCool says carp are smart and they put up a fight, so eventually it caught on.

“Once I got a trout fisherman, who always turned his nose up at carp, to hook a carp, and then take off and take out 150 yards of line, that started to change the perception,” McCool says.

McCool normally leads about 20 carp fishing trips a year for $400 each.

But this year something changed. McCool says the fish were nearly impossible to find and he cancelled almost half of his trips.

“This is probably the most difficult year that I’ve had in the 15 years doing it,” McCool says.

McCool says he doesn’t know why the carp are gone, but another guide on Grand Traverse Bay, Brian Pitser, has an idea: bowfishing.

“When I find fish with holes in them, or just dumped, and broken arrows, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why fish didn’t ever come back in there,” Pitser said.

Local bow angler Sam James took me out bowfishing for this story.

“What you’re on right now is a custom built elevated platform, on a 17-foot boat, with a couple thousand watts of lights that are being powered by a generator,” James says.

James leads bowfishing trips for Thundering Aspens, a hunting and fishing club in Mesick.

It’s about 10 p.m. and we’re on East Grand Traverse Bay. A lot of bowfishing is done at night, when water is calmer and fish are easier to spot. When we get to shallow waters, his partner cuts the engine and turns on the LED lights placed around the boat. They shoot out a bright white light that illuminates everything in a 10-foot radius.

James stands on the platform with his bow at the ready. He points out some smaller fish, then sees a carp. He nocks his bow, fires and reels in the wire attached to his arrow.

The carp he pulls in is about 2 feet long, with goldish brown scales, and weighs 6 or 7 pounds. Sam aimed well, and he got the fish in the head.

The whole ordeal is over in about 20 seconds. The folks at Thundering Aspens will use that fish for fertilizer on their property.

Overall, it’s a quiet night and he pulls in only three fish. He says it was busier a couple of weeks ago.

“During the spawn, our average was about 80 a night,” James says.

He knows bow anglers have been accused of killing off all the carp. He says he saw plenty of fish this year, but holds back from shooting because of anglers in the area.

“We might see schools of carp and think ‘Oh, that’d be great’ but that’s where that guy fly fishes,” James says. “We’re just respectful about it.”

Getting rid of carp

The Department of Natural Resources says there’s no direct link between bowfishing and low numbers of carp in Grand Traverse Bay. Scott Heintzleman – a fisheries biologist for the DNR – says a lot of environmental factors like rising water levels could make the carp go to new areas.

But the DNR wants to see fewer carp. Heintzelman says they are an invasive fish that cause problems in the bay.

“They get sediment moving around and smother other fishes’ eggs, and then it hurts other native species to that lake,” Heintzelman says. “We generally encourage people to take as many as they can.”

Heintzelman says the DNR isn’t reconsidering that rule any time soon. So bow fisherman can keep filling their boats with dead carp, but that’s not making them any friends.

Bill Truscott has been bowfishing for 10 years. Truscott says he’s been harassed when he’s on the water, sometimes even with his kids on board.

“We’ll have people cast their lines into your boat, and start cussing, hollering, swearing, threatening us,” Truscott says. “It’s fairly common to have firework mortars shot at you.”

Fly anglers say they’re waiting to see if carp come back next year. If not, they’re going to the DNR to push for a change to the rules on carp, and bowfishing.

Max Johnston produced this story under a partnership between Interlochen Public Radio and Great Lakes Echo.