Spring camping reservations reopen at Minnesota's McCarthy Beach State Park

Minnesota DNR photo
Spring 2014 camping reservations at McCarthy Beach State Park, near Hibbing, Minnesota, reopened for booking on Thursday, Nov. 21. People interested in camping reservations for Memorial Day weekend and other spring dates can make those reservations at that time.

Camping or lodging reservations can be made up to a year in advance by visiting www.mndnr.gov/reservations or by calling toll-free,866-857-2757, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

Spring camping reservations at the park were previously put on hold to allow for the completion of a new shower and sanitation building. Construction of the building has been postponed from fall 2013 until late summer 2014.

When complete, the new energy-efficient building will offer expanded restroom areas with ADA-compliant showers and toilet stalls, and two family restrooms to better accommodate families with young children and visitors with disabilities.

“We were looking forward to having a modern, fully accessible sanitation building ready for our campground guests next summer, but unfortunately, the project was delayed,” said Park Manager Jenny Eastvold. “The new mid-August start date minimizes the number of campers with existing reservations who will be impacted, while giving the contractor a few extra weeks of good construction weather.”

As a safety measure, the campground will be closed at the beginning of the construction to accommodate large trucks hauling demolition debris and construction materials on the park’s narrow campground roads. The campground closure is expected to last into September or October of 2014.

McCarthy Beach State Park is open year-round for day use, and the campground is open seasonally from April to November, as snow conditions permit. Winter camping is no longer available at the park.

The park is a designated weekend skiing destination, which means trails may not be groomed immediately after a snowfall but will be ready for the following weekend whenever possible. Other winter recreation opportunities include snowshoeing on the unplowed campground roads, ice fishing and snowmobiling on the Taconite State Trail, which runs through the park.

Find more information, including directions and a virtual tour.

Construction begins on new building for Michigan DNR’s Forest Fire Experiment Station

Construction of a new building for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Roscommon-based Forest Fire Experiment Station (FFES) is under way. The new building will be better equipped to accommodate large vehicles and incorporate new technology to allow for continued work improving and creating equipment to fight wildfires.

“This building will be replacing an outdated facility and will allow DNR staff to better support our firefighters who protect public and private lands,” said Paul Kollmeyer, resource protection manager for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “The innovative work this team accomplishes benefits our state as well as cooperative efforts with other states, counties and even countries.”

The FFES is comprised of a team of mechanics, design engineers and metal workers who use their expertise to transform ordinary surplus military vehicles and other equipment into specialized firefighting machines.

The FFES was established by the Natural Resources Commission and the Department of Conservation in 1929 in response to the fires that took place in the late 19th century.

Since it began operating, the Forest Fire Experiment Station has been the center of development for the specialized wildfire-fighting equipment used to help make Michigan one of the top wildfire agencies in the United States. Also, many of the designs from the facility are used by other state and federal wildfire agencies.

In addition to improved and updated space, the FFES will incorporate “green” construction techniques and materials as much as possible to make the space more environmentally friendly than the previous building.

The FFES is located at 1337 E. Robinson Lake Road, Roscommon, on Roscommon County Road 103, three-quarters of a mile east of M18. It is adjacent to the Michigan Firemen’s Memorial.

For more information about the DNR’s fire management program, visit www.michigan.gov/firemanagement.

Brown's Creek State Trail: Former Minnesota rail line soon will be scenic spot to hike and bike

By next fall, Brown’s Creek State Trail in Minnesota will be bustling with hikers and bikers, smiling and waving as they take in the beauty of their surroundings, pausing to catch their breath at interpretive displays about the history of the trail and maybe glimpsing bald eagles in the air or deer in the woods.

The 5.9-mile trail corridor, acquired by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in February 2012, will connect two of Minnesota’s most historic and scenic cities. When connected to the Gateway State Trail, the Brown’s Creek State Trail will carry users from the “Birthplace of Minnesota” in Stillwater to the state capital in St. Paul, traveling along former railways connecting the two communities. Construction is underway. The trail is slated to be open to the public by fall 2014.

“When completed, the Brown’s Creek State Trail will serve tens of thousands of hikers and bikers,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “In addition to providing a top-notch recreational amenity with health benefits galore, it will contribute to the region’s economic vitality. Bike-friendly shops and restaurants near the trail will benefit from an influx of trail users.”

Janna Murray, owner of Janna’s Hides and Rides in Stillwater, rents bikes now but expects to quadruple her fleet when Brown’s Creek State Trail opens.

“People are already calling and asking where they can ride,” she said. “People from out of town want to keep up their fitness when they’re on vacation, and the locals are excited to have rental bikes available so they can ride with their out-of-town guests.”

Rails and their supporting ties have been removed and structural improvements to two bridges -one over St. Croix Trail/state Highway 95 and one over the creek in Oak Glen Golf Course – are near completion. The next phase of construction involves building a new bridge over Manning Avenue, which should be complete by late June, with paving of the entire trail to follow in late spring or early summer. The trail will be accessible to users of all abilities, with an average grade of 1.1 percent, and no grades exceeding 2.2 percent.

“Not everyone is in physical condition to ride up Myrtle Street,” Murray noted. “It’s too steep. Brown’s Creek State Trail is the perfect solution, because it’s relatively flat, making it easier for many more people to bike in Stillwater.”

Linda Radimecky, an area naturalist for the Parks and Trails Division, is busy planning signs and programs to highlight the natural, cultural and historic features along the trail. She sees great potential for new, Legacy-funded programs involving hiking and biking along Brown’s Creek, a designated trout stream.

“The trail is rich with interpretive possibilities,” Radimecky said. “We’re looking into innovative ways to use technology and other means to bring the trail’s history to life for families, school kids and others. There are lots of fascinating stories to share about the role American Indians, logging, settlement and railroads played in the area.”

The state trail and the trout stream are named after Joseph R. Brown, an early explorer and settler in the area – and later, a state legislator – who built the “Tamarack House” and other early buildings north of Stillwater near the mouth of the creek. The trail follows a portion of the Northern Pacific railroad between Stillwater and Duluth Junction. Duluth Junction in the city of Grant was where the Northern Pacific crossed the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie or Soo Line. The Soo Line is now the Gateway State Trail.

The DNR acquired the land from David Paradeau, who operated the Minnesota Zephyr dinner train along the route until 2008.The acquisition was made possible with support from key partners. Washington County committed $1 million from its 2006 open space referendum funds toward the $4.25 million purchase early in the negotiations. DNR funding included $2.15 million from the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, administered by the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, and $1.1 million from the DNR’s Parks and Trails Fund, which receives 14.25 percent of the Legacy Amendment sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance. The nonprofit Gateway Trail Association (now renamed the Gateway-Brown’s Creek Trail Association), a strong advocate for the new trail, also contributed $1,000.

Given its proximity to the Twin Cities, with a population of 3.5 million people, the trail’s impact could be considerable. In 2008, recreational trail users contributed $2.4 billion in total spending and $206 million in state and local taxes, accounting for 31,000 jobs in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s statewide trail system includes more than 600 paved miles, and expands by about 10 new paved miles each year. Minnesota was named the “Best Trails State” in the country by American Trails in 2010, and it consistently ranks among the top five most bike-friendly states.

See a map and photos of the route to be developed for the Brown’s Creek State Trail, and read the trail’s management plan.

For more information on the Legacy Amendment, visitwww.mndnr.gov/legacy.

Michigan's Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee hosts Sutter vintage toy mini-exhibit

Visitors to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee can see a selection of items from Joe Sutter's Toy Collection, a new mini-exhibit displayed in the museum’s commons area. The collection features toy cars, toy soldiers, a Daisy BB gun, a Lone Ranger hat, Kellogg's Pep collector buttons, Joe Sutter’s circa-1940s Eagle Scout uniform, a Superman Krypto-Raygun and more. The mini-exhibit will run through April 2014.

Joe Russell Sutter spent his childhood in Wakefield in the Upper Peninsula. Many of his toys were made in Michigan, by companies such as Wyandotte Toys and the Daisy Manufacturing Company of Plymouth.

As Sutter outgrew his toys, his mother carefully packed them away. He attended college, joined the Navy and practiced law in San Diego, but never parted with his toys. Sutter died in 1999. In 2011, his widow donated his entire collection to the Michigan Historical Museum where many were put on temporary display.

“We are fortunate to have such a unique collection from the Upper Peninsula,” said museum historian Barry James. “The assortment of toys includes story books, comics, games, puzzles, toy guns, sporting goods and musical toys - many in their original packaging.”

Also in the collection are military toys, such as toy soldiers, army trucks, tanks and airplanes.

Through exhibits, outdoor interpretive trails and scenic overlooks, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum tells the story of Michigan’s three iron ranges and the immigrants who helped build modern America. The 23-minute film, “Iron Spirits – Life on the Michigan Iron Range,” presents the colorful story of immigrant and community life in the Upper Peninsula.

Located 9 miles west of Marquette, the museum overlooks the Carp River and the site of the region’s first iron forge. Between 1848 and 1855, the Jackson Iron Company and its successors wrought iron from Negaunee’s famous Jackson mine. From that seed grew an industry that continues today at the Empire and Tilden open pit mines.

The museum entrance is located on US-41E, a mile west of the junction with M-35, in Negaunee Township. Admission is free; donations are encouraged.

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan Historical Center, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

VIDEO: 'How to Install Bushwacker Fender Flares' by Mark Polk of RV Education 101

Enjoy this 6:09 video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 on "How To Install Bushwacker Fender Flares"

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
In this informative how to video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 upgrades his Dodge Ram with a set of Bushwacker Pocket Style Fender Flares. Watch how easy they are to install and take a minute to visit http://bushwacker.com/search_fender.asp to see what type of fender flares are available for your make and model vehicle.

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
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Guest Post: SpareFoot makes finding RV storage easy

Author's Note: Enjoy this Guest Post from SpareFoot.

If you are reading this, odds are you love to go camping, as do so many Americans. In fact, according to the Outdoor Foundation, almost 43 million Americans went camping in 2011. 

But fans of Gr8LakesCamper aren’t into just any type of camping, they specifically love to post up in their RVs and camp in style — which if we are being honest is the only way to do it, right? Of those 43 million that went camping in 2011, 39% (about 17 million) of them went RV camping, which is up from about 15 million the year before. 

Clearly the interest in RV camping is growing, and for good reason. Who doesn’t enjoy that freedom you experience while being out in the middle of nowhere, sitting around a campfire sharing stories with your family and friends, all with the added comfort of knowing that you have a bed to retire to when it’s time to call it a night — that’s the kind of stuff that dreams are made of.

Most people are quick to associate positive thoughts with owning a RV, but those same people don’t take the time to realize what a commitment it is. The cleaning, the washing, filling it up with gas, all those things can be quite a hassle when you’re dealing with such a big vehicle. And let's not forget the parking/storing of your RV. Especially with winter coming up, you can't exactly just leave that thing in the driveway.

So what do most people do? Ideally the best solution is to figure out some way to keep it at your home, but that’s easier said than done. What the majority of people are left doing is finding a self-storage facility that offers RV storage or at least covered RV parking, but going through that process can be a pain, too. 

Thankfully, SpareFoot is here to help. 

SpareFoot is an online marketplace for self-storage, with more than 6,000 storage facilities listed on our network, a network that is now bigger than any of the other storage websites combined. SpareFoot makes it easy to find and reserve storage units online for free, as well as read thousands of customer reviews to find the best unit to fit your needs. 

But what does all that mean? Basically, SpareFoot is an online resource where people can go and search for storage facilities in their area, anywhere in the country. Now, what we have done recently, and what will help RV campers, is create an RV storage resource that allows you to specifically search for facilities that offer RV storage/parking. Here is how it works:
  1. Visit our RV storage page and enter your city or zip code
  2. Filter the results by size, price or distance, whatever is the most important element to you
  3. Sort through the results and choose the unit that best fits your needs
  4. Complete the reservation form, with your name, email and phone number
  5. Book the unit you have selected, for free
Just like that, in five steps you have not only found a place to store your recreational vehicle, but you have reserved it online for $0 down! All that’s left to do is when the time comes, move your RV into your unit — which is obviously when you will need to actually pay for what you booked. There is no obligation to move-in, however, so if for whatever reason you need to cancel, don’t hesitate to do so. 

Finding a place to store your RV needs to be as enjoyable (well, almost) as actually getting to use it, and hopefully SpareFoot's new resource will do just that. Happy camping!

Public comment period ends Dec. 13 for draft management plans for three Minnesota state parks

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Trails Division is releasing for public review and comment the draft management plans for Zippel Bay State Park, Franz Jevne State Park and Garden Island State Recreation Area (SRA). 

The plans are available on the DNR website.

The public review period will be open through Friday, Dec. 13. When approved, the management plans will guide development and operations of these parks.

The DNR developed the draft management plans with the assistance of a citizen advisory committee, which helped identify issues and review potential management actions for the plans. The management plans will set the direction for these three parks for the next 15 to 20 years and include recommendations for managing natural and cultural resources and providing recreational and interpretative opportunities for recreation area visitors.

Following the comment period, final adjustments will be made and the plans will go to the DNR commissioner’s office for approval.

Zippel Bay State Park, north of Baudette, offers recreation such as camping, boating, fishing, swimming and hiking. Its shoreline, forests and wetlands are important resource areas, including undeveloped Lake of the Woods shoreline, which is valuable to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.

Garden Island SRA lies 18 miles north of Zippel Bay State Park in Lake of the Woods in Minnesota’s northwest angle. The SRA has 6.5 miles of undeveloped shoreline nesting habitat and a public shore lunch area.

East of Baudette, Franz Jevne State Park sits along the south banks of the Rainy River and is a popular place to fish for walleye, northern, small mouth bass and sturgeon. Its terrain is varied, including both a high rock outcrop south of the campground road and low shoreline areas that are sometimes flooded when the river is high.

Comments can be submitted to Laurie Young, DNR Parks and Trails planning supervisor, 651-259-5638, laures.young@state.mn.us, or651-297-5475, (fax) by Friday, Dec. 13.

Michigan DNR's Fisheries Division works to protect endangered mussels

Central Michigan University associate 
professor Daelyn Woolnough displays a 
mussel marked with a PIT (pass integrated 
transponder) tag for easier location in the future.
(DNR photos)

Bring up the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Division and most people immediately conjure up images of high-profile game fish – Chinook salmon, muskellunge, walleye – and what it takes for the hatchery section to churn out enough fry to keep those fisheries booming in Michigan.

But Fisheries Division is also concerned about aquatic species that are not quite as visible on anglers’ radar. Resource managers will go to great lengths to ensure the well-being of those critters, too.

Need an example? How about the snuffbox mussel, for starters.

A smallish (up to about 2 inches) freshwater bivalve that inhabits sand, gravel and cobble substrates in swift-flowing, small- to medium-sized rivers, the sensitive to siltation and disturbance. It has been on the state’s endangered species list for a number of years and has recently become a major player in some of Fisheries Division’s long-term management plans.

For many years, Fisheries Division has had removal of the Lyons Dam on the Grand River on its wish list. The 156-year-old Ionia County dam, which generated electricity until 1959, has been owned by the village of Lyons since it went out of commission and was deeded over by Consumers Energy.

Considered to be at risk for failure, the village has targeted the dam for removal for years, seeking grants to facilitate the work. 

 Central Michigan University students Lindsay Adams
and Adrienne Gibson search the Grand River for mussels.
“We funded the design work for removal at least five years ago,” explained Scott Hanshue, a fisheries biologist who has taken the lead on the Lyons Dam removal. “The Ionia Conservation District, working with the village, got the grant and hired an engineering firm.”

The original removal plan, however, had to be modified because of some potential erosion issues. The plans have changed a couple of times, Hanshue said, but ultimately it was decided to remove about two-thirds of the height of the dam and build a rock ramp that would allow for fish passage and eliminate the need for the fish ladder.

Just under a million dollars has been appropriated from the state’s dam removal fund to pay for the work.

Hanshue went to the site and surveyed it with Daelyn Woolnough, a freshwater ecology professor at Central Michigan University. They found a couple of species of mussels that are on the state’s endangered list – Lilliput and black sandshell mussels – though neither is federally listed. But they also found the snuffbox mussel, which was added to the federal endangered species list in 2012.

Shaughn Barnett, left, and Central Michigan University
associate professor Daelyn Woolnough prepare to tag
mussels collected from the Grand River.
"That’s a huge hurdle to jump over,” Hanshue said.

As a result, the DNR contracted with CMU to do a much more extensive survey. Survey crews grubbed through the sediment by hand as well as used snorkel and scuba gear to search for the snuffboxes. They located 71 live snuffbox mussels, all of which were marked with PIT (pass integrated transponder) tags and replaced where they were found in the river. The PIT tags will allow workers to locate them again in the future.

Researchers are currently crunching CMU’s survey numbers to develop a population estimate for the snuffbox mussels. Once that process is completed, the population estimate will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will permit the dam removal to continue.

“Prior to constructions, the mussels will be found and relocated,” Hanshue said. “We knew it was likely that we would have to relocate all the mussels within the footprint of the project, so we’ve been looking for suitable locations for the relocation effort. We thought we’d go upstream from the dam, but that habitat is not conducive to snuffbox mussels. But we have now found some suitable habitat downstream, so we know we’ll be able to put them there.”

In addition, it’s likely the Fish and Wildlife Service will require some monitoring activities as a condition of the dam removal, Hanshue said. That will further add to the cost of the project, but worth the effort to protect an endangered species.

A researcher measures specimens, such as this mapleleaf
mussel, collected from the Grand River.
Despite the delays and cost overruns associated with this dam removal, state fisheries officials are taking the Monty Python approach – always look at the bright side – to the situation.

“We’re going to get some valuable data on the mussels,” Hanshue said. “The Grand River is one of the strongholds for the snuffbox mussel in the country, particularly between the Lyons Dam and just downstream of the Sixth Street Dam in Grand Rapids.

"The listing of this mussel is going to affect a lot of future projects.”

And that is all part of Fisheries Division’s mission. Once the dam removal is complete, the river will function better and fish will be able to move up and downstream more easily. But the endangered snuffbox mussel will also have a better chance of thriving in one of its last remaining strongholds in North America.

To learn more about Fisheries Division's production, management and research work, visit www.michigan.gov/fishresearch

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Women take to thrill, challenge of pheasant hunting

A flushing rooster so startled new pheasant
 hunter Jody Bachelder that she couldn’t 
even raise her shotgun.

When Jody Bachelder took a step back away from the pointing dog at her feet, a rooster pheasant sprung into flight, practically knocking her over and leaving her so temporarily dazzled she didn’t even think to shoulder her shotgun.

“I’m four months pregnant and I swear I felt the baby jump,” said Bachelder, who was making her first pheasant hunt.

Happens all the time, said Scott Brosier, proprietor of Pine Hill Kennels and Sportsmen’s Club near Belding, Mich., and the host of a recent pheasant hunting event for women.

“Lots of people get startled when that flush occurs right in their face,” said Brosier. “I’ve seen guys who are built like Buicks jump when it happens.”

Bachelder’s disorientation didn’t last long. Not too many minutes later, a rooster got up in front of her and she smoothly mounted her firearm, pulled the trigger and dropped the bird into the tall grass.

Bachelder was one of a dozen women attending the event, which was put together by Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician Donna Jones, who works at Flat River State Game Area.

Brosier – who had put together his own women’s event last year as part of a breast cancer awareness program – was more than happy to accommodate the program. Jones lined up three chapters of Pheasants Forever – Barry County, Montcalm County and Grand Valley – to help with the funding, and all that was left was to recruit the gals.

It didn’t take long. “I could have gotten 40,” Brosier said.

Among those who signed up was Alyssa Wethington, an intern with the Gourmet Gone Wild program, which is designed to introduce folks who are not from sporting traditions to the outdoors by exposing young professionals to wild game and fish dishes. She brought her grade-school pal Shakoor Rohela, and the 22-year-olds had their first hunting experiences together.

A pheasant flushes in front of first-time hunter Alyssa
Wethington and Scott Brosier, proprietor of Pine Hill Kennels
and Sportsmen’s Club near Belding, Mich.

The pair shot at – and hit – a bird, but it sailed off into the distance. When the crew went to recover it, it flushed again – apparently no worse for wear. 

That just made Wethington more determined.

“This is something I hope to do regularly,” she said. “I like to eat food produced locally, so if I can kill something and cook it up, that’s great. That’s as local as you can get.”

While Wethington and Rohela were making their first hunts, many of the women were veterans of the field – having hunted deer and turkey – though they hadn’t hunted pheasants. Trish Taylor, a public-relations professional from Allegan, said she hunted rabbits as a youngster but, despite being married to a sportsman and owning a pointing dog, had never hunted upland birds.

Her husband was glad she came, Taylor said, because he wanted her to learn to hunt but he didn’t especially want to take her “because I never listen to him,” she said.

“It was awesome,” Taylor said. “Now I want to go to North Dakota.”

Similarly, Kathleen Kiester of Dimondale had hunted wild turkeys and deer, but had never pointed the Model 12 Winchester she inherited from her father at flying birds. By the time the hunt was finished, Kiester had killed a pair of pheasants.

A dozen women took advantage of an event at Pine Hill Kennels
and Sportsmen's Club to learn about pheasant hunting.

“This is so much fun,” she said. “I’m just ecstatic. They get up so fast and fly so hard. This is so cool, I’d love to do it again.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by virtually all the women at the event. Rohela said the experience was “really, really fun” and Wethington said she’s going to “keep doing this until I get something.”

Bachelder, whose husband was away on business in China, emailed him a picture from her smartphone as soon as it was taken.

“This is cool,” she said, admitting that she was a little bit surprised that she made her shot. “It’s different than I was expecting. I like the walking around instead of sitting in the deer blind.”

Jody Bachelder proudly shows off 
her first pheasant. 
DNR wildlife biologist John Niewoonder gave a presentation at the event, explaining how the DNR works and about wildlife management in general. He gave the participants food for thought about hunting as not only an enjoyable pastime, but also a vital part of Michigan’s natural resources conservation. 

Jones was very pleased with the way things went.

“When I started at the DNR I wasn’t a hunter and some of the guys showed me,” said the 33-year DNR veteran. “I was hoping to target single moms and first-time hunters. It worked out perfectly. We had a lot of fun.”

So much, in fact, that Jones can hardly wait to get started planning an event for next year.

To learn more about hunting in Michigan – including different species and season opportunities, how to purchase licenses, where to hunt, and how to ensure it’s done safely – visit www.michigan.gov/hunting.

Minnesota DNR seeks comments on Grand Marais area lake and stream management plans

People interested in learning about or commenting on Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) strategies for managing Grand Marais area lakes and streams have until Jan. 3 to ask questions or submit comments.

“Management plans describe the past, present and desired future conditions of the waters,” said Steve Persons, Grand Marais area fisheries supervisor. “The plans identify specific management activities planned for that lake or stream in the next 5 to 20 years. They include background on the lake including water chemistry, temperature, and species present which is important in understanding the potential of a fishery.”

Every year DNR fisheries staff prepares or revises individual lake and stream management plans for several waters in each management area. In the Grand Marais area, plans for the following lakes and streams will be reviewed.

  • Aspen – evaluate current walleye stocking program.
  • Ball Club – determine whether renewed walleye stocking is needed.
  • Barker – determine whether renewed walleye stocking is needed.
  • Birch – evaluate current brook and rainbow trout stocking programs.
  • Cascade – future survey needs, monitoring walleye and northern pike populations.
  • Cherokee – review status of lake trout population, establish plans for future surveys.
  • Daniels – review status of lake trout population, establish plans for future surveys.
  • Devil Track – evaluate current walleye stocking program.
  • Duncan – review status of lake trout population, establish plans for future surveys.
  • East Bearskin – evaluate current walleye stocking program, determine whether lake trout stocking should continue.
  • Flour – evaluate current walleye stocking program, determine whether lake trout stocking should continue.
  • Homer – consider need for renewed walleye stocking.
  • Hungry Jack – evaluate current walleye stocking program.
  • Little Saganaga – review status of lake trout population, establish plans for future surveys.
  • Lizz – discontinue brook trout stocking due to an influx of northern pike.
  • Marsh – consider management as a panfish lake.
  • Mauser – schedule a survey to determine suitability for stream trout management.
  • Mavis – evaluate current brook trout stocking program.
  • Meditation – evaluate current brook trout stocking program.
  • Missing Link – evaluate current brook trout stocking program.
  • Mush – schedule a survey to determine suitability for stream trout management.
  • Olga – evaluate current stream trout stocking program.
  • Pancore – evaluate current splake stocking program.
  • Round – evaluate current walleye stocking program.
  • Shoe – evaluate current brook trout and splake stocking programs.
  • Squint – determine whether more active walleye management is needed.
  • Talus – evaluate current rainbow trout stocking program.
  • Two Island – future survey needs, monitoring walleye and northern pike populations, and evaluating the current smallmouth bass regulation.
  • Wench – evaluate current brook trout stocking program.
  • West Pike – review status of lake trout population, establish plans for future surveys.
  • White Pine – determine whether walleye stocking is needed.

In addition, plans for several BWCAW lakes in the area, including Zephyr, Kingfisher, Red Rock, Ray, Owl, Frost, Gordon, Gaskin, Bull, South, Lux, Carl, Swamp, and Little Caribou will be updated. These plans will be revised solely to establish survey schedules on those lakes for the next few years.

  • Gauthier Creek – managed as a steelhead spawning and nursery stream, plan will focus on habitat protection, restoration, and monitoring.
  • Monker Creek – managed as a brook trout stream, plan will focus on habitat protection, restoration, and monitoring, based on results of a stream survey completed in 2013.
  • Poplar River – managed as a brook trout stream, and as a steelhead spawning and nursery stream. Plan will focus on habitat protection, restoration, and monitoring, including more intensive monitoring of the lower two miles of the stream.
  • Timber Creek – managed as a brook trout stream, plan will focus on habitat protection, restoration, and monitoring. Options for habitat improvement will be considered.

Current plans for lakes and streams in the area as well as recent fish population assessment information are available for review at the DNR’s Grand Marais area fisheries office, 1356 E. Highway 61, Grand Marais, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For information, call or email Steve Persons, 218-387-3056 or steve.persons@state.mn.us.

Comments and suggestions on other streams and lakes in the area are welcomed at any time, and will be considered when those plans are due for review.

VIDEO: 'Dicor Fiberglass RV Roof Coating' presented by RV Education 101

Enjoy this 7:06 video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 on "Dicor Fiberglass RV Roof Coating"

Here's what Mark Polk had to say about his video:
In this informative RV 101 how to video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 demonstrates how to coat a fiberglass RV roof using Dicor's Fiberglass Roof Coating products:
Coating your RV roof with a Dicor roof coating product designed specifically for the roofing material on your RVhttps://dicorproducts.com/catalog/roo... not only revives the new RV roof look, but it helps extend the life of your RV roof. If you have an aging fiberglass RV roof don't miss viewing this video.

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Illinois Department of Natural Resources programs and upcoming events for November

Remaining Firearm Deer Permits: Remaining Illinois firearm and muzzleloader deer permits are available over-the-counter (OTC) from DNR Direct license and permit vendors through Dec. 8, or until quotas are exhausted. Find a vendor near you at this link: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/LPR/Pages/LicensePermitVendors.aspx

Target Hunger Now: Hunters are encouraged to donate whole deer to the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program – part of the IDNR ‘Target Hunger Now!’ initiative. Participating meat processors turn the donated deer into ground venison for delivery to food banks and charities in Illinois. For more information on ‘Target Hunger Now!’ and the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program, check the IDNR website at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/programs/ISAH/Pages/default.aspx or by email tracy.shafer@Illinois.gov or write to Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271. 

Late-Winter and CWD Deer Special Hunt Area Applications: Hunters may apply online through Nov. 25 for site-specific permits for designated IDNR Special Hunt Areas for the Late-Winter and CWD Deer Hunts. The online application system will be available through the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov

A list of Special Hunt Areas: 

CWD Special Hunt Area Sites
  • Apple River Canyon State Park (SP) – Thompson/Salem Units SP in Jo Daviess County
  • Castle Rock SP in Ogle Co. 
  • Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area (SNA)/Heidecke State Fish and Wildlife Area (SFWA)/Morris Wetland in Grundy Co. – Check-in by 5 a.m. *
  • Hanover Bluff SNA in Jo Daviess Co.
  • Lowden-Miller State Forest in Ogle Co.
  • Kishwaukee River SNA in DeKalb Co.
  • Rall Woods (Falling Down Prairie) SNA in Jo Daviess Co.
  • Starved Rock SP – includes Starved Rock SP, Mathiessen SP, Margery C. Carlson SNA,
  • Mitchell’s Grove SNA and Sandy Ford SNA in LaSalle Co.
  • Tapley Woods SNA in Jo Daviess Co.
  • Wards Grove Nature Preserve in Jo Daviess Co.
  • White Pines SP in Ogle Co. - Check-in by 5 a.m. *
  • Winston Tunnel SNA in Jo Daviess Co.

Late-Winter Special Hunt Area Sites
  • Franklin Creek SNA in Lee Co. – Check-in by 5 a.m.*
  • Jubilee College SP (January 17-19 Only) in Peoria Co.
  • Sahara Woods in Saline Co.
  • Sam Dale Lake in Wayne Co.
  • Siloam Springs SP in Adams/Brown Co.
* Permit hunters at these sites must sign in at the site check station by 5 a.m.; standby hunting available afterward, as space allows.
Permits for these sites are limited and will only be available through the online application through Nov. 25 (paper applications are not available). Hunters may submit only one online Special Hunt Area application. Unfilled 2013 site-specific firearm, muzzleloader or youth permits for these sites are not valid during the Late-Winter Firearm and CWD Deer season (except at sites where standby hunting is available). Late-Winter and CWD Deer season dates are Dec. 26-29, 2013 and Jan. 17-19, 2014. For a Late-Winter and CWD deer hunting information sheet, with details on sites open to deer hunting with county permits during Late-Winter and CWD seasons, check the IDNR website at this link:

Resident Archery Deer and Fall Turkey Permits: Illinois Archery Deer and Illinois Archery Fall Turkey seasons are open through Jan. 19, 2014. Resident combination archery deer permits, resident antlerless-only archery deer permits, and resident archery fall turkey hunting permits are available over-the-counter from DNR Direct license and permit vendors. Find a vendor near you at this link: http://dnr.illinois.gov/DNRDirectMonitor/VendorListing.aspx

Non-Resident Deer and Turkey Permits: The remaining non-resident Illinois combination archery deer permits, as well as non-resident antlerless-only archery deer permits and non-resident archery fall turkey permits, are available over-the-counter (OTC) from DNR Direct license and permit vendors. The season continues through Jan. 19, 2014. Find a license and permit vendor near you at this link: http://dnr.illinois.gov/DNRDirectMonitor/VendorListing.aspx

Archery, Firearm, Muzzleloader, and Late-Winter/CWD Seasons CWD Sampling: Deer hunters statewide in Illinois are encouraged to allow samples to be taken for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing from adult deer they harvest. For locations serving as CWD sampling stations, taking samples from entire deer or deer heads through Jan. 20, 2014, check the IDNR website at this link:

Upland Hunting: For information on prospects for the 2013-14 pheasant, quail and rabbit seasons in Illinois, check the IDNR web site for the annual hunting prospects reports prepared by the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources. The links to the reports are available through the IDNR web site at: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/uplandgame/Pages/PheasantQuailAndRabbitAnnualStatusReports.aspx

ICF Wall Calendar: Order the beautiful 2014 Illinois Conservation Foundation wall calendar today. If you relied on the former OutdoorIllinois wall calendar, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of this calendar. Proceeds from the sale of the 2014 ICF wall calendar will support youth conservation education programs in Illinois. The 9” x 12” calendar contains stunning photography of Illinois wildlife and natural resources, and can be purchased for $15 (two for $29, or three for $41.25). Order online at www.ilcf.org or by phone at 217-785-2003. Checks and money orders can be mailed to Illinois Conservation Foundation, ATTN Wall Calendar, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271.

Spring Turkey Applications: Resident hunters may now apply for the first lottery for 2014 Illinois Spring Wild Turkey Season permits online. Go to the IDNR website for more information at this link: www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/turkey. The application deadline for the first lottery for 2014 resident spring turkey permits is Dec. 1, 2013. 

Online Free Site Hunting Permits: Hunters are reminded that Free Site Hunting Permits (windshield cards) to hunt upland, forest game and waterfowl at IDNR sites are available online from the IDNR website at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Pages/PublicHuntingAreas.aspx

Hunters are encouraged to view the link to hunter fact sheets also available at the site. For information or assistance, hunters should contact the site where they intend to hunt. 

Schoolyard Habitat Action Grants: Applications are being accepted for the Illinois Schoolyard Habitat Action Grant. Teachers and youth-group leaders may apply for up to $1,000 to develop or enhance wildlife habitat in the schoolyard or other public place. Sponsored by the IDNR and the Illinois Conservation Foundation, funding for this program is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, an Environmental Education Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Jadel Youth Fund, and the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation. Visit http://dnr.state.il.us/education/CLASSRM/grants.htm for details. Applications are due by Nov. 30.

Hunting and Fishing Regulations: For information on Illinois hunting seasons and regulations, click here for the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations 2013-2014: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Documents/HuntTrapDigest.pdf

For information on waterfowl hunting seasons and regulations in Illinois, click on the Illinois Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulations 2013-2014 here: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Documents/DigestWaterfowlHuntingRegulations.pdf

For information on fishing regulations and places to fish in Illinois, check the 2013-2015 Illinois Fishing Information guide online here: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/fishing/Documents/IllinoisFishingInformation.pdf

Apply Now for Youth Goose Hunt: Interested youth can register now for the 14th annual Central Illinois Youth Goose Hunt, sponsored by the IDNR on Dec. 26-27 at private waterfowl hunting clubs in Peoria, Fulton and Knox counties. 

Youth hunters must phone in to 217-785-8060 to register for a drawing to participate in the hunt. The registration deadline is Friday, Dec. 6. The drawing will be conducted on Dec. 9, and youth hunters selected will be notified by mail. First-time applicants will be given a priority over previous participants in the drawing. The hunt is open to youngsters ages 10-15 at the time of the hunt. All applicants must have successfully completed a hunter safety education course, possess a valid Illinois hunting or sportsman's license, have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) registration number, and have a 20-gauge or larger shotgun. Youth hunt participants must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who must possess a valid firearm owner's identification (FOID) card. To register for the hunt, or for more information, call 217-785-8060.

Follow the IDNR: Keep up to date with events and information on outdoor recreation and natural resources in Illinois through IDNR postings on Facebook and Twitter. Just click on the tabs on the IDNR website homepage at www.dnr.illinois.gov and stay connected to the Illinois outdoors.

Snowshoe-lacing workshop offered at Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee Dec. 7

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum (MIIM) will present a snowshoe-lacing workshop on Saturday, Dec. 7, offering participants a chance to lace their own pair of traditional snowshoes. The workshop – which will teach the technique for lacing the Green Mountain Bearpaw or Ojibwa style of snowshoe – will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Snowshoeing has a long history as a mode of transportation in the snowy Upper Peninsula,” said museum historian Troy Henderson. “This workshop celebrates that history and encourages participants to explore our winter landscape."

The Iron Industry Museum is now open year-round and features a new network of trails on the museum grounds.

The workshop fee is $175 per person and includes all materials (frames, lacings and bindings) and a $25 non-refundable reservation fee. (The $25 reservation fee is due at time of registration; the remaining $150 is not due until the day of class.)

Space is limited and reservations are required. The registration deadline is Monday, Nov. 25, and the registration form can be found online at www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum. For more information about the class or reservations, contact Troy Henderson at 906-475-7857 or hendersont7@michigan.gov.

The museum entrance is located on US-41E, 1 mile west of Junction M-35, in Negaunee Township. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan Historical Center, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources. It overlooks the site of the Carp River Forge, a pioneer industrial site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the winter months the museum is open Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the first Saturday of each month. For more information call 906-475-7857 or visit online at www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Michigan conservation officers offer top 10 tips for a safe hunting experience

With Michigan’s rich tradition of fall hunting getting under way, conservation officers at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have offered their top 10 tips for a safe outdoor experience. 

“Hunting in Michigan is a time-honored activity, rich in tradition, when families and friends come together to enjoy our great outdoors,” said Lt. Andrew Turner, who leads the DNR's Recreation, Safety and Enforcement Section for the Law Enforcement Division. “Making your hunt a safe and responsible experience is key to having an enjoyable and memorable time. By following these safety tips, hunters can help us all have a good season.”

Turner said the top 10 safety tips for hunters to remember are: 
  1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  2. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  3. Be certain of your target, and what's beyond it, before firing. Know the identifying features of the game you hunt. Make sure you have an adequate backstop; don’t shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
  4. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  5. Don’t run, jump or climb with a loaded firearm. Unload a firearm before you climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch. Pull a firearm toward you by the butt, not the muzzle.
  6. Avoid alcoholic beverages before or during hunting. Also avoid mind- or behavior-altering medicines or drugs.
  7. All firearm deer hunters on any land during daylight hunting hours must wear a hat, cap, vest, jacket, rainwear or other outer garment of "hunter orange" visible from all sides. All hunters, including archers, must comply during gun season.
  8. Camouflage hunter orange is legal, provided 50 percent of the surface area is solid hunter orange. (Exceptions: waterfowl, crow and wild turkey hunters, and bow hunters for deer during bow season).
  9. Always let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan on returning. This information helps conservation officers and others locate you if you get lost.
  10. Carry your cellphone into the woods. Remember to turn your ringer off or set your phone to vibrate rather than ring. Your cellphone emits a signal that can help rescuers locate you when you are lost. If you have a smartphone, go to the settings and enable your GPS to help searchers find you if you get lost. Make sure before you leave for the woods each day that your phone is fully charged. If you have a smartphone, download a compass and flashlight app – there are many versions of these apps that are free to download in the iPhone App Store or on Google Play for Android. 
“These simple, common sense tips can prevent hunting accidents and save lives,” said Turner. “We encourage all sportsmen and women to follow these guidelines when enjoying the great outdoors in our state.”

Michigan's regular deer firearm season starts Nov. 15. For more information about hunting in Michigan, visit the DNR website www.michigan.gov/hunting.

Michigan DNR fighting frog-bit: Response to new invasive species under way in Alpena, Bay and Chippewa counties

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Division is leading response efforts to control a new aquatic invasive plant, European frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae). Until recently, this free-floating plant had only been reported in a few localized sites in the southeastern Lower Peninsula. Through recent statewide monitoring efforts, this species has been detected in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County.

This new invasive species was detected as a result of an Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) pilot project funded through a federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant. The project relies on collaboration with partners, including Michigan State University and Cooperative Weed Management Area groups.

Using the new State of Michigan’s Rapid Response Plan for Aquatic Invasive Species, developed jointly by the DNR, DEQ and MDARD, these new reports were verified, an on-site assessment was conducted and a response plan was formulated. Control measures are under way, including physical removal (1,500 pounds removed beginning in mid-September) and trial treatments with herbicides.

“Responding quickly to a new invasive species is critical to increasing our chances of success, and it requires a well-organized, collaborative effort between multiple agencies and other partners,” said Wildlife Division chief Russ Mason.

Education, outreach and future control activities are being planned with local stakeholders and partner groups. A complete outline of the EDRR program, including future stages, is defined in the newly revised SOM Aquatic Invasive Species State Management Plan at www.michigan.gov/aquaticinvasives.

European frog-bit was accidentally released into Canadian waters between 1932 and 1939, and has since spread throughout Ontario, New York, Vermont and other eastern states. It forms extremely dense vegetative mats that cover the available open water surface. Frog-bit shades out submerged native plants, reducing invertebrate and plant biodiversity, disrupts natural water flow, inhibits watercraft movement and may adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat.

European frog-bit resembles a miniature water lily (lily pad), with leaves about the size of a quarter or half-dollar. It produces a small white flower, usually in June. Frog-bit is typically found in slow moving, shallow waters (1-3 feet), typically within cattail and bulrush stands. Additional identification information is available at the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network at www.misin.msu.edu.

If you suspect that you’ve seen European frog-bit, report sightings to www.misin.msu.edu or to Matt Ankney, EDRR coordinator, at ankneym2@michigan.gov or (517) 641-4903.

For more information, please visit www.michigan.gov/invasivespecies.

Ohio's Recreational Trails receive more than $2 million of funding

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced that 15 recreational trails in Ohio have been selected to share in $2,015,156 in federal funds through the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

“Trails are an important part of Ohio because they let residents spend time outside enjoying a wide variety of activities,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “Maintaining our existing trails and adding new ones allows greater recreational opportunities for all Ohioans.”

RTP funding goes to projects that create and maintain trails and trail support facilities, improve access for people with disabilities and provide education about trail safety and the environment. The projects are evaluated on merits, which include justification of trail need, trail linkages and public participation.

ODNR administers federal grants, which includes the RTP non-motorized and motorized trails. RTP is a reimbursement grant program that provides up to 80 percent of a project’s funding. ODNR received 42 RTP grant applications, and the agency awarded funding to 15 projects statewide. More than 185 local trail projects across the state have received more than $23 million in federal funds through ODNR since RTP began in 1993.

Funding for RTP comes from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and a portion of the federal motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use.

Tuskegee Airmen Memorial among recent Pittsburgh Happenings

Tuskegee Airmen Honored
The nation’s largest Tuskegee Airmen Memorial was dedicated last month at Sewickley Cemetery, outside of Pittsburgh. The memorial is the centerpiece of an educational and commemoration project of the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of the Greater Pittsburgh Region, Inc. The memorial consists of four large monuments; a striking 10-foot high replica of the P-51 Red Tail monument and four benches. A bronze relief depicts the busts of several area airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. The black military pilots who fought in World War II trained at Tuskegee, Ala.

Got Art?
The Pittsburgh Office of Public Art launched Pittsburgh Art Places – pittsburghartplaces.org – a free, comprehensive and interactive website designed to showcase public art and art venues throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. The site currently houses information for 200+ art places covering a 13-county region in western Pennsylvania. This is the only website that has comprehensive information about every work of public art in the region, including temporary works. Visitors can build their own travel itinerary directly on the site.

Forging Ahead
After a devastating 2010 fire that almost put the 90-year-old company out of business, Wendell August Forge, America’s oldest and largest forge is open for tours again. Guests are invited into the studio where artisans craft elegant giftwear by hand. Tour the mini-museum and learn about the exacting process required to create beautiful hand-hammered giftware. Free workshop tours are available during production hours, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and children can create their own work of metal art for a nominal materials fee of $2.

Readers’ Choice Winner
Fairmont Pittsburgh was named a winner of Conde Nast Traveler 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards. The awards highlight the best hotels and resorts around the world by magazine readers. Fairmont Pittsburgh earned the No. 10 spot among the Top 10 Mid-Atlantic hotels. The contemporary Four Diamond property is Pittsburgh’s first LEED Gold-certified hotel.

Airest Collezioni, an international travel retail operator based in Italy, has selected the AIRMALL at Pittsburgh International Airport as its first North American operation. Airest Collezioni will tap into its portfolio of global brands to bring men’s and women’s fashion and accessories, fragrances and more to the terminal at PIT. The new stores (10,000 square feet total) will be located in the Airside Terminal and are part of a $10 million upgrade to the AIRMALL at PIT, a yearlong construction project that will result in the most significant overhaul of the concessions programs since the airport opened in 1992.

Green and Greener 
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was awarded LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the new Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Recently emerged as one of the greenest buildings on Earth, this is expected to be the first building in the world to achieve this in tandem with the Living Building Challenge and four-starts Sustainable Sites Initiative certification for landscapes.

Transition begins for Michigan DNR to assume management of Belle Isle as a state park

Author's note: Last summer, for my full-time job at a newspaper chain with several newspapers outside Detroit, I did a lengthy article, along with several videos, on the state of Belle Isle titled Belle Isle: Celebrated past, troubling present & uncertain future. At the risk of sounding immodest, the article and videos won several awards and does a very good job of explaining how the island park, once a glowing jewel of a celebrated city, became an unsustainable afterthought for a city mired in bankruptcy.

Detroit’s historic Belle Isle Park will begin a transition to becoming Michigan’s 102nd state park, following action Tuesday by the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board.

The board accepted a lease approved by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle and Gov. Rick Snyder. 

Belle Isle's canals were a popular recreational outlet for
Detroiters in the early 20th century.
The lease will guide state management of the park. 

Under the lease terms, the city maintains ownership of Belle Isle while the DNR assumes responsibility for managing Belle Isle according to the high standards of its award-winning state park system. The Michigan Department of Transportation will assume responsibility for roads and bridges on Belle Isle.

“This is a city-state partnership that makes good sense for the future of Belle Isle and the people of Detroit,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “Everyone wants this Detroit gem to offer a clean, safe and welcoming park environment, while lessening the financial burden on the city. Those are the driving principles behind this agreement.”

State management of the island will save Detroit an estimated $4 million a year. In addition, the state will invest in the island through a variety of sources, including grants, bonds and donations from private organizations willing to partner in the park’s revitalization. 

The Aquarium and Conservatory are landmark buildings of
Belle Isle. 
The Emergency Loan Board’s action begins a 90-day transition period that is outlined in the lease. 

The DNR’s initial short-term action items include: 
  • Meeting with Detroit’s recently elected city council members and mayor to establish an open and productive line of communication;
  • Meeting with a soon-to-be-established advisory committee, the Belle Isle Conservancy and other key stakeholder groups;
  • Evaluating all current contracts, leases and concession agreements;
  • Updating previous infrastructure assessment information to prioritize critical needs;
  • Establishing a visible staffing and visitor services presence throughout Belle Isle; and
  • Coordinating with local, regional and state law enforcement agencies on a security plan. 
The lease provides for an initial 30-year term with two 15-year renewals. A seven-member committee established in the lease will advise the state on improvements and master planning for the park. A minimum of three members of the committee will be residents of the city of Detroit. The state will work cooperatively with the Belle Isle Conservancy and other partners, in collaboration with the advisory committee, to develop and improve the park.

The water garden between the Aquarium and Conservatory.
The Recreation Passport, which offers access to all Michigan state parks and recreation areas across the state, will be required for entry to Belle Isle immediately following the 90-day transition period. The Passport does not apply to individuals. Pedestrians, bicyclists and those using public transportation can enter the park for free and will not need the Passport. The Passport, which currently costs $11 for Michigan registered vehicles and $5 for motorcycles, is a per-vehicle charge. When purchased through the Secretary of State during license plate registration renewal, it is good until the next license plate registration renewal. It will also be available for purchase at the park. Because the Recreation Passport will be a new requirement to access Belle Isle in a vehicle, the requirement will be phased in for park visitors. The Recreation Passport will be required commencing on the date the license plate is due for renewal. Visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport for more information on the program.

Park revenue from permit fees, rental fees, special events, grants, endowments and other sources that derive from Belle Isle – excluding Recreation Passport revenue – will be placed in a special sub-account in the Department of Natural Resources State Park Improvement Fund to administer, maintain and improve the park. The balance of that sub-account will transfer to the city upon lease termination. 

Detroit's financial problems has meant staff and budget
cuts for Belle Isle. The result has been maintenance on
the island has lapsed.
In a letter to the Emergency Loan Board dated Oct. 21, 2013, DNR Director Creagh clarified concerns raised by members of the Detroit City Council in a communication to the Loan Board on Oct. 14. Creagh’s letter:
  • Explained the need for an initial 30-year term in the lease. Creagh clarified that the 30-year term is crucial to securing grants and other funding streams for improvements on the island. Most state and federal grants require the applicant to have control of the property for a minimum of 20 years to 30 years.
  • Emphasized that the DNR, which has considerable expertise in managing historic sites – the state historian is housed within the DNR – will apply its expertise to Belle Isle, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Underscored the DNR’s commitment to families and youth. The DNR will maintain Belle Isle as a gathering place for families, including family reunions. In addition, the DNR operates programs that employ young people in state parks and recreation areas. The department intends to continue and expand those programs on Belle Isle.
  • Promised to undertake outreach efforts to Detroit-based businesses to help those businesses navigate the state’s bidding process.
  • Promised to work with Detroit agencies named by the council to make sure Detroit residents are given every opportunity to apply for jobs at the state-managed park.
  • Committed to undertaking improvements on the island as outlined in the lease. 
“We are excited to partner with the city, mayor and city council to help revitalize this important community gathering place,” said Creagh. “The Detroit region is important to Michigan’s long-term economic stability and tourism appeal. A revitalized Belle Isle will be a major player in that comeback.”

Author of 'Flannel John’s Cookbooks for Guys' releases new title just in time for firearm deer season

What started out as a bit of a lark for fishing and hunting friends, has blossomed into a cottage industry for author Tim Murphy. On the one-year anniversary of his first book, “Flannel John’s Hunting & Fishing Camp Cookbook,” Murphy has released his eighth title in his “Cookbooks for Guys” series called “Flannel John’s Hearty Bowl Cookbook - Soup, Stew, Chili & Chowder” (7.95). This book features over 100 pages of warm bowls of comfort food.

A recipe from his latest book is at the end of this post.

“I wrote the first ‘cookbook for guys’ for friends," Murphy said. "They would show up at deer camp or the fishing cabin with beef jerky, a block of cheese and a case of beer. Aside from the olfactory assault and possible heart-stopping properties, the camp needed food with more substance. They needed dishes that were easy and quick to make from breakfast and lunch, to dinner, snacks and sides. Now 'Flannel John’s Hearty Bowl Cookbook' continues the simplicity for this year’s deer camp. Guys can make tasty, filling, basic meals with a pot and a ladle.” 

Two other books were released this past fall in the series, “Flannel John’s Tailgating Grub & Couch Potato Cookbook” ($9.95) and “Flannel John’s Single Guy Cookbook” ($7.95).

“The Tailgating book is for football fanatics. It’s great food for the stadium parking lot or man-cave recliner. ‘The Single Guy Cookbook’ is aimed at recent grads, single dads or guys kicked out of their parents’ basement. Every recipe in that book is six ingredients or less,” said Murphy.

And who is Flannel John? 

“Flannel John is a character based on a few old hunters I knew from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I wanted to honor their spirit and what they taught me. He is essentially part Babe Winkelman, Ted Nugent, Red Green, Grizzly Adams and crusty mountain man. They were the inspiration for these books. I’ve written seven Flannel John books with another dozen planned. The next book, 'Flannel John’s Winter Cabin Cookbook' will be out in November." 

The first book, Flannel John’s Hunting & Fishing Camp Cookbook, cracked Amazon.com’s “Top 1%” Sales” category within a month of release.

Subsequent releases included "Flannel John’s Woods and Water Cookbook - Critters, Fritters, Chili and Beer" in February 2013, "Flannel John’s Pirate Galley Cookbook - Coastal Cuisine and Maritime Meals from Oceans, Lakes and Rivers" in April 2013 and for the backwoods, rustic soul there was Flannel John’s Mountain Man Cookbook - Frontier Food from the Hills, Country and Backwoods in May 2013.

Murphy also released his first “non-Flannel John title this summer called “The Tube Steak Boogie Cookbook – A Celebration of Hot Dogs, Sausage, Brats & Kielbasa.” 

“That book was a tribute to the hot dog stand of my youth, and adulthood, in the south suburbs of Chicago called Willie’s Wee Nee Wagon,” said Murphy.

Why cookbooks for guys?
Author Tim Murphy
“I didn’t see anything written for men, especially beginner and novice cooks,” said Murphy. “The first book covered basic comfort food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, deserts and drinks. It was aimed at hunters and anglers but it’s great for campers and RVers. After the first title, I kept discovery new themes and new recipes. So now we have books for seafood, fish, pioneer recipes and a lot more. I have a dozen new titles slated to rollout over the next two years including the first non-food title. That’s going to be “Flannel John’s Outhouse Reader and Emergency T.P. Book.”

Tim Murphy is a graduate of Western Michigan University. This 23-year radio veteran spent 17 years hosting morning radio shows in several Michigan cities including Holland (92.7 The Van), Muskegon (Z108), Traverse City (Double Rock KLT), Saginaw (WIOG-FM) and Houghton (The Wolf). Murphy has had a long career as a freelance and comedy writer. His work has appeared in dozens of outlets including Backwoods Home Magazine, The Porcupine Press U.P. Magazine, National Lampoon, The Traverse City Record Eagle and ABC Radio Network. He lives in Seaside, Oregon with his wife LisaMarie Costanzo and vacations at his cabin near Bergland, Michigan. 

All eight books can be found at Amazon.com and at www.flanneljohn.com. They are $7.95 except for the Tailgating book, which is $9.95. For additional information on the books, to interview the author or to inquire about wholesale book pricing, contact Tim Murphy at (701) 238-1775 or at shamrockarrow@gmail.com or like “Flannel John” on facebook.

  • 6 onions, cut into ½ inch slices 
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled 
  • 5 cups of chicken broth 
  • 1½ teaspoons of dried thyme leaves 
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper 
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter 
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream 
Put onions and garlic in a roasting pan. Add 3 cups of chicken broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Dot with butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Stir a few times. Remove from the oven and puree in food processor or blender until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining 2 cups of broth and cream. Pour in a pan and adjust seasonings. Heat slowly and thoroughly.