June 7, 2013
I have to confess: I am a huge fan of Michael Moore. One of the reasons has nothing to do with politics or his films. Almost 10 years ago, Michael did something that I didn’t think possible. He galvanized support, spent and raised money and brainstormed to lead a vast & diverse army of volunteers to restore the theater of my childhood, the State Theatre in Traverse City. While the successful and wildly entertaining Traverse City Film Festival has been a huge driver of the theater’s comeback, many overlook how his dedication to the movie-going experience created a theater that hundreds of people every day enjoy as part of a vibrant downtown experience. Of course after the Motion Picture Association of America tapped the State as #1 on their list of the best theaters in America, that number has probably gone down.
All this is a rather long-winded way of introducing Michael’s latest Traverse City cause, restoring the empty Con Foster Museum as a new theater – the Bijou By the Bay. The story starts with Conrad “Con” Foster:
Manager of the State Theatre when it was originally known at the Lyric Theatre, he first arrived in Traverse City in July of 1917 as an employee of Fitzpatrick-McElroy Company to run and operate the Lyric. A true showman with a passion for the movies, one of the first things he did upon arrival was install a “newer and brighter” screen as part of his commitment to make the Lyric “equal to any motion picture house in the state.” It is this commitment to presentation the State Theatre continues today.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 21, 1875, Foster was not a Traverse City native, but the community embraced him and he quickly made the area his home. After less than a year in Traverse City, Fitzpatrick-McElroy transferred him to a new theater post in Wisconsin, and Foster spent the next six years heartsick, petitioning the company to bring him back.
Foster’s pleas were answered in April 1924 when he returned to Traverse City to resume his post at the Lyric. He placed an ad in the Record Eagle expressing his delight, writing:
“My ambition has been to return to Traverse City, since they made me leave, to operate what I think is the most beautiful theater in our circuit. I have come to love the city, its good natured folks, and have often told my wife that Traverse City is the place to make a home. So it is with great pleasure that I can announce that my longings have been realized and I have again been transferred to the best little city in the world.”
Over the course of the next sixteen years, Foster worked tirelessly to make the Lyric the best theater in Michigan. Ahead of his time, in the spring of 1929 Foster had the foresight to bring “talkies” to the Lyric, installing the latest state-of-the-art sound technology and film projectors in Traverse City. At that time, sound technician Walter Beck claimed this was the smallest city in the country, to his knowledge, to have installed this modern equipment.
Foster’s impact extended far beyond his movie house and into all aspects of civic life. He encouraged and promoted Cherry Festival programs, patriotic presentations and educational speakers. He knew the Lyric was more than a just movie theater, but an important gathering space for the community. Serving as head of the Chamber of Commerce, City Commissioner and even Mayor, Foster was committed to serving his community.
Foster managed the Lyric until he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1940. The city mourned his loss, with a tribute in the Record Eagle claiming, “When Con Foster died this morning a part of Traverse City died with him, not a physical part, but a spiritual part.” Downtown businesses closed for his funeral and the Lyric reopened afterward to screen Gone with the Wind.
Foster also created Clinch Park, which is home to the proposed theatre. Find out more and how to donate at Bijou By the Bay.
More Traverse City on Michigan in Pictures!
May 7, 2013
A run of warm weather has the cherry trees in Michigan ready to blossom. Due to their pent up demand to bloom, we should see blossoms all across the state this weekend. Up here in the “Cherry Capital of the World” near Traverse City, we saw leaves pushing out over the weekend and the first buds are getting ready to burst. The same is true in Southwest Michigan.
Even better news is that despite a little flirting with the 30s expected for the coming weekend, we aren’t likely to see full-on frost in 2013. This is a welcome change from 2012 when Michigan saw near total losses across a broad range of fruit crops due to our “summer in March.”
March 2, 2013
Northwestern Michigan College here in Traverse City has just under 5000 students and is turning from a 2 year to a 4 year college. As part of this, they will be adding athletics again, and that means they need a mascot. So this week they selected a new one – the NMC Hawk Owls.
With a weight of half a pound to a pound, a length of just 14-16″ and a wingspan of just under 2 1/2 feet, the Northern Hawk Owl appears to be the perfect mascot:
Northern Hawk Owl – Surnia ulula at OwlPages.com:
Hunting & Food: Takes mainly small mammals as prey, mostly lemmings and voles. Will also take birds, frogs and occasionally fish. Prey weight is normally below 70g. Hunts by searching from a lookout, then quickly flying to swoop down on prey. Has been observed hovering also.
Breeding: Male advertises potential nest sites, and the female selects one. Nests in Cavities on top of broken trunks, natural tree hollows, abandoned holes of large woodpeckers. Will accept nest boxes, and occasionally use a stick nest of a larger bird. Laying normally occurs in April and the first half of May. Clutch sizes are usually between 5 and 13 eggs, each 36-44mm x 29-34.4mm. Eggs are laid at 1-2 day intervals, and incubated by the female alone for 25-30 days. During this time, the male feeds the female.
Northern Hawk-Owl at Wikipedia:
The Northern Hawk-Owl has been said to resemble a hawk in appearance and in behavior. In North America, its appearance in flight is often considered similar to a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). It has been suggested that this may be because the Hawk-Owl may partially fill an important diurnal niche similar to that of day hunters such as hawks.
…Northern Hawk Owls are unevenly distributed and highly variable throughout the boreal forest. They live mostly in open coniferous forests, or coniferous forests mixed with deciduous species such as larch, birch, poplar, and willow. They are found in muskegs, clearings, swamp valleys, meadows, or recently burnt areas, and generally avoid dense spruce-fir forests. Winter habitat is usually the same as breeding habitat.
Northern Hawk Owl at All About Birds adds that their International conservation status is Least Concern and some cool facts:
- The Northern Hawk Owl can detect prey by sight at a distance of up to 800 meters (half a mile).
- Though it is thought to detect prey primarily by sight, the Northern Hawk Owl can find and seize prey under 30 cm (1 foot) of snow.
The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory adds that Northern Hawk Owl were observed yesterday in Trout Lake and Dryburg, Michigan.
Grabbing a mouse through a foot of snow? That’s a seriously scary predator … at least if you’re the prey. Click all those links to explore photos, calls and more about these tiny terrors.
More owls (and also apparently words that end with owl) on Michigan in Pictures.
February 9, 2013
On Michigan in Pictures I usually blog beautiful things, but today I’m featuring an ugly thing that we in Michigan should all be concerned about. Traverse City based Circle of Blue has an in-depth feature on the record-low level of Lake Michigan-Huron:
The latest numbers released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on February 5 show that both lakes Michigan and Huron — which are two connected lakes — are experiencing their lowest point since records began in 1918. Water levels were an average of 175.57 meters (576.02 feet) for the month of January, approximately 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) lower than the previous record set in 1964.
“Not only have water levels on Michigan-Huron broken records the past two months, but they have been very near record lows for the last several months before then,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office at the Corps, in a press release. “Lake Michigan-Huron’s water levels have also been below average for the past 14 years, which is the longest period of sustained below-average levels since 1918 for that lake.”
The low water levels, which the Corps attributes to: below-average snowfall during the winter of 2011-2012, last summer’s drought, and above-average evaporation during the summer and fall of 2012, have the potential to hurt the Great Lakes’ shipping industry.
…For the water levels on Lake Michigan-Huron to reach even near-average water levels again, the Corps said it will take many seasons with above average precipitation and below-average evaporation.
Read on at Circle of Blue for much more including the struggles that wildlife are having with the changing climate. You can also view the release from the Army Corps of Engineers and see historic Great Lakes levels back to 1918. From the Army Corps, I learned that at 1 1/2 ft below normal, ships are losing 8-10% of their carrying capacity.
Beyond harm to the multi-billion dollar shipping industry which feeds countless industrial endeavors, the low lake levels are making many of our recreational harbors inaccessible. These feed our multi-billion dollar sport fishing industry and this has prompted Gov. Snyder to endorse a $21 million emergency dredging plan, $11 million of which would come from Michigan’s general fund. With over a half a million jobs in Michigan alone tied to the health of the Great Lakes, getting a handle on the threats that impact them are likely to be at the center of our policy and spending for a long time.
In a curious bit of synchronicity, you can see just how vital the Great Lakes are to Michigan in Michigan Sea Grant’s reports on Economic Vitality and the Great Lakes. View this photo bigger and see more in their Grand Traverse Bay Low Water slideshow.
February 5, 2013
A couple of years ago, this bridge was for sale. An old listing has a map and summertime photo, and another I found says that this 90 foot private, covered bridge leads across a deep ravine to a heavily wooded parcel on Herendeen Lake near Lake Ann.
October 18, 2012
I ran into Ken last weekend in Traverse City, and – like many visitors to the region – he spent some time touring Traverse City’s wine country. The vineyards look great at this time of year and (even better) the grapes in these vineyards and all over the state are defying the general agricultural awfulness. Long, dry summer made this vintage year for wine grapes from Crain’s Detroit Business begins:
Call it global warming or climate change, it doesn’t matter to winemaker Lee Lutes. He calls the past few years of long, warm, dry summers an “exceptional growing season” for his grapes.
Today the head winemaker at Black Star Farms is helping harvest the crop on the winery’s 150 acres on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas.
And while the region’s crop of tart cherries was ruined by the weather’s mood swings in the spring — 80 degrees in March, then frost in May — wine grapes mature later and, for the most part, survived if not thrived. The variety of grapes grown in Michigan are really meant for warmer regions.
More Michigan farms on Michigan in Pictures.
August 23, 2012
August 20, 2012
“We’re healing one of Mother Earth’s arteries. I think she’s been hurting for a long time.”
~Hank Bailey, Grand Traverse Band Natural Resources Official
The Boardman River watershed encompasses 291 square miles and flows 179 miles from its origin in Kalkaska County to West Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City. Last Wednesday, the process of removing three no longer used hydro-electric dams from the Boardman began at Brown Bridge Dam. The removal of the three Boardman River dams (Brown Bridge, Sabin & Boarman) will be the largest dam removal project in Michigan’s history, and the largest wetlands restoration in the Great Lakes Basin. It will allow the Boardman to return to a more natural state as a free-flowing, cold-water river. You can read all about the dam removal on the Boardman River website which explains:
The Boardman River was formed after the last retreat of glaciers covering Northern Michigan approximately 10,000 years ago. The proto-Boardman River was a tributary of the Manistee River and flowed south to Lake Michigan. The course of the river changed as early headwaters streams cut through glacial deposits and joined with the proto-Boardman River. This allowed the Boardman River to flow north and empty into Grand Traverse Bay. Glacial deposits, in particular the Kalkaska series soil, are responsible for the high quality of the Boardman River.
…Americans living in the area knew the River by another name. They valued the river as an important transportation route as well as a source of sustenance. Early European settlers called the river the “Ottawa” after the local band of Native Americans. Things changed when Captain Harry Boardman came to the area around 1848, established a sawmill, and acquired timber rights for the area. Captain Boardman stored logs for his sawmill in a natural lake on the Ottawa River, which became known as “Boardman’s Lake.” In time, the entire river became known as the “Boardman River.” In 1852 Captain Boardman sold his timber rights to the real timber barons of time, Perry Hanna & Tracy Lay. The Boardman River played a vital role in the economic growth of the region as it was cleared of debris in order to drive logs downriver to the mills. This process fueled a growing city but was devastating to the river’s aquatic habitat, contributing to the extirpation of Michigan Grayling in the river. After the logging era, several dams were constructed to provide power for the growing needs of Traverse City. These hydroelectric dams originally supplied a large percentage of the city’s electrical needs, but this declined over time. Before being decommissioned in 2005, these dams only provided 3.4% of the power used by Traverse City Light & Power customers each year.
Of approximately 179 miles of stream in the Boardman River Watershed, 36 are designated as “Blue Ribbon” trout habitat. These areas, located upstream of the Beitner Road crossing are premier fish habitat and important to anglers. Boardman River anglers have an important economic impact on the region. The entire watershed is also used for activities such as canoeing, tubing, kayaking, hiking, hunting, and bird watching. These uses make it a destination for an estimated 2 million Recreational User Days annually.
This project seems to me to be an excellent example of “government done right” – an adequately funded effort that leverages a wide range of scientific experts to protect property owners while restoring a natural resource to its natural state. There’s also a Boardman River Prosperity Plan that will seek to turn a solid environmental decision into a sound economic one was well.
Also see this feature on IPR News Radio and a cool video about the dam removals produced for The Grand Vision Natural Resource Network by Miles Chisholm of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The video includes some great old photos of activity on the river.
July 16, 2012
Christopher Morey got a couple of nice shots of this snapping turtle – be sure to check out his slideshow of diving photos!
July 7, 2012
The National Cherry Festival (July 7-14) kicks off today in Traverse City. From Black Diamond jets screaming across the skies to Cherry Queen candidates parading across the stage to all manner of parades, tasting events, concerts and games for all ages, this is the biggest party anywhere in celebration of Michigan’s mighty cherry!
One downside is that Michigan’s cherry crop was devastated by our wacky spring, but hopefully we’ll be back at the top of cherry production in 2013. Also see more about the Cherry Festival from Michigan in Pictures.