Fighting for Michigan’s Environment

"Bridge to Nowhere" Foggy Mackinac Bridge - Mackinaw City , Michigan.

“Bridge to Nowhere” Foggy Mackinac Bridge – Mackinaw City , Michigan, photo by Michigan Nut

“Unless we move without delay to halt the deterioration of our land, our water and our air, our own children may see the last traces of earth’s beauty crushed beneath the weight of man’s waste and ruin.”
~Governor William Milliken to the Michigan legislature, January 1970

While “environmentalism” has become a polarizing term, it seems to me to be a concept that’s at the core of loving & caring for the Great Lakes State. One of my personal heros, Michigan Governor Bill Milliken, recognized this and he and his wife Helen fought strongly throughout their careers to enshrine protection of the natural bounty that they loved into the fabric of Michigan’s laws. It’s no surprise that every year the Michigan Environmental Council recognizes an individual for outstanding leadership, enduring commitment and extraordinary public service in protecting natural resources at the local, state and national levels with the Helen & William Milliken Distinguished Service Award.

The 2013 recipient has been announced, Dave Dempsey. Dempsey is the author of numerous books, a former member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, environmental policy adviser to former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, and member of the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund Board.

“Dave Dempsey is the rare leader who is able to move effortlessly from talking about the arcane technical details of some issue, to explaining in vivid and powerful terms why that issue is so critical to the quality of life for the generations that come after us,” Chris Kolb, MEC president, said in a press release Monday.

“Dave’s contributions to a better Michigan through his public policy advocacy alone deserve our recognition and gratitude. However, when you add in his authoritative chronicling of Michigan’s environmental history through his books, it’s clear he has made a special, positive, and lasting impact on our state.”

There’s no doubt that Dempsey has been a champion of the Great Lakes, and this Sunday (July 14) you have a chance to do some championing of your own as dedicated groups from all over the state host Oil & Water Don’t Mix: A Rally for the Great Lakes to raise awareness about climate change and the dangers posed by an oil pipeline that runs through the Mackinac Straits. Enbridge Energy – the company responsible for the devastating July 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill and over 800 other spills since 1999 – has been pumping oil through the Straits for 60 years. They are seeking to pump even more oil through the aging Mackinac pipeline – possibly including tar sands, the most toxic and hard to clean up if spilled.

The rally this Sunday, July 14 at noon at Bridge View Park in St. Ignace (just across the bridge) and there are numerous busses heading there from Kalamazoo, Lansing, Traverse City and other locations. Click for details or view the event on Facebook!

Check John’s photo out bigger and see more in his Bridges / Covered Bridges slideshow.

Mackinac Island in Winter

Mackinac Island in the winter

Mackinac Island in the winter by SuzyQ0763, photo by SuzyQ0763

Mackinac Island is one of Michigan’s coolest places, drawing over 10,000 visitors a day for much of the summer. Winter on Mackinac is different though, and something that many of us never get to see.

The Arnold Line says that they keep boats running across until early January. After that, islanders use a six-seater plane operated by Great Lakes Air. Once the straits freeze (usually by February) folks can cross on snowmobiles, following the “bridge” marked by Christmas trees in the snow and ice between the Island and St. Ignace (click for a video).

If you’re interested in checking out the island in winter, the Mackinac Island Winter Festival takes place next weekend (February 1-3) at Great Turtle Park. The fun includes a bonfire cook out, sledding, snow golf, archery, snow volleyball, and broom hockey.

Check Suzy’s photo out background big or view all her photos from a winter’s day on Mackinac Island.

Castle Rock, a Natural Lookout

Castle Rock, circa late 1920s or early 1930s, photo courtesy Seeking Michigan

This morning I saw a photo of Castle Rock in the Absolute Michigan group on Flickr that made me wonder about the history of this iconic UP tourist stop. Bob Garrett of the Archives of Michigan has the story in A Natural Lookout at Seeking Michigan:

The Upper Peninsula contains a wealth of great scenery. One might wish to climb to a high point and “take it all in.” Fortunately, nature sometimes provides a natural lookout. One such lookout is Castle Rock.

Castle Rock is located near St. Ignace, on the Upper Peninsula side of the Straits of Mackinac. The Rock is a natural limestone tower, standing nearly two hundred feet above lake level. Wind and water erosion have shaped it into a sort of “castle.” Visitors who climb the 170 steps to the top will receive a stunning view. Looking left to right, one can see St. Martin Island, Marquette Island in Les Cherneaux (on a clear day), the town of St. Ignace, ferries coming to and from Mackinac Island and the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

Castle Rock had been an ancient lookout of the Ojibway tribe, who often called it “Pontiac’s Lookout.” A company named Norton and Lund purchased the site around 1927. Norton and Lund built a stairway to the top of the Rock, opened a souvenir stand and made cabins available for tourists.

Shortly thereafter (Sources differ on the date.), a St. Ignace photographer and businessman named Charles Clarence Eby (1890-1961) bought the property. Eby hoped to increase tourism, and he used his photography skills toward that end. He launched a high volume postcard business, and his postcards and other promotional material drew people to the Upper Peninsula and the St. Ignace area.

Around 1958, statues of the mythical lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, were built at the foot of the stairs. These were handcrafted by Calvin Tamlyn, who was Eby’s son in law. They still greet visitors today.

Castle Rock can be found north of St. Ignace, along I-75. Take exit 348, and you’ll be there. For more information, see the Castle Rock Web site.

You can head over to Seeking Michigan for more including some books in Michigan libraries, a photo of Paul & Babe and also a stereoscopic pic from the 20s. There’s a little more info on Wikipedia, including a panorama of the view from the top of the rock.

Seeking Michigan is the web site of the Archives of Michigan and it’s packed full of articles like this in their Look section and also an extensive & searchable Michigan photo archive.

More roadside attractions on Michigan in Pictures.

Snow kiting at the Straits with WISSA 2012

WISSA 2012 at St Ignace, photo courtesy WISSA 2012

The 2012 World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships (WISSA) take place February 20 – 26 in St. Ignace, and are in the US for the first time in 17 years. This event is a major worldwide competition and you can read all about it right here on Absolute Michigan!

Watch your step atop Castle Rock

Watch your step!

Watch your step!, photo by robizphoto.

In their entry about Castle Rock, Hunt’s Guide to the UP says that Castle Rock is a limestone stack, eroded by water and wind to form a “castle” nearly 200 feet above Lake Huron:

Clarence Eby, a St. Ignace photographer and pioneer of area tourism, acquired Castle Rock and, in 1928, opened it as a destination, just as somewhat better area roads enabled motorists to go sightseeing in outlying areas. He made postcards of sights in Mackinac County, the island, and the Straits, created a guidebook with ads from resorts and cabins, and worked to create a Chamber of Commerce information center in town. Today Eby’s grandson Mark runs Castle Rock

Click the link above to see one of Eby’s colorized postcards and get more info including a panoramic photo from Wikipedia.

Check this out bigger and in robizphoto’s Landscapes slideshow.

Before the Mackinac Bridge: City of Munising

Mackinac MI UP Great Lakes Passenger and Auto Ferry City of Munising connecting Mackinaw City and St Ignace before the Mackinaw Bridge was build

Mackinac MI UP Great Lakes Passenger and Auto Ferry City of Munising connecting Mackinaw City and St Ignace before the Mackinaw Bridge was built, photo by UpNorth Memories – Donald (Don) Harrison.

Before the Mackinac Bridge was built (check Absolute Michigan for lots more on that), going to or from the UP was by ferry. The City of Munising was the last of the breed:

Built by the American Ship Building Company of Cleveland in 1903 for the Pere Marquette Railway Company, the “Pere Marquette 20” became the “City of Munising” in 1937. The Michigan Department of Highways used the ship to ferry autos across the Straits of Mackinac until 1959. The ship was used for potato storage by a Washington Island, Wisconsin firm until 1973.

Michigan State Ferry Album has some photos of the City of Munising and other ships that plied the Straits.

Check this out bigger and see some shots of the old ferry docks in Don’s slideshow of old Mackinac photos

2009 Ice Breaking Cruise on the Straits of Mackinac

Mackinaw Bridge

Mackinaw Bridge, photo by SMCphotography.

Shirley was lucky enough to be aboard the USCGC Biscayne Bay out of St. Ignace as she opened a channel under the Mackinac Bridge early last week. She writes:

Ever have one of those days that you wouldn’t trade for anything? This is it. Unbelievable cold weather , well below zero. Traveled in an Army bus with little to no heat, broke down, froze for 2 hrs, 2nd bus rescued us, little to no heat. Finally made it to the cruise, froze everything, ate medium warm food, met lots of great people and shot over 700 photos. So much fun. The views of the ice and Mackinaw Bridge in the dead of winter are absolutely beautiful. Thanks to ESGR Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for giving me this absolutely wonderful day.

You can view photos from the ice breaking cruise and definitely check out the slideshow!

Read more about the Coast Guard Cutter Biscane Bay from Hunts UP Guide.