2018-01-04 / Life in Leelanau

2017 Rewind: Hot harvests, drugs caused concern across county


ABBY LALONDE is pictured this summer carting tart cherries around Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center orchards in Bingham Township. The 2018 growing season went well for most growers until hot and humid weather at harvest softened fruit. ABBY LALONDE is pictured this summer carting tart cherries around Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center orchards in Bingham Township. The 2018 growing season went well for most growers until hot and humid weather at harvest softened fruit. Editor’s note: We conclude our look back at 2017 this week with front-page stories from July to December.

July 6, 2017

The impending closing of Boskydel Vineyard, one of the county’s first wineries, is being viewed as completion of a life’s plan.

The sons of wine-growing icon Bernie Rink announced on the vineyard’s website an “important message to our patrons,” outlining plans to cease winery and tasting room operations on Jan. 1.

“He’s 90, so we have been trying to follow in his footsteps without success,” said Andy Rink, who is an architect in Traverse City in his “second job.” “In his own words, it served a purpose. He started this to keep five boys tired at night.”

* * *

It appears owners of the M-22 trademark are weathering a legal challenge by the state Attorney General.

Five years ago, the State of Michigan filed a civil lawsuit against owners of a company called M22 LLC, Traverse City natives Keegan and Matt Myers. The brothers had begun selling tee-shirts and other merchandise emblazoned with the symbol of the popular state highway — a black square with a white diamond containing the characters “M22.”

Neither brother returned calls seeking comment in time for this story.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette said in 2012 that the company unlawfully registered the state highway sign as a trademark. A civil lawsuit filed by the state argued that the trademark made the state highway non-compliant with federal traffic control regulations.


SHERIFF MIKE Borkovich kneels by the dinghy that a drowned man found in Lake Michigan purchased to assist in his suicide. SHERIFF MIKE Borkovich kneels by the dinghy that a drowned man found in Lake Michigan purchased to assist in his suicide. * * *

Forty years ago, the “sand dune boys” flipped Michigan high school basketball upside down at Chrysler Arena with a 70-68 win over Detroit East Catholic in the Class D title game.

This week, the boys are back in town.

Members of the 1977 Glen Lake team have traveled from across the globe to partake in the 40th anniversary of their dramatic state championship win — a game decided by a pair of Geof Kotila free throws with one second left on the clock.

July 13, 2017

A ‘conditional zoning’ amendment that could allow marijuana growing facilities in Solon Township moved beyond its first hurdle for adoption at a public hearing held Tuesday.


SOME 19 of Gail Herendeen’s closest young friends — all from Indiana — visited her home on big Glen Lake this summer. They were enticed by neighbor Warren Boos to don Michigan T-shirts and “have fun” — which they did at a lookout off Pierce Stocking Drive, with Herendeen snapping the shot. The picture appeared on the front page of the August 31 Enterprise. SOME 19 of Gail Herendeen’s closest young friends — all from Indiana — visited her home on big Glen Lake this summer. They were enticed by neighbor Warren Boos to don Michigan T-shirts and “have fun” — which they did at a lookout off Pierce Stocking Drive, with Herendeen snapping the shot. The picture appeared on the front page of the August 31 Enterprise. The Solon Township Planning Commission on a vote of 6-1 approved a motion to forward the amendment to the county planning commission for its recommendation subject to the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.

But Solon planners stopped short of making an actual recommendation in favor of the zoning amendment.

The next step in the process may have the amendment coming back to Solon Township planners, who would consider any county input and tweak the amendment if needed before making a recommendation and forwarding it to the Solon Township Board for possible adoption.


TED LANHAM in November joined the more than 145 military servicemen who have signed this wing section as part of the 384th Bomb Group Veterans Signing Project. TED LANHAM in November joined the more than 145 military servicemen who have signed this wing section as part of the 384th Bomb Group Veterans Signing Project. More than 150 people — most of them Solon Township residents — sweltered through nearly three hours of public comment at the hearing, held at the Township Hall in Cedar.

* * *

Yet another effort to consider adopting a countywide ordinance mandating septic system inspections to protect local water quality has gone down in flames.

At its executive meeting Tuesday morning, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to reject a proposal by District No. 4 Commissioner Ty Wessell to appoint a “septic committee.”

As proposed by Wessell, a supporter of such an ordinance, the committee would consider “all options to responsibly address this environmental quality and public health issue.”

* * *

An arthritic duck and an estimated two-dozen other birds residing on a 3.2- acre residential property in The Forest subdivision of Elmwood Township are at the heart of a neighborhood dispute that waddled into the Elmwood Township Board meeting this week.

Claiming that he represents at least 80 percent of his neighbors in the subdivision, Mike Moritz of Forest Drive in Elmwood Township appealed to the Township Board to cry “fowl” over what he and township officials agree is an obvious Zoning Ordinance violation in the neighborhood.

The Township Board responded by passing motions setting a legal path to have the poultry evicted.

July 20, 2017

Leelanau County’s largest school district is considering closing its doors to Schools of Choice (SOC) students.

The Glen Lake Board of Education on Monday night discussed closing its enrollment to SOC students, who currently represent a whopping 36 percent of its student body.

The move would not impact families currently enrolled through SOC.

Historically, school policy has been to welcome students provided their addition wouldn’t bring class size to a level that would require creation of another section and hiring another teacher.

Once accepted, the student is allowed to complete his or her high school education at Glen Lake, and siblings may enroll at Glen Lake at a later time.

* * *

Above average precipitation over the Great Lakes is contributing to higher water levels in the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron basin – with levels expected to increase another 5-9 inches over 2016 in the months to come.

High water has scaled back beaches and limited space available for shoreline walking in some areas.

It’s also causing more work for those managing Leelanau County’s municipal marinas.

“The water levels have been going up so fast that I need to keep adjusting our launch ramp,” said Edie Aylsworth, the Village of Suttons Bay’s harbormaster.

July 27, 2017

Suttons Bay Superintendent Chris Nelson has resigned less than three months after receiving a glowing review by the district Board of Education.

Some 60 people attended a special meeting of the School Board called Monday to review a letter from legal counsel. The only item on the agenda was to consider a “resolution on employment of an employee.”

Board members went into closed session for more than an hour before reemerging and hearing Nelson read a letter of resignation.

* * *

A landmark waterfront office building in Greilickville that had been on the market with a $4.9 million price-tag may be turned into a residential condo building.

Located on S. West Bay Shore Drive (M-22) opposite Rennie Road in Elmwood Township, a building currently being called the “Viridian” building may soon become the “West Point Condominiums.”

The Elmwood Township Planning Commission last week heard from representatives of a developer who hopes to purchase the office building and convert it into 11 residential condo units.

An additional four residential units would be constructed in a separate building on the 2.26-acre parcel, which includes 634 feet of West Grand Traverse Bay water-frontage. The project would result in the creation of 15 waterfront residential condo units in total.

August 3, 2017

Untimely rain late in the growing season and high temperatures early this week have placed local tart cherry growers in a race against the clock.

Industry representatives say they’ve been seeing some high-quality tarts but that the heat has taken its toll on soft and susceptible fruit. Soft cherries don’t pit cleanly, making them tough to process.

“I feel more optimistic than I did last week,” said Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center. “We’ve had a challenging season with the rain, pressure for disease and looming SWD (spotted wing drosophila) pressure, but we’re hanging in there.”

Fortunately, most tart cherry growers are well past the midway point.

* * *

Solon Township residents trying to express their opinions about a proposed medical marijuana facility directly to Planning Commission members are getting a cold — but polite — shoulder.

According to one Planning Commission member, that’s because they’ve been told not to speak directly to residents about the proposal. The directive came from Solon zoning administrator Tim Cypher, according to Planning Commission vice chairman Laura Tarsa.

She said she’s been pulled in many directions on the issue, and is trying her best to follow proper procedure.

* * *

By all accounts, the nearly 13-mile stretch of newly-paved M-22 highway provides a smooth — and wider — ride from start to finish.

That’s good news for joggers and bicyclists, as well as motorists.

“I think it’s turned out beautifully,” said Tim Stein, Cleveland Township supervisor. “The new five-foot shoulders, instead of the crumbling shoulders, are going to be a welcome addition to both motorists and cyclists.”

The $4.8 million Michigan Department of Transportation project included the resurfacing of 12.7 miles of M-22 from Duck Lake Road in Leland Township to Thoreson Road just south of Glen Arbor.

August 10, 2017

An attorney representing Solon Township ripped a county planning report as factually incorrect, questions arose over why and how the township accepted a $3,000 “donation” from a proposed medical marijuana facility, and an effort to limit public comment to 45 seconds per person was quashed.

Yet, the most pertinent information to arise from a well-attended, 3 1/2-hour Leelanau County Planning Commission meeting held Tuesday may be that the entire process used to gain permission to build a medical marijuana growing and processing plant could be undercut tonight by the Solon Township Board.

* * *

A man found floating off the Leland Harbor more than a month ago has been identified as an illegal alien from the United Kingdom.

Marcus Brandon Adams, 67, was found on July 4 but was finally identified on Tuesday when a detective from the Washington, D.C. police department recognized a composite photograph of the victim as a missing persona.

Adams, whose death was an apparent suicide, has a last known address in the Washington, D.C., area, according to Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich.

Adams had apparently sent several letters to friends and relatives in the New York and D.C. area stating that he was contemplating suicide by drowning. He checked into a resort in the Ludington area and purchased a 10-foot Bris rubber dinghy from Amazon.com, Borkovich said.

* * *

Unwelcome rain last week continued to degrade the quality of Leelanau County’s remaining tart cherries.

“Everything we’re harvesting now, we’re harvesting for juice,” said Jeff Send, owner and operator of Send Receiving and S&E Farms.

Heat and untimely rain had already softened up tarts left on trees — but it seems the most recent precipitation made the fruit nearly unpittable.

Send said cherries for juice and frozen cherries are selling for similar prices, but overall that prices are poor.

August 17, 2017

A pall of uncertainty was pulled away Monday night when Suttons Bay Public Schools interim Superintendent Mike Carmean delivered news everyone wanted but few expected to hear: There will be no teacher layoffs to begin the 2017-18 school year.

A crowd of teachers, parents and community members broke into smiles and applause as Carmean made the announcement, one of his first actions after board members unanimously approved his contract.

“I’ve met with the administrative team and there will be no layoffs as of tonight,” Carmean said.

The announcement put at ease fears among teaching and administrative staff as they were notified of layoffs in June.

* * *

Continued high Lake Michigan water levels have given local public beaches and property owners alike less beach, bringing them into closer contact.

It’s a closeness that some don’t want.

Alexander Janko’s parents have a home on South Beach in Leland where beach-goers have tossed trash onto their private property, changed clothes on the patio stairs, let their dogs defecate on their property, looted wood from a boardwalk to feed their bonfires and let their children use that boardwalk as a running ramp to leap over the fires.

There has also been plenty of drunkenness, theft and vandalism, Janko said.

* * *

It appears that the site of the first steam-powered sawmill in the Grand Traverse region is still letting off air.

Or, more precisely, methane.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with state and local officials are working to mitigate the presence of methane gas at a site within the Harbor West Condominiums in Greilickville.

The area of concern is located on private property near the entrance of the Harbor West Marina Village off the east side of M-22 (South West Bay Shore Drive) opposite the end of Cherry Bend Road (County Road 633),

August 24, 2017

A family that lives just south of M-72 is exploring its options after learning their son will not be able to attend Glen Lake Community Schools as planned.

Billy and Dawn Skea’s son, Mason, had gone to the school’s fee-based preschool last year and participated in kindergarten roundup in April. The family lives off Goodrick Road, just outside of the Glen Lake district.

“He was given a tomato plant and told that when his tomato was ripe, it would be time to go to school,” Billy Skea said. “I can’t bear to tell him that he won’t be a little Laker.”

* * *

Several residents of Leelanau Township are wondering why they are paying for 19.9 percent of the municipal sewer debt when they only have 15 percent of the sewer users.

The Village of Northport, on the other hand, is responsible for 80.1 percent of the sewer debt when it has about 85 percent of the sewer users.

Revenue from the sewer is determined by Residential Equivalent Units (REUs); the township bills for 92 REUs and the village bills for 505.5.

Single family homes are charged 1 REU; businesses with apartments, and restaurants are charged more.

* * *

Leland Public School is bursting at the seams, leading to a cap on School of Choice students at four class levels on the eve of the start of school.

“It’s the first time we’ve done this,” superintendent Jason Stowe said. “It’s because we were reaching a point where we were one student away from having to add an aide in each class.”

As of Monday enrollment at Leland sat at 520 — the highest-ever headcount on the school campus. Among them are 61 students who are completely new to the district.

August 31, 2017

The owner of Sugar Loaf Resort — California attorney and real estate developer Jeff Katofsky — visited Leelanau County last week to tour his property and meet with county officials.

Katofsky is expected to return to Leelanau County sometime in October for further discussions with county officials. He plans to also hold a meeting open to the public during which he has promised to address questions people might have about him or his plans for Sugar Loaf, officials said.

“Mr. Katofsky understands he has a serious credibility problem here in Leelanau County and would like to rectify that,” said Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik, who was among several county officials who met with Katofsky last week.

Katofsky’s credibility issues stem from his relationship with a former longtime owner of the resort, Remo Polselli, who acquired the resort in 1997. The resort has been closed since March 2000 and has deteriorated ever since.

* * *

It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” for anyone who gets excited about learning.

Just over 2,300 students enrolled in schools located in Leelanau County are enjoying their last weekend of summer break, preparing to return to the classroom Tuesday.

As of yesterday, three public schools in the county are expecting an increase in enrollment, while one is looking at a significant decrease.

For the first time ever, Glen Lake Community Schools and Leland Public Schools put caps on the number of School of Choice students accepted at specific grade levels.

* * *

A local “affordable housing” group is coming back to life.

Leelanau REACH — which stands for Resources for Economical and Accessible Community Housing — hasn’t built a new home anywhere in the county since 2010.

“There used to be a number of government programs you could tap into to help pay for new homes that local working people could afford,” explained Kathy Egan, the group’s part-time coordinator and only paid staff member.

September 7, 2017

The checks are in the mail, according to officials of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Local governments and nonprofits in Leelanau County have come to rely on the semi-annual “2-percent” checks, which stem from a percentage of gaming funds received by the Tribe at its casinos in Peshawbestown and Whitewater Township.

Generally, the tribe stages a twice-yearly media event to announce the distributions and to accept thanks publicly from representatives of the nonprofit organizations and units of government receiving the payments in lieu of property taxes.

However, an event slated for Aug. 18 was canceled with no word on when or how the latest round of 2-percent payouts would be distributed. Officials of several local units of government have contacted the Enterprise since then to see if any staff member knew when the payments would be forthcoming.

* * *

The county Chamber-maintained visitor center in Lake Leelanau is being closed as the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the Leelanau Peninsula Vintner’s Association draw closer.

“The LPVA was kind enough to let us bunk with them at considerable savings,” explained Tina Van Thomme, a member of the county Chamber Board of Directors. “This is going to be a joint effort and a saving for both organizations that are similar in what they do in the promotion of tourism.”

The Chamber plans to move its visitors center to join its offices to the Leelanau Building in the former Norris School, located off M-22 at Cherry Bend Road in Greilickville.

September 14, 2017

While the Solon Township Board effectively ended the question of whether a proposed medical marijuana processing plant will be built off Lincoln Road, some questions remain weeks after that decision.

And those questions may never be answered completely.

The Township Board at its meeting on Aug. 10 voted unanimously to stop marijuana processing plants from locating in Solon. But the procedures used to process the prospective marijuana business remain murky.

For instance, did the township accept a $3,000 “donation” from the developer, as the township attorney says, or was the check made out by Sam Rosinski on behalf of the 42 Degrees corporation the basis for an escrow account to offset township expenses?

* * *

For black bears in Leelanau County, state-sanctioned hunting seasons have come and gone for half a century with hardly a brush in their daily routine.

But with their population on the rise, that changed over the weekend.

For the first time since what is thought be the 1960s, a state-licensed hunter on Friday evening shot a black bear in Leelanau County.

Then a second hunter connected Saturday night.

Both hunters are lifelong county residents. And both hunters were adamant after waiting 12 to 13 years in line for a bear license that they would only hunt in the county.

September 21, 2017

Local zoning ordinances help control what, where and how things happen on the Leelanau Peninsula.

But enforcement doesn’t happen on its own. And the cost is borne by taxpayers.

An Enterprise survey of the county’s 11 townships and three incorporated villages showed the cost of administering the ordinance totals more than $270,000 a year.

* * *

A new legal battle is brewing between the owner of a controversial “wedding barn” in Elmwood Township, Frank Noverr, and a group known as the Southeast Leelanau Association of Neighbors (SLAN).

The group has been complaining for years about “special events” traffic on Lakeview Road, where many of them own homes on south Lake Leelanau, and amplified noise coming from Noverr’s 20-acre farm during wedding receptions and other mass gatherings.

* * *

The Leelanau County government has selected a day to observe “Indigenous Peoples Day.”

The roughly 800 Native Americans residing in Leelanau County will be recognized on their own day of Oct. 1 — not on Columbus Day, which occurs each year on the second Monday of October.

That decision by the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners came Tuesday evening in a split 5-2 vote of the board. District No. 4 Commissioner Ty Wessell, who originally introduced a resolution to observe Indigenous Peoples Day concurrently with Columbus Day, voted “no,” as did District No. 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas Little.

September 28, 2017

With two major north-to-south thoroughfares in Leelanau County getting end-of-season roadwork, some drivers’ may find their patience stretched to the limit.

More than 700 concrete joints are being replaced on a nine-mile stretch of M-22 from Lake View Hills Road at the northern edge of Elmwood Township and goes to Fourth Street in Suttons Bay Village.

Drivers are seeing delays of up to 10 minutes.

Another project on South Lake Leelanau Drive just north of the Bingham Road intersection has closed the road, with drivers being sent on a detour to Center Highway.

* * *

Record warmth in the past 10 days has given a whole new meaning to “baked apples.”

Fruit growers in Leelanau County have been scurrying to get their quickly-ripening apples off the trees.

“We’re not seeing an impact on fruit quality yet,” said Nikki Rothwell, director of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township. “The concern for growers is about storage and how long they’ll last.”

Cool nights and sunny days provide optimal conditions for apple coloring. They’ve been few and far between.

* * *

Randy Weber went to the woods to take care of a widow-maker tree,

The tree nearly lived up to its name.

Weber, 54, is in the intensive care unit at Munson Medical Center recovering from an accident earlier this month that could have easily taken his life.

“He told me he was going to the woods, so I thought he was looking to see what to cut down — not cutting,” said his wife, Yvonne.

Weber is known throughout the peninsula for his success in leading Glen Lake baseball teams to conference and regional championships.

It was shortly before 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 when Weber headed out with chainsaw in hand near his Centerville Township home. Not long after, his son Andrew returned home from Cedar and went to the woods to find his father. But he wasn’t in his usual spot.

October 5, 2017

The thought that record-breaking attendance last year at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was a fluke has officially been debunked.

“It was a monster September,” said Lakeshore deputy superintendent Tom Ulrich. “Last year, we blew ahead of all previous years, and now we are ahead of it.”

The official attendance county for September ended at 185,716 — nearly 17 percent higher than the previous record of 159,394 visitors, set in 2016.

* * *

Leelanau Montessori Public School Academy has launched a campaign to raise funds to purchase and renovate the Connie Binsfeld Resource Center in Lake Leelanau.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.1 million.

October 12, 2017

A new gym and a two-story elementary wing were included in three possible construction projects unveiled by the Leland Board of Education during a special informational meeting Monday.

About 20 people attended the session Monday to hear about needs facing the district and a possible bond request in May to address these needs.

Superintendent Jason Stowe, facilities committee members Bill Robinson and Ross Satterwhite, and representatives of TowerPinkster Architects/Engineers and Miller-Davis Construction presented three plans with price tags ranging from $15 million to $23 million.

* * *

State lawmakers in Lansing are considering legislation that could have a direct impact on a contentious issue in Leelanau County — short term rentals.

State Rep. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) and State Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) both told the Enterprise they’re concerned about pending legislation that would limit the ability of townships and villages to regulate short term rentals and result in the adoption of less stringent statewide rules.

Neither said they support the present bills before their legislative bodies, with VanderWall expressing the strongest opposition.

* * *

Suttons Bay may be the big winner in enrollment this fall, but you wouldn’t know by looking at figures in the Oct. 4 student headcount taken last week.

Overall, student numbers dropped by eight in the count.

The Suttons Bay district, whose enrollments have dropped steadily over the past five years, continued to have fewer students in its classrooms. But the overall count that includes virtual students tells a different story.

October 19, 2017

A standing-room-only crowd of excited Sugar Loafers crammed into the Sugarfoot Saloon in April 2005 to hear the new owner of the resort, Kate Wickstrom, announce that she expected to put ski runs back in operation for the 2006-2007 ski season.

A crowd of people — perhaps less excited — is expected to show up Friday at 11 a.m. in the lower level Community Meeting Room of the Leelanau County Government Center to meet the newest owner of Sugar Loaf Resort, Jeff Katofsky.

By all accounts, Katofsky has the wherewithal and the will to make something good happen at Sugar Loaf Resort, although exactly what that might be and when it might happen is not yet entirely clear — perhaps even to Katofsky.

* * *

A $3,000 payment made by a man who proposed to build and operate a medical marijuana grow and processing facility in Solon Town has been returned.

The payment has been described as a “donation” and to set up an escrow account to cover township expenses in administering his request by various township officials.

The Solon Township Board at its monthly meeting last Thursday voted unanimously to return the money to Solon Township resident Sam Rosinski. The reimbursement was based on recommendations from the Planning Commission and zoning administrator Tim Cypher, who did not return before our deadline a request for comment made Tuesday.

* * *

Advocates for a countywide septic inspection ordinance have something to cheer about.

County Board of Commissioners Chairman Will Bunek, speaking at the Bingham Township Board meeting this week, said he believes commissioners will appoint a committee next month to draft a countywide “septic ordinance.”

For the past two months, members of the public including environmentalists and representatives of local lake associations have been urging the County Board to adopt an ordinance requiring inspections of septic systems when properties are sold.

Neighboring Benzie County has long had such an ordinance they point out.

October 26, 2017

If Jeff Katofsky was on a mission to convince Leelanau County residents and officials that he’s the guy who really can bring Sugar Loaf Resort back to life, mission accomplished.

Since he acquired the long-shuttered resort in November 2015, Katofsky has visited Leelanau County only a handful of times, most of them “stealth visits.”

On Friday, however, he conducted a day-long, whirlwind tour that included meetings with local news media outlets, business leaders and public officials.

Those meetings were before he appeared in front of a standing-room-only crowd of about 150 interested citizens at the county Government Center.

* * *

An out-of-state company has contacted several Leelanau County property owners, offering to lease their land for $800 per acre for use as solar farms.

Leland Township resident Bruce Price, who has 72 acres on Eagle Highway and Co. Rd. 641, got a packet of information in the mail from Cypress Creek Renewables, a company that has put up several solar farms across the country.

The company has offices in North Carolina, California and Arizona.

Price said he is giving the company’s offer serious consideration.

* * *

Unseasonably warm, dry weather gave way to rain — and plenty of it — this week as the season changed seemingly overnight from a very late summer to a nasty fall.

Some 5.16 inches of rain was recorded over a three-day period from Sunday through Tuesday at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township — with forecasts of more to come this weekend.

Accumulated rain crept into roads in low-lying areas county wide and filled retention ponds to their brims.

The big rain also made a lot of work for Gerald Culman II, head of buildings and grounds for Leelanau County, who is also charged with maintaining the court-ordered lake level for Lake Leelanau at 589.20 feet.

November 2, 2017

Although President Donald Trump last week formally declared opioid addiction a public health emergency, officials in Leelanau County have known for quite some time about the growing problem.

In fact, commissioners have already taken a preliminary step toward trying to do something about it.

Earlier this year, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners set as a goal for 2017 the establishment of a substance abuse and opioid addiction task force. A committee of county officials has been meeting for the past two months to organize an “opioid summit” that may be held in the months ahead.

On Saturday, the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office participated in a “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day,” when everybody was encouraged to turn in their unused or expired medication for safe disposal.

* * *

If you’re proposing marriage to someone, don’t do it atop Sugar Loaf Mountain and post photos of it on social media.

Past discrepancies are excluded, of course, which is good news for the future of one couple who did just that. Their proposal — and acceptance — occurred before the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office began a crackdown on trespassing.

Sheriff Mike Borkovich is reminding everyone that Sugar Loaf Resort is private property, so any unauthorized person inside the lodge or other structures — or on the slopes in a vehicle or on foot — constitutes trespassing.

* * *

Attention is turning to Leelanau’s “other” island this week with the 150th anniversary of the lighting of the South Fox Lighthouse.

The Manitou Islands, both part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, get plenty of visitors and plenty of ink.

But you have to really want to get to South Fox, situated 17 miles off the shoreline of the Leelanau Peninsula. And a group of ambitious volunteers have been doing just that for more than a decade.

The Fox Island Lighthouse Association just completed its 13th year of work at the island.

November 9, 2017

Water levels in Lake Michigan aren’t following their usual pattern due to recent rain.

In fact, the water level is now about 10 inches above the level reached a year ago.

The news was reported out of the Army Corps of Engineers hydrology office in Detroit this week.

Normally, water levels in Lake Michigan would have declined sharply last month, but water levels are at about the same level as a month ago because of heavy precipitation, according to a report released by Army engineers.

Few people pay more attention to what’s happening in Lake Michigan waters surrounding Leelanau County than the folks at The Watershed Center – Grand Traverse Bay. Sarah U’Ren of Suttons Bay is a program manager at The Watershed Center.

* * *

Declining enrollment and the growth of co-op programs continue to alter the landscape of Leelanau County sports.

Jim Champion can attest.

Champion, a retired middle school teacher and former coach at Suttons Bay and Lake Leelanau St. Mary, returned to the county coaching ranks Monday for the first official North Bay girls basketball practice. The county’s newest co-op program welcomes girls from Northport and Suttons Bay.

* * *

A downstate developer with roots in the Glen Lake area is making inroads in the hot topic of a lack of affordable housing in Leelanau County.

Tom Thomasma has purchased most of the vacant lots in Maplewood Commons in Kasson Township, and has been busy through his construction company putting in low-priced modular homes.

He has had no contact with the 26-member Leelanau County Housing Task Force or the county Community Development Department. Instead, Thomasma’s interest in the topic was sparked by a conversation with his cousin, Dave Thomasma, who owns Synchronicity in Glen Arbor.

November 16, 2017

Wine lovers may have to forgo local cheese with their next glass of vino — which represents a minor setback compared to the business decisions forced upon county dairy farmers.

The closure of a second county dairy operation due partially to low milk prices is forcing John and Anne Hoyt of Leelanau Cheese to go outside the county for a raw product essential to their trade.

They’ve been crafting award-winning cheese from locally produced milk since 1995.

The Schaub family that has been milking cows on their French Road farm for four generations has sold off much of its Holstein herd, leaving their older cows to live out the rest of their days on the farm and a few left for breeding.

* * *

Fresh off a hefty apple harvest, Cedar fruit grower Greg Williams wasn’t sure what impact the sudden cold spell might have on his trees.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt, but it’s hard to say,” Williams said.

Others are a bit more concerned.

The “slam down” of temperatures, as Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center Coordinator Nikki Rothwell put it, left little time for trees to start their cold acclimation process.

“I’m worried about the cold temperatures on some of the younger trees or trees that haven’t hardened off yet,” Rothwell said last week. “We’ve had a couple grower calls and a bunch of conversations going on about what this means — could it cause damage?”

Suttons Bay Township grower Jim Bardenhagen said it’s a concern for both apple and cherry trees.

Trees didn’t have time to “put their coats on for winter,” Bardenhagen said.

November 23, 2017

A Leelanau County cherry processor is in the midst of installing what is likely the largest privately owned solar panel array in northern Michigan.

The Leelanau County Construction Code Authority recently issued a building permit to Leelanau Fruit Company, located just south of Suttons Bay for the installation of a commercial solar array spanning nearly six acres. Jackson-based Harvest Energy Solutions began the $1.6 million project late last month.

* * *

Two Peshawbestown men this week became the first people “saved” by county deputies in the escalating war against opiates.

The men, age 26 and 30, were found unresponsive about 11:30 p.m. Saturday in a home on the reservation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Tribal police responded with assistance from deputy Steve Bailey, the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office’s designated officer for Leelanau Township.

November 30, 2017

A heroin overdose death in Suttons Bay last week, coupled with two near-fatal overdoses earlier this month, has brought the opioid epidemic to Leelanau County’s doorstep.

All thee men are members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, which is taking a leading role in addressing opioid addiction.

Kevin D. Yannett, 31, died Nov. 22 at a Suttons Bay Village home as a result of a heroin overdose. Two other men, ages 26 and 30, were found unresponsive Nov. 18 at a Peshawbestown home.

The two Peshawbestown men were saved after being treated with naloxone nasal spray, an opioid antidote that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Yannett was also given naloxone, but the antidote was unsuccessful.

* * *

Ground has been broken and construction is expected to begin soon on a 20-room hotel in Empire.

The two-story, wood-frame Sleeping Bear Inn is owned by Megan and Peter Schous, who also own the Empire Lakeshore Inn located on Front Street and M-22 in downtown Empire.

The new inn will be located on M-72 next to the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, where National Park Service offices are located.

The $1.35 million project is being built by Salisbury & May Construction located in Traverse City and owned by Jim May and Fred Salisbury, who lives in Empire.

* * *

A video shot by a local hunter near his blind on commercial forestland in Maple City has not only captured the attention of local law enforcement — but also hunters across the state.

The video, which has garnered more than 300,000 views on Facebook, provides a three-minute, 18-second exchange between hunter Ron O’Neil and a neighbor who was identified as “Mary.”

December 7, 2017

The heroin problem is spiraling out of control in Leelanau County.

So says Sheriff Mike Borkovich, who is currently training all his deputies on Fentanyl and carfentanil — drugs that are mixed with heroin and causing deadly overdoses.

“Just now the overall general public is starting to wake up to the problem,” Borkovich said.

The county also has an undercover officer who is a member of the Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT), multi-jurisdictional drug task force team that is working to eradicate drugs in northern Michigan.

The Leelanau Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have the budget to step up drug enforcement and must work within its means.

* * *

Donna Hillard feels like she lives in the Bermuda Triangle.

But instead of disappearing herself, it’s electrical service that’s been going “poof!”

It’s been gone for days at a time.

Wind gusts ranging from 29-58 mph were recorded throughout the county Tuesday, leaving more than 2,000 homes and businesses without power.

December 14, 2017

Shari Prevost of Cedar is warning pet owners about newly formed ice in Leelanau County.

On Monday her 7-month old yellow Lab, Pearl, and her brother’s 4-year-old golden Lab, Homer, ventured out on thin ice and plunged into the lake at its base off Parker Road in Solon Township.

“A day before there were otters swimming around, so initially I thought it was an albino otter,” Prevost said. “Then I realized they had broken through the ice.”

A 15-foot area of water surrounded them where the ice had broken about 40 yards off shore.

* * *

Heroin calls your name four times a day. It demands about $30 to visit.

Heroin is not to be ignored.

If you don’t have money for a fix, you get it. All you can think about is the warm, sensual content that for a few hours will take over your life.

“I’ve seen people go to the store and steal a bunch of stuff,” said Sam, a former heroin addict from Leelanau County who agreed to be interviewed in hopes of preventing others from following his path. “I’ve seen people steal from their families. I’ve seen people prostitute themselves for the drug.”

December 21, 2017

They say trouble comes in “threes,” so having county deputies respond to three reports of accidents in less than two hours during slippery driving conditions isn’t that unusual.

But finding the same person behind the steering wheel at all three accidents may set some kind of record.

“We are very concerned about her driving, and we have her scheduled for a driver’s license exam,” Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said of the 72-year-old woman, who resides in the county. “She was totally cooperative and showed no signs of drug or alcohol use.”

The first two accidents that occurred last Wednesday, Dec. 20, were minor, and consisted of the woman’s vehicle sliding off the road with no damage or injuries.

Her driving problems began at 12:20 p.m. off Eckerle Road at Center Highway in Bingham Township. Deputies helped pull her out of the ditch.

A second call came in at 1:45 p.m. for a vehicle that had left the road at Herman Road and M-204 in Suttons Bay Township. This time Bingham Towing helped get her back on the road, Borkovich said.

The third accident had the potential to be much more serious, he said.

* * *

A lapse in judgment on behalf of two Glen Lake students during a high school basketball game last Thursday was not received well from school staff or members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians.

The students’ outbursts, however, are turning into a learning moment.

The incidents took place in the early stages of a boys basketball game between Glen Lake and visiting Suttons Bay.

Every time a standout Suttons Bay player — a Native American student — possessed the ball, two students from the Glen Lake student section heckled him with Native American war calls.

Suttons Bay coach Ron Anderson, himself a member of the Grand Traverse Band, said he made Glen Lake Athletic Director Jennifer Johnston aware of the situation.

The students were promptly escorted out of the gym.

December 28, 2017

A slow November will likely keep Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from setting another attendance record.

“November was sort of an average November,” said Lakeshore deputy superintendent Tom Ulrich. “It was pretty close to the average, and as a consequence we pretty much lost all potential to break last year’s record.”

But a snow-filled December could make the final tally close.

The Lakeshore estimated some 17,839 visitors in November, about 10,000 less than in 2016. This year’s total through the firs 11 months of the year stands at 1,668,847 visitors.

The Lakeshore record was set in 2016 with 1,683,553 visitors. That means the December 2017 total would need to top 14,706 to top the mark.

* * *

Bone-chilling cold will see out the old year and usher in the new in Leelanau County.

But that isn’t expected to dampen the spirits of hearty revelers who plan to ring in 2018 at Northport’s sixth annual New Year’s Eve ball drop Sunday.

Usually about 100 people show up to see the “ball” — an exercise ball covered with lights — drop from a second-story window.

“People usually stay inside the establishments until there’s about five minutes to go,” said Cheryl Parker, a frequent participant in the ball drop, sponsored by the Northport-Omena Chamber of Commerce.

Return to top