Nature Nearby: Parks, Trails, Woods and Wildlife Within 10 minutes of downtown Grand Rapids

Stop and have a snack, or listen to the birds, along the Hodenpyl Woods trail. Photo by Howard Meyerson.

Stop and have a snack, or listen to the birds, along the Hodenpyl Woods trail. Photo by Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

Though Grand Rapids’ downtown is often bustling, nature is never far away: green havens can be found throughout the city and all along the Grand River corridor. More than two dozen natural environs can be found within 10-minutes of Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. Several are within easy walking distance, and the rest are close enough to visit on your lunch break or during a lull in your conference schedule or trip itinerary! – Read more on the Experience GR Blog at: Nearby Parks and Trails.

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Bass Rules: Year-round catch-and-release proposed

Fly anglers who enjoy smallmouth bass fishing, like Wayne Andersen shown fishing Hamlin Lake, will be able to target them all year under the expanded catch-and-immediate-release season proposed. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Fly anglers who enjoy smallmouth bass fishing, like Wayne Andersen shown fishing Hamlin Lake, will be able to target them all year under the expanded catch-and-immediate-release season proposed. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

Michigan bass anglers could soon be enjoying more time on the water. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is floating a proposed rule change to allow catch-and-immediate-release (CIR) bass fishing all-year, statewide – except on specific waters that are closed.

The proposed expansion of the CIR season would go into effect April 9, 2015, immediately following an approval by the state’s Natural Resources Commission. It was presented to the commission on March 19 at its Roscommon meeting. A final decision is expected at its April 9 meeting, in East Lansing. Meanwhile, the public has until then to comment.

Keeping bass is currently verboten outside of the possession season, which begins May 23 on most Michigan waters, and June 20 on the St. Clair and Detroit rivers and Lake St. Clair. That’s because bass are usually on the beds spawning at that time. Not allowing anglers to keep them makes the fisheries more robust.

But CIR fishing is allowed some weeks earlier, once the walleye season opens on the last Saturday in April for Lower Peninsula waters, and May 15 on Upper Peninsula waters. The proposed change would allow CIR fishing year-round

The changes will expand fishing opportunities and simplify rules, according to DNR officials. The proposal comes after 15 months of discussion by agency fisheries and law staff, stakeholder groups, and public input. Continue reading

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Fantasic Light

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Found at Paddle Canada on Facebook.

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Prices Rising: National park senior & other passes a great way to save money

Looking out from one of the cliff dwellings at the remnants of the circular pueblo dwellings where a community of people once lived. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Looking out from one of the cliff dwellings at the remnants of the circular pueblo dwellings at New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

A few weeks ago I let you know that many U.S. national parks are proposing to raise entrance, camping and other fees  in the next couple of years. Most are looking to make improvements for the National Park Service centennial celebration in 2016, and the last fee increase was five years ago.

In some cases, those entrance fees will rise substantially. Annual passes for Rocky Mountain National Park, for instance, are proposed to increase from $40 to $60. The seven-day vehicle fee would go from $20 to $30. New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument, one of my favorite ancestral pueblo sites, is proposing to increase their seven-day vehicle pass from $12 to $20; and from $30 to $40 for an annual pass.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, both very popular destinations, propose to raise their seven-day, two-park entrance pass from $25 to $50. Yellowstone now plans to offer a three-day Yellowstone-only vehicle pass for $30 and an annual pass for $60.

Those increases are likely to give some pause – particularly older individuals living on a fixed income, but, there are ways to save money if you plan to visit the parks. If you are 62 years or older, consider buying a senior interagency lifetime pass. It costs $10 if purchased at a park, $20 by mail. That’s what one MLive reader, Joe Zurawski and his wife, Sue, did this year when they visited Haleakala National Park, in Hawaii.

“I discovered I could purchase a lifetime pass for all the national parks for $10,” Zurawski said. “Now whenever we go to any U.S. National Park all we have to do is show them our passes and picture ID. I thought it was fantastic.

“Visiting the national parks has been on my to-do list for several years. My wife and I are retired and plan to travel and take in some of the other parks. For this trip, the pass didn’t make a difference, but it will for others. Every little bit helps. It’s a little extra we will have to spend on other things.” Continue reading

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Fly Fishing: Equipment swap meet planned

Float tubes are a great way to fish small ponds, lakes and easy flowing rivers. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Float tubes are a great way to fish small ponds, lakes and easy flowing rivers. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Maybe you have an old float tube you are looking to get rid of, hoping to upgrade to a solo pontoon. Or, if this is even possible, you have just too many fly rods or are looking for a new bench vise but don’t want to shell out a lot of money.

Fly anglers looking to offload  gear that has stacked up over the years will be gathering at the Birch Run Expo Center, 11600 South Beyer Road, on March 21, for the first annual Fly Fishing Equipment Swap Meet / Garage Sale. The event  runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Admission for the general public is just $2. Kids 18 and under get in free.

The meet is the brainchild of Jeff Johnson, a jeweler from Imlay City and the owner of Brookhaven Lake, in Farwell. Brookhaven is a private lake where Johnson offers guided opportunities to fish for giant Lake Nippigon brook trout and arctic grayling.

“People always have stuff they want to get rid of. It’s only $10 a day to rent a table to sell your gear or promote your club,” Johnson says.

The meet should be a great opportunity for people to mingle and buy sell and swap  used fly fishing equipment. Johnson is hoping to make it an annual event.

To reserve a table, contact Johnson at jeffjohnsonriverguide@yahoo.com or call him at 313-510-0928.

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Birds are Big Bucks

Dollar origami cranes CYMK by Ann Mai M

Dollar origami cranes by Ann Mai 

By Howard Meyerson

Kay Charter recalls her “epiphany,” the moment she knew she wanted to do something for birds. It was 1992. She was poking around the lot behind her Northport home. A family of Winter Wrens emerged from under a brush pile. Charter found herself deeply moved.

“They are one of my favorite birds,” explains Charter, who started birdwatching 30 years ago. “Not many get to see Winter Wrens come out of a nest. I was saddened to realize that we are losing these little birds to people who are developing their habitat. I felt an uncontrollable urge to do something to make a positive difference for birds.”

She and her husband, Jim, decided as a result of the experience to sell the house and buy 47 acres of mixed habitat near Omena. The property would become Charter Sanctuary, home to 60 nesting bird species and a stopover spot for many others. It would also become the eventual base for a non-profit she helped form in 2001 called Saving Birds Thru Habitat.

That organization today, with its dedicated nature center and three-acre parcel deeded to the non-profit by the Charters, attracts more than 1,500 human visitors each year. What began as a personal endeavor to protect birds has since become a popular travel destination for birding enthusiasts around the country.

They come from as far away as Washington DC and the state of Washington, according to Charter. Some arrive in the area for the Leelanau Peninsula Birding Festival every May, but others visit the sanctuary for nature photography workshops or birding walks, or to tour the property and learn how they can manage land for the good of birds. School groups also regularly visit to learn about bird conservation.

“Our reach goes from California to Connecticut,” said Charter, the executive director for Saving Birds Thru Habitat. “We have member support from all over the country.”

Birders spent an estimated $15 billion on their trips and $26 billion on equipment in 2011.” 

–U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 report “Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis.”

Continue reading

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Study: Hunters and birdwatchers have lot in common

A group of men stand birdwatching. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia

If the title of this gets you to scratching your head, think again. A paper recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Management discusses the similarities of both communities in their commitment to conservation practices.   

My colleagues and I wondered how rural people who are outdoor recreationists value their natural resources compared to those who are not outdoor recreationists. We found that, as co-author Ashley Dayer put it, ‘there is hope for conservation in rural communities, through both binoculars and bullets,'” writes co-author Caren Cooper, assistant director of the Biodiversity Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History. 

Cooper reviews the study findings in a guest blog for Scientific American today. She says both communities do their part for conservation in practice and spending, though birdwatchers are sometimes perceived otherwise. The study of rural upstate New York resident also found that sometimes the hunter and birdwatcher are the very same person.

Read more: Birdwatchers, Hunters Train Their Scopes on Conservation.

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Roads Less Traveled: National Forest Seeks user input about preferred two-tracks, trails

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Huron-Manistee National Forest resources staff officer, Chris Frederick (left) and trail coordinator, Dave Jaunese (right) examine a user-created two-track in Muskegon County being closed off with barricades. Photo Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Maybe you’ve heard the scuttlebutt about the U.S. Forest Service closing more roads in Huron-Manistee National Forest. The message, which got posted on social media by off-road vehicle enthusiasts, urgently suggests that those who care should write the forest and oppose any road closures.

Ken Arbogast, the national forest’s public affairs officer, says that has happened, but the first part isn’t quite true. No roads are being proposed for closure. At least not right now. Forest staffers are inventorying roads and assessing the need for each. What’s needed, according Arbogast, is feedback from users about the roads and two-tracks they would like to see kept open. The February 15 comment deadline has been extended until March 15 to allow for that.

“There’s been a lot of misinterpretation showing up on blogs,” Arbogast said. “We know we may eventually have to close some roads, but this isn’t a decision (to do so). We’re doing an analysis of all the roads, from two tracks that are already closed up to paved roads. Our fire staff is looking at roads to see if they are necessary for fighting fires. Are there some that are a vector for introducing invasive species? We also are looking to see what roads we don’t want on the system.

“We’ll gather information and get answers from our specialists, the archeologist, biologist, recreation manager, and then make decisions. We need to know what roads we can afford to maintain – a minimum transportation system. That’s what this study is.” Continue reading

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Quiet Water Symposium celebrates 20 years

Skin over wood frame kayaks are just some of the designs kayak builders will have on display. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Skin over wood frame kayaks are just some of the designs kayak builders will have on display. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

Most of the major winter outdoor shows highlight boating, hunting and fishing, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Michigan, after all, boasts nearly a million registered boats and roughly 1.6 million anglers and hunters.

State officials estimate Michigan residents own about 300,000 unregistered canoes and kayaks, but when it comes to Michigan paddlesport shows, there is only one – The Quiet Water SymposiumThat delightful event is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Worth the trip

If you haven’t heard of it, be sure to check it out. It’s scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., March 7, at the Pavilion for Livestock and Agriculture Education, 4301 Farm Lane, in East Lansing on the Michigan State University campus. Its organizers expect its largest crowd yet.

“We had 2,500 in attendance last year and expect from 2,500 to 3,000 this year,” said Allen Deming, a former symposium chairman and one of the many dedicated volunteers that put it on. The symposium is now sponsored by the Quiet Water Society, a small non-profit with no paid staff that formed to shepherd the event forward and through tough times.

“People can see 30 canoe and kayak models from commercial vendors, and we’ll have about 10 home builders displaying their work,” Deming said. “About 60 percent of the show is dedicated to non-profit organizations like watershed councils and nature centers and water trail organizations.

“We have people who drive up from Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ontario.”

That’s a far cry from the symposium’s earliest days when it was held at the Kellogg Center on MSU’s campus. I remember those early events. They were considerably smaller, but no less genuine. The organizers wanted to show off great canoes and kayaks, the works of boat builders, and the great trips paddlers were taking. Today, the symposium celebrates all of that and non-motorized recreation, the value of clean waterways, and shared concern for the Great Lakes. Continue reading

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Graymont revises mining proposal; DNR decision postponed

An aerial shot of Graymont's Pilot Peak project in Nevada. Photo: Graymont

An aerial shot of Graymont’s Pilot Peak project in Nevada. Photo: Graymont

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A newly updated proposal from Graymont Inc., the Canadian mining company seeking to buy state land for a limestone mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources late last month. State officials say it currently under review and a final decision has been postponed.

“Because we got a late revision, we need time to digest the changes they made,” said Bill O’Neill, Michigan’s state forester and chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “The customers and interested public also need time. This will give everyone a chance to understand the change.”

DNR director, Keith Creagh, was to decide the fate of the proposed land purchase at the February 12 Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing. That decision was pushed back until March at the earliest. Creagh, however, approved a second Graymont proposal for a 1,717.6- acre exchange of mineral rights. The company proposed swapping mineral rights it owns under state land for minerals the state owns under U.S. Forest Service land. State officials say the exchange was desirable.

“The mineral exchange unifies surface and mineral rights for the state, which meets one of our public land and mineral management goals,” said Ed Golder, public information officer for the DNR.  “The exchange does not guarantee that mining will take place. Graymont will have to work through the Forest Service if it plans to undertake mining on those minerals.” Continue reading

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