2016 Year In Review | Part One
A new Camp Grayling commander. A huge cross country ski race event at Hanson Hills. First baby of the new year. Citizen of the Year and other awards. A fourth consecutive league title for the Grayling High School wrestling team. Big changes to the Black Bear Bicycle Tour. A presidential primary election. Angler groups battle Grayling Fish Hatchery management over waste discharge into the AuSable River. A project to rebuild part of Michigan Avenue. Grayling High School’s Class of 2016 celebrates graduation. A new time trials course for the AuSable River Canoe Marathon.
Just a few of the things that happened in Crawford County this year. With 2016 coming to an end, the Crawford County Avalanche presents Part One of its annual Year In Review feature. Part One includes January through June. Part Two (July through December) will be featured in next week’s Crawford County Avalanche.
Story summaries in the Year In Review feature are listed according to the edition in which the article appeared.
An area couple – Wyatt Navarro and Sydney Kopischka, from Prudenville – welcomed the first baby born in 2016 in Grayling. Brynlee Dawn was the New Year’s baby born at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 2, at Grayling Munson Healthcare Hospital. She weighed seven pounds and 12 ounces.
The Special Education Department at the Crawford, Oscoda, Ogemaw and Roscommon Intermediate School District (COOR ISD) selected Lydia’s Gate to receive its personal donations this year. For the past eight years, the administrative staff in the special education department has selected a non-profit organization from one of the four counties within COOR ISD to make monetary donations to, in lieu of exchanging gifts within the department. Lydia’s Gate is a faith-based women and children’s shelter located in Mio serving individuals from all over northern and central Michigan.
The City of Grayling and Grayling Charter Township teamed up to purchase a tractor for snow removal on area sidewalks and trails this winter. The city and township, which jointly own and maintain the Elmwood Cemetery, pooled funds to purchase the tractor. The tractor will be used during the winter months to ensure that the area remains a walkable community.
The owners of McLean’s Ace Hardware only needed to look a couple buildings over to find space for the first major expansion of the business in over 40 years serving the community. Jason and Heather McLean opened their repair shop located at 303 James St. on Nov. 18. The repair shop is located one building over from McLean’s Ace Hardware, which has been in business since 1974. Jason McLean said they needed space in the main building and repair personnel, who have been fixing equipment and appliances for area residents and visitors for 30 years, were working in a small space where overstocked merchandise and other supplies were kept.
A chiropractor who had been practicing in Grayling for a year and a half relocated to a building in downtown Grayling to meet an increased demand from local patients. Dr. Brandon Suchey moved Suchey Chiropractic to 122 E. Michigan Ave., where Riverland Gear was previously located, and opened for business in December. He started Suchey Chiropractic at 1406 S. I-75 Business Loop on June 2, 2014. Dr. Suchey leased the building and purchased the practice and equipment from Toupin Chiropractic Clinic, which started in Grayling in 1993.
The 2016 Cote Dame Marie Ski Loppet – a cross country ski race event featuring divisions for people of all ages and skill levels – had almost 200 participants competing in races at two different venues. Grayling Recreation Authority and the Grayling Rotary Club presented this year’s Cote Dame. Hanson Hills Recreation Area hosted most of the races and Northbound Outfitters hosted the kids race portion of the event. According to the official race results, 190 people competed in the 2016 Cote Dame Marie Ski Loppet – 149 in the Michigan Cup Men’s Division, Michigan Cup Women’s Division, and 7.5K Junior Division combined, plus 22 in the kids race at Northbound Outfitters, and 19 more in four Citizen Division events at Hanson Hills.
Col. Lawrence Schloegl assumed command of the Camp Grayling Joint Military Training Center from Col. Thomas Perison at a ceremony held at the armory at Camp Grayling. The ceremony was officiated by Brig. Gen. Mike Stone, assistant adjutant general for installations for the Michigan National Guard. Col. Schloegl has served in the Michigan Guard for more than 25 years including duty at Camp Grayling. Schloegl served deployments in Kuwait and Iraq. He is the commander for the Mt. Pleasant Post of the Michigan State Police and served several years overseeing the Michigan State Police Underwater Recovery Unit.
Lexi D’Amour, age 10, of Grayling, traveled to Tampa, Fla. for a weeklong trip of practicing and then a performance at halftime of the college football Outback Bowl between Tennessee and Northwestern on New Year’s Day. D’Amour auditioned last summer and received an email inviting her to this once in a lifetime event. She was one of over 400 dancers and 3,000 halftime performers from across the United States. They performed at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium with over 60,000 fans watching.
A soldier who works in Grayling was activated last week to assist Flint residents with the ongoing crisis caused by contaminated drinking water. Members of the Michigan National Guard were formally activated on Jan. 13 by Governor Rick Snyder to assist in distributing water to the citizens of Flint. The Guard members were assigned to five water distribution sites at fire stations in Flint and helped distribute water and filters to citizens in need. Most soldiers activated were from Flint or Saginaw, but Sgt. E-5 Daniel Rhodes, who works at Camp Grayling’s Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site, was among the group called upon to help with the health crisis.
Local health officials and the administrators for the Crawford AuSable School District partnered to allow community residents to stay on the move during the winter months by walking at the Grayling Elementary School. The Crawford Health Improvement Committee, formed as a subgroup to the Human Services Collaborative Body of Crawford County, identified a need for free or low cost indoor physical activity opportunities for Crawford County residents, especially during the winter months. The committee and school officials came to an agreement that will allow community residents to use the Grayling Elementary School building for indoor walking at no charge.
About a dozen Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteers braved the snowstorms and slick roads to help prepare senior citizens for emergencies and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. RSVP, the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center, the Crawford County Community Christian Help Center and Americorps collaborated to provide emergency preparedness kits for senior citizens. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was created by Congress in 1994 and has grown beyond a federal holiday honoring King into a national day of community service.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to hold back funding to help fund Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING) drug enforcement team to keep undercover police involved in the county. Before releasing funds to help support the multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement team, the Crawford County Board of Commissioners and other local officials wanted to see statistics regarding drug busts and other investigations.
A Michigan State Police Trooper who shot a Grayling man in October while a search warrant was being executed at a home for drugs has been cleared of criminal charges, but his actions are still being reviewed by his commanders. A written opinion issued by Crawford County Prosecutor Everette “Trey” Ayers III said that criminal prosecution of Trooper Jamie Bullis for an assaultive crime is precluded by the inability to overcome the self-defense burden beyond a reasonable doubt. Drugs seized at the residence included 675 pills including Methadone, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone and Morphine, 14.6 grams of heroin, 92.9 grams of cocaine, 6.5 grams of crack cocaine, 54.5 grams of marijuana and $1,743 in cash. Three Grayling men were arrested and have cases pending in Crawford County Circuit Court.
District Health Department #10 staff, Crawford AuSable School District officials and community members marked the opening of the Viking Wellness Center. District Health Department #10 and the Crawford AuSable School District received a $135,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan Department of Community Health to establish a school-based health center inside Grayling High School through the Michigan Child and Adolescent Health Center Program. The adolescent health center joins 100 state-funded school-based and school-linked health centers located across Michigan. The health center provides on-site primary health care, behavioral health services, health promotion/disease prevention education and referral services.
A former Grayling resident facing an attempted homicide charge and a number of other felony charges was ordered to undergo two evaluations before his criminal cases could proceed. Monte J. Burmeister, the presiding Judge of the 46th Circuit Family Court, Chief Judge of the Crawford County Probate Court and 87-C District Court, issued orders for Terry Mathew Streib, 52, for an evaluation of criminal responsibility and for a competency exam. Streib, who lives in Standish but is a former Grayling resident, was arrested by Troopers from the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police following an incident that took place in the City of Grayling on Jan. 10. Streib was arraigned in Crawford County District Court for homicide-attempted murder, four counts of criminal sexual conduct first-degree causing injury, home invasion first-degree, and unlawful imprisonment.
Gail Swope, a Grayling woman who works with a number of volunteer groups including the Grayling Promotional Association, the Grayling Main Street Program, and the Downtown Development Authority, was recognized with the 2015 Citizen of the Year Award at the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards Night celebration held at the Ramada Inn of Grayling. Rebecca Knepper, who organized and oversaw the AuSable River Festival Car Show for 17 years, was honored with the Chamber’s You Made it Happen Award. The Old AuSable Fly Shop was recognized with the Chamber Member of the Year Award.
Grayling Recreation Authority (GRA) conducted the Meijer State Games of Michigan Hanson Hills Classic Cross Country Ski Race, and close to 100 people participated. “The course held together perfectly considering we had 40 degree weather the day before and the threat of rain on race day,” said GRA Director of Operations Justin Andre. “We had a great turnout.” Overall male winner was Michael Davis with a time of 44:54.1. Overall female winner was Rebecca Davis with a time of 53:03.5.
Grayling High School students kicked off a campaign to urge classmates to park their phones before they take the wheel and get rolling in their vehicles. Strive for a Safer Drive (S4SD) is a partnership between Ford Driving Skills for Life and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning that seeks to reduce the leading cause of death for teens: traffic crashes. As part of the S4SD program, schools received up to $1,000 for students to create teen-led traffic safety campaigns to educate their fellow classmates about distracted driving, seat belt use, speeding, underage drinking/impaired driving or winter driving.
The Grayling Elementary School and Devereaux Memorial Crawford County Library went into a lockdown mode for a short period due to a report that a man was going to harm himself and his family following a domestic dispute. Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield and Crawford County Undersheriff Shawn Kraycs first responded to the scene in a civilian vehicle wearing civilian clothing. Wakefield and Kraycs and a number of other sheriff’s deputies detained and arrested the man. He was unarmed.
Grayling Middle School seventh grader Katelyn Moore achieved the distinction of being the only repeat winner in the school’s National Geographic Geography Bee.
The Old Lumber Yard Shoppes, located at 609 Norway St., opened for business. The business features a number of booth owners, vendors and artisans.
Cement workers, electricians and HVAC technicians had the Kirtland Community College’s Regional Health Sciences Center, located just south of Grayling, on the right timeframe with classes anticipated to begin there in August. The exterior walls and roofing for the new $11 million college campus were in place, sealing up the building for ongoing work in the winter.
The varsity wrestling team from Grayling High School, with a strong performance during the Lake Michigan Conference Championship Tournament, clinched its fourth consecutive league title. The Lake Michigan Conference has had wrestling as a championship eligible sport for 11 seasons, including this year. Grayling has won the league title in eight of those 11 seasons – 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2006 – extending its current streak to four consecutive conference championships. Twelve Vikings earned all-league honors by finishing in the top two in their respective weight classes, and five of those won individual conference championships. Nick Petrie, a senior, earned his 100th career pin at the meet, and he established a new school record with his 103rd pin in his last bout of the tournament.
Grand River Construction Inc. began unloading supplies and staging equipment for the replacement of the North Down River Road bridge over the East Branch of the AuSable River, forcing a detour of traffic. The detour route for residents and businesses located on the east side of the bridge is Wilcox Bridge Road to M-93 (Hartwick Pines Road) to the I-75 Business Loop. The $2.6 million project is expected to be completed in July, said Don Babcock, Managing Director for the Crawford County Road Commission.
A former Grayling resident who was already facing up to life in prison for attempted murder was charged with another felony and had his bond raised to $10 million in an attempt at making sure he was not released from jail. Terry Mathew Streib, 52, was arraigned on a charge for criminal sexual conduct third-degree by force or coercion, which is a 15-year felony. Streib was arrested by Troopers from the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police following an incident that took place in the City of Grayling on Jan. 10.
Six wrestlers from Grayling High School finished in the top four of their weight class during the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s District 17-3 meet at Manistee, earning them a place at the individual Region 9-3 tournament. Michael Phipps won his weight class (189). Andrew Hopkins finished second at 103. Nick Petrie placed third at 189. Reece Ferrigan finished third at 171. Cole Hibbard (125) and Logan Joseph (152) both finished fourth.
The wrestling team from Grayling High School advanced to the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s District 165-3 championship round with a semifinal victory vs. Boyne City, but the Vikings fell to the Gladstone Braves in the finals. Boyne City High School hosted the meet. Michael Phipps, wrestling at 189, won by pin in the second round vs. Boyne City. He reached two milestones with the win; it was his 150th career victory and his 100th career pin.
Dr. William Dean and his wife, Cory, from AuSable Eye Care, went on a mission to help improve the vision of nearly 1,000 people and provide sunglasses to protect their pupils in the future. The Deans went on an eye care mission to Peru from Jan. 22 to Feb. 1. The Deans were among a group of 19 people who staffed a clinic on a six-day mission. The group treated 950 people while in Peru, and each doctor examined about 60 people per day. Dr. Dean said he typically sees 15 to 20 patients a day at AuSable Eye Care.
One Grayling High School wrestler – Michael Phipps, a senior competing in the 189-pound weight class – qualified for the individual state finals; he won his division at the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Region 9-3 tournament at Chippewa Hills. With Phipps moving on to the state meet, Grayling High School extended its streak of having a state qualifier for wrestling to 43 consecutive years.
Grayling High School seniors Andrew Benardo and Savannah Klapec were named Snowgoing king and queen during a ceremony at halftime of Friday night’s varsity boys basketball game at GHS. Snowgoing is an event that’s similar to homecoming – it features a spirit week competition and a dance – but it’s held during the winter instead of the fall. The Class of 2016 – the seniors – won the Spirit Belt, the prize for coming in first place during the spirit week competition.
The wheels were put in motion to place a millage renewal as well as a request for increased funding on the Aug. 2 primary election ballot to fund the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners passed a motion to have bond counsel draft language for the millage requests. The COA Board requested the county place a renewal request for .71850 of a mill on the ballot, which would generate $393,100 per year if approved by voters.
Along with the traditional decals and emergency information placed on vehicles for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, the fleet is now carrying the nation’s motto: “In God We Trust.”
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners slashed the salary for the prosecuting attorney that will take office in 2017. The board set the prosecutor’s salary at $80,000. Current Prosecuting Attorney Everett “Trey” Ayers receives a $92,452 salary. The board discussed the salaries paid to elected officials at its ways and means committee held on Feb. 11. Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said the salaries paid to the county clerk/register of deeds, treasurer and sheriff were comparable with counties with similar populations and taxable values.
Grayling High School wrestler Michael Phipps earned all-state recognition by finishing in eighth place in the 189-pound weight class in Division 3 of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Individual State Finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
A downtown restaurant currently housed in two former businesses will soon expand into a third and will pay tribute to student athletes, education, and a notable sportsman. The renovation of Bear’s Den Pizzeria and expansion into the former Davis Jewelers building began on March 1. Davis Jewelers closed in August after the business operated in downtown Grayling for 74 years. Bill Gannon, the owner of Bear’s Den Pizzeria, purchased the Davis Jewelers building and plans to use the new space for the overflow of customers during the busy summer tourism season and to provide a small conference room for meetings.
Crawford County commissioners gave the green light to pay a multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement team, but will remain steadfast to learn how federal funds are funneled through the state for similar efforts and programs. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners directed County Administrator Paul Compo to pay the invoice to help fund the Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group drug enforcement team to keep undercover police involved in the county.
The 6th Annual Mike Wieland Tribute Race – an event conducted at Hanson Hills on Sunday, March 6 – raised hundreds of dollars for the Grayling Recreation Authority/Grayling Middle School ski program. Dave Burr, coordinator of the event, said this year’s Mike Wieland Tribute Race raised approximately $1,750. The race is named after Mike Wieland, who coached skiing at Grayling High school for 40 years.
A Grayling photographer will have her work included in an art show in the Motor City featuring women artists to raise funds to support homeless women and at-risk girls. Nicole Persing will have pieces included in the fourth annual Venus Rising art show held at the Tagent Gallery in Detroit on March 19. Persing’s work will include a five-part series called “Bound.” “It depicts a woman that is bound by ropes and its very much representative of females having to fight for a lot of things,” Persing said. “As the series progresses, it kind of tells a story where the woman is able to throw off the ropes and it really empowers the woman to let go of the ropes.”
With the early arrival of spring weather, local emergency management officials and firefighters were preparing for what potentially could be a busy season for wildfires. Crawford County received a $28,000 Community Wildfire Protection grant through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners declared March 19 as a Tribute Day for Beth Wieland. Elizabeth “Beth” Helen Wieland, 76, of Grayling, passed away on Feb. 23. Wieland served as the Grayling Township Clerk from 1972 to 1982. Wieland was elected and served as Crawford County Clerk/Register of Deeds between 1982 until 1995. Wieland was then elected as a Crawford County commissioner, where she served until 2001. She also served the Crawford County Board of Canvassers. Beth was well known as the “team mom” of the Grayling ski team for more than 40 years since her husband, Mike Wieland, coached skiing at Grayling High School for four decades.
Organizers for the Black Bear Bicycle Tour – a cycling event that drew hundreds of participants per year for 15 years – are making significant changes to the event, including a new name, a new weekend, and a new format. The Black Bear Bicycle Tour’s new name is the Black Bear Gran Fondo. A “gran fondo” is a mass participation cycling event that began in Italy in the early 1900s, and loosely translated means everything from “great foundation” or “great distance” to “great endurance,” event organizers said.
Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies were investigating the shooting of a family dog. Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield said deputies were called to South Branch Township residence near East Pioneer Road and Stephan Bridge Road regarding the shooting of a dog on March 16. Deputies were told that the dog, a golden/doodle, got away from the residence around 7 a.m. on March 15. Despite the owners’ search efforts, they were unable to locate the dog. Around 6 p.m. that evening, the dog was found deceased in a wooded area behind a residence by children who were outside playing.
A Grayling native has settled back into the community, started a business venture with his son, and plans to continue running an eatery on property that has served as a home to a restaurant for just over seven decades. Kevin Miller and his son Kyle Miller opened the Old 27 Roadhouse, located at 1164 South I-75 Business Loop (formerly the Lone Pine Restaurant), on Feb. 15. The Millers invested $90,000 renovating the building with a new heating and cooling system, new electrical work, a new fireplace, flooring, and kitchen equipment.
Turnout for the presidential primary in Crawford County was nearly double that of the last elections for the top political position in the nation and mirrored statewide election results. A total of 3,434 voters out of the 11,771 registered voters in Crawford County cast ballots at the polls during the March 8 presidential election, which was a 29 percent turnout. Just 1,987 voters, about 17 percent of those registered to vote in Crawford County, cast ballots on the presidential primary election held in 2008 and turnout was slightly higher in 2012. In Crawford County, on the Republican ballot, businessman Donald J. Trump gathered 1,108 votes, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz with 470 votes and Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich with 370 votes. Sen. Marco Rubio trailed the field of candidates with 189 votes. On the Democratic ballot in Crawford County, Sen. Bernie Sanders captured 631 votes compared to 494 votes for Hillary Clinton.
During the course of a traffic stop, Roscommon County Sheriff’s Office located methamphetamines within the vehicle and arrested a man for possession of meth. Deputies further investigated the origin of the meth throughout the night and developed information that the drugs were being manufactured at a residence at the south end of Crawford County near the county line, Roscommon County Sheriff Ed Stern said. Roscommon County Sheriff's Deputies, in conjunction with Troopers from the Houghton Lake Post of Michigan State Police and Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies, then conducted a joint investigation and executed a search warrant on a residence on Roberta Drive in Crawford County near the Village of Roscommon. Officers found meth and a lab that had been actively producing methamphetamines, as well as additional components and chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamines, and additional evidence of drug trafficking, Stern said.
An operator who plans to increase the capacity at the Grayling Fish Hatchery to sell trout to consumers and restaurants, and opponents of a permit to allow him to discharge waste into the AuSable River, squared off at a community forum. Dan Vogler, the co-owner and general manager of the Harrietta Hills Fish Farm, and Tom Baird, president of the Anglers of the AuSable, appeared before a capacity crowd at the Ole Barn on March 24. The Department of Environmental Quality issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the Grayling Fish Hatchery to the Harrietta Hills Trout Farm that went into effect on July 1, 2014. The Anglers of the AuSable, a local angling and conservation group that was started 29 years ago, and the Sierra Club, are challenging the permit at a hearing currently being held in Lansing.
Crawford County officials ended a yearlong effort that will save $3 million over nearly two decades and will result in more stable services being provided to residents. A sum of $7,155,000 in bonds was recently issued to pay for costs to cover pensions for past and current employees. Government accounting regulations require municipalities to account for unfunded liability to pay for pension and health care costs for retirees. That has caused governmental agencies to budget more for the unfunded liability and spend less on providing services and maintaining employees. In March 2105, John Axe, a financial advisor for Crawford County, said the county could save more than $3 million over an 18-year period by making payments on the bonds rather than letting pension costs and interest to accrue.
Crawford County made significant strides in county health rankings by improving health behaviors and the condition of the physical environment for residents. Sarah Oleniczak, the deputy health officer for District Health Department #10, reported that the county went from 81 to 34 for the health behaviors rankings compared to the other counties rated in the state. Health behaviors evaluate issues including adult obesity, adult smoking, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities and teen birth.
Eight Grayling Youth Wrestling Club (GYWC) competitors placed at the 2016 Michigan Youth Wrestling Association State Championships at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. Placements for Grayling: 5th – Max Halstead and Dayton Joseph; 6th – Joseph Armstrong; 8th – Zach Duncan. The GYWC had five girls compete in the All Girls State Championships at Kellogg Arena. Four of them placed: 2nd – Shelby Thomas; 3rd – Rosa Essmaker; 6th – Emma Niederer; 8th – Callie Dickie.
Six Grayling High School students – Nick Hunter, a freshman, and Ben Hetfield, Chris Hunter, Flynn Powers, Hannah Smock and Brent Weismiller, all sophomores – attended the Donald Trump rally held at the Wexford Civic Center in Cadillac on March 4.
Rialto Theater owner Jordan Stancil is running for state representative in the 103rd House district. The district includes Ogemaw, Roscommon, Kalkaska, Missaukee and Crawford counties. Stancil is on the Aug. 2 Democratic primary ballot.
Hundreds of military personnel took part in a training exercise at Camp Grayling and in the Straits of Mackinac using role players and simulations, but Mother Nature played a pivotal role providing pure arctic conditions. A total of 1,100 soldiers including Michigan National Guard and Indiana National Guard troops, Army Reserve members from Massachusetts, Airman, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and members of the Home Guard of Denmark participated in the exercise. At Camp Grayling, the exercise included responding to a series of incidents, primarily a simulated nuclear “dirty bomb” attack on a community. The Marines and soldiers from Denmark secured a site as if they were securing a real community from threats. Training sites, used to simulate a collapsible building, were used for search and rescue missions. A decontamination tent on site was also in place to treat victims of the attack before they were transported for further medical treatment.
The boys basketball program from Grayling High School announced its team awards and league honors for the 2015-2016 season at its end of the year banquet. The list of accolades included two all-conference selections. Troy Summers was named to the Lake Michigan Conference’s all-league first team. Josh Hetfield was an all-conference honorable mention for the Vikings. Both players averaged a double-double during the 2015-2016 season. Summers averaged 14.4 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. Hetfield averaged 11.0 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. Summers also earned an all-state honorable mention in Class B from the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.
Consumers Energy customers in Crawford County will receive new monitoring equipment on their homes and businesses that will provide more accurate billing and allow them to track their energy usage. Kathryn L. Burkholder, a Smart Energy Outreach Coordinator for Consumers Energy, at the Crawford County Board of Commissioners meeting on April 14, informed local officials that Smart Meters would be installed at homes and businesses in Crawford County in the summer of 2016. The new meters will fit on the front of existing gas and electrical meters. They will include a cell phone chip and every night between midnight and 3 a.m. a text message will be sent recording the customers’ utility usage. Customers will then be able to go online to check a web portal to monitor their energy usage.
Despite the struggles and hardships she faces due to a rare neuro-developmental disorder, Naomi Parish, a 12-year-old girl from Frederic, goes through every day with a smile on her face. Naomi, the daughter of Kim and Mike Parish, was born in 2003, and was diagnosed with Rett syndrome in 2007. She can no longer walk, talk or hold toys, but she still enjoys many activities like other young children. Earlier this year, Naomi’s story was included in a book called “Raising A Hand, A Photographic Musical Festival with a Cause.” The coffee table book is filled with hundreds of photographs and stories contributed by well known singers and musicians, including Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, in an effort aimed at raising awareness for Rett syndrome and finding a cure.
Winter returned in early April, covering fields with snow and forcing many early season spring sports games and meets to be canceled due to the conditions. In late March, most of Grayling High School’s spring sports teams were able to conduct at least a few outdoor practice sessions on their fields, but it was a different scenario after spring break. With the return of snow and cold temperatures in early April, teams had to go back into the gym for practices, and the field conditions resulted in numerous game cancellations.
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon is a big event; it has hundreds of paddlers, thousands of fans, a prize purse of over $50,000, a wide variety of sponsors, extensive media coverage. During a kickoff event for the 2016 AuSable River Canoe Marathon at the Grayling Mini Mall, one of the messages from people associated with the race: It can be bigger. More teams, more sponsors, more coverage. Mike Chires from 98.5 WUPS spoke to the crowd – dozens of people including paddlers, government representatives, race volunteers, media members, and sponsors attended the event – about the new AuSable River Canoe Marathon Radio Network, an initiative that will increase radio coverage of the race. Kim Diment of the AuSable Artisan Village’s Main Branch Gallery unveiled the official poster for the 2016 AuSable River Canoe Marathon during the reception. It features a modified photo of a Marathon team, and it will be on the cover of the Marathon Spectator Guide this year.
Two motorcyclists were injured when their dirt bikes collided on Saturday night. Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield said that deputies were called to an injury accident that involved two motocross style dirt bikes at 8:13 p.m. on April 23 on Wilcox Bridge Road near the intersection of Jones Lake Road in Grayling Charter Township. The drivers of both motorcycles, a 22-year-old man from Gibralter and a 20-year-old man from Trenton, were seriously injured in the accident. Both men were taken to Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital and were airlifted to downstate hospitals for further treatment of their injuries.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) honored Frederic resident Sandra Westover with its Advocacy Volunteer of the Year award at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. The award recognizes the exemplary efforts of an individual who helps ACS CAN advocate for responsible public health policies and laws that will help fight cancer.
A 70-year-old Grand Blanc man died from injuries sustained in a crash while driving a vehicle modeled to look like a race car. Trooper Steve Lidak, from the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police, was dispatched to a single-car vehicle accident at 12:20 p.m. on April 17. The accident occurred on northbound I-75 two miles north of Frederic. Gerald Sims, of Grand Blanc, was driving an assembled vehicle called a Roadster, a single-seat sports car that resembled an Indy open-wheel car. The car left the roadway, struck some trees in the median and Sims was severely injured, Lidak said. The car did not have safety features included in a regular passenger car such as air bags.
An AT&T Store opened in Grayling to assist customers with their communication and television viewing needs with all the latest devices. The AT&T Store, located at 2323 S. I-75 Business Loop, opened on Feb. 26. AT&T has stores in Mt. Pleasant, Cheboygan and Petoskey and wanted to fill the gap in Grayling with a central location.
A project to upgrade Michigan Avenue was delayed. Work to replace underground infrastructure, repave the roadway, build new sidewalks and install new streetlights was scheduled to begin on Monday, May 2. Steven M. Clark, the project administrator from Rowe Engineering, which has an office based in Grayling, said that Pete’s Contracting of Falmouth sent a notice to the firm informing them they will not be starting work on the project until the week of May 16.
The Grayling High School’s Robo Vikes team was founded last December. Seventeen students – 11 young men and six young women and five parent/mentors – stepped forward to the launch the team. The team, officially known as Grayling High School Robo Vikes #6121, was formed under the banner of FIRST Robotics Competition, the competitive world of high school robotics. The Robo Vikes took part in their first match in March at the Standish-Sterling High School. The team finished eighth out of 40 schools and was recognized as an alliance team, which means their robot could compete in conjunction with robots from others schools. The team also was recognized with an all-star rookie award. The Robo Vikes qualified for the FIRST in Michigan State Competition in Grand Rapids, and the team finished the finals event ranked 89th out of 411 teams in Michigan.
There are more than 4,000 people actively reported as missing in Michigan and almost 300 unsolved unidentified remains cases. In an effort to resolve these cases, the Michigan State Police is hosting the 6th Annual “Missing in Michigan” event in Detroit on May 14, and two Grayling men will be included. Richard “Dick” Lepsy disappeared from Grayling on Oct. 29, 1969. He left behind his wife, Jackie, and four children. Perry Otto Corlew was last seen in Grayling on March 18, 1974. He is the son of Roberta and Dewey “Bud” Corlew.
The Lovells Township Historical Society’s Seventh Annual Leaky Wader 1K Fun Run was held on the traditional course from Caids Store to the Lovells Township grounds during the Trout Opener on April 30. At the firing of the starter pistol, 30 runners broke for the finish line all clad in chest waders.
The Grayling Rotary Club conducted a fundraiser disc golf tournament – the Rotary Spring Flinger – at Hanson Hills Recreation Area, raising more than $1,000 for Rotary Club projects. Tournament participants competed in two rounds during the event. The first round was held on the Rotary PDGA Course (better known as “The Hill Course”), a 24-hole course that traverses up and down the downhill ski area. The second round was played on the Rotary Pine Knoll Course, an 18-hole course that stays on flat ground. Twenty people participated in this year’s tournament, competing in two different divisions, Open and Recreation.
Art Emmons, the owner of Appliance Parts Distributors of Michigan, 6840 M-72 West, will retire after over 50 years of being in the parts industry.
The Crawford AuSable School District’s (CASD) Board of Education has formed a new educational foundation. The board named the new foundation the Crawford AuSable Excellence in Education Foundation or CAEEF. The CAEEF is an evolution of the Alumni Association and hopes to include all alumni from Grayling, Frederic and Crawford AuSable schools. The mission of the CAEEF is to provide student scholarships and grant opportunities for CASD staff to benefit future students.
More than 20 Grayling businesses took part in Thank-You Grayling Day and offered specials and activities as a salute to the community. Thank-You Grayling Day was created in 1983 by John “Jack” Alef, who was the president of Grayling State Bank and worked there for 36 years.
After just over a half of a century in business in Grayling, the torch of ownership for an automotive dealership has been passed from one well-established family in the business to another. Brad Scheer, the president and owner of Scheer Motors, closed on a deal to sell the business to Matt LaFontaine and his wife, Christine, on May 5. Scheer Motors was founded in 1965 in downtown Grayling, where it operated for several years before moving to its current location at 829 I-75 Business Loop.
Two years of introspection and hard work led to a new beginning for Crawford County resident Steve Haight. Haight became the first graduate from the Northern Michigan Regional DWI Sobriety Court from Crawford County on May 4. The Northern Michigan Regional DWI Sobriety Court, which covers Crawford, Kalkaska, Missaukee and Roscommon counties, was established in 2014.
The varsity girls basketball program from Grayling High School had two all-conference selections this year, and one of those players earned all-state recognition. Brittany Nielson, a senior, was an all-league first team selection in the Lake Michigan Conference. Nielson led the Vikings in points (228) and rebounds (124) this year. Nielson was also a Detroit Free Press all-state honorable mention, a Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan academic all-state selection, and a member of the Weekly Choice All Area Dream Team. Molly Leslie was an all-conference honorable mention for Grayling. Leslie was second on the team in points (142) and assists (46). Leslie and Nielson tied for the team lead in steals (83).
A Grayling couple, which has a landmark bar and restaurant that serves as a junction in their memories, has assumed ownership of the business. Katie Tinker and Dana Metheney closed on a deal to purchase the former Ole Barn, located 6811 M-72 West, on April 1 and changed the name to Tinker’s Junction. The business holds some fond memories for the couple. “Dana and I met here 25 years ago and we had our first dance here 25 years ago, so this has always been a nostalgic place for us,” Tinker said. “We’ve said for 25 years we were going to own the place and that’s what we did,” Metheney said.
Although it is in a state of transition, the mission of the Bamboo Bend Project remains the same, bringing wounded warriors to Grayling to craft their own bamboo fly rods and fish the pristine waters on the AuSable River and Manistee River. The locally organized and funded project, which has the motto “Handcrafted Healing for Heroes,” brought the military veterans to Grayling for an eight-day stay. The project, in its fifth annual year, takes place on the East Branch of the AuSable River. Wounded and injured military members and veterans hand build high-quality bamboo fly rods assisted by master rod makers.
The 2016 top academic honor students for Grayling High School were selected. The students met special criteria to earn the Lake Michigan Conference All Academic Team honor. Students were selected based upon taking their grade point average multiplied by 16 and then adding in their ACT score to equal total points for nomination. Charles “CJ” Bennett was named the Class of 2016 Valedictorian. Sally Metiva was named the 2016 Salutatorian. The other top students: Jacqueline Bulmer, Zachary Burger, Noah Dannenberg, Emily Jackson, Shae-lin Kraycs, Brittany Nielson, Sarah Pavey, Erica Jade Umlor, Ryan Weeks, Aaron Wojdan.
Three Grayling High School track athletes qualified for the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) state finals with their performances at regionals. Grayling’s track program – boys and girls – competed in the MHSAA’s Region 29-3 meet at Clare High School. At regionals, athletes can earn state finals berths by finishing first or second in their event, or by hitting certain qualifying times. Senior Tyler Helsel earned her second trip to the MHSAA state finals by placing second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.37. Sophomore Ellie Carr placed second in the shot put with a throw of 32’3”. Senior Emily Jackson was a regional champion, winning the 800-meter dash with a time of 2:27.47. For Jackson, it will be her second trip to the state finals.
Just over a dozen mini canoes will be released into the AuSable River with hopes they will bring back unique stories to the community from people that find them. Fourteen youngsters took part in a project to shape and paint the canoes out of cedar wood blocks at the Devereaux Memorial Crawford County Library. The project is based on the book written by Michigan author Holling C. Holling called “Paddle to the Sea.” In the book, a boy carves a small canoe and places it in a snowbank. “When it melts in the spring, it starts going down the river and it ends up in the sea,” said Sherry Graziano, program director for the Crawford County Library System.
Leonard Nemeth, the commander of the VFW Post of Foreign Wars Carl W. Borchers Post #3735, wants to squash any rumors that Grayling won’t have a Fourth of July parade this year. Despite construction on main roads for the City of Grayling’s traditional parade route, the community will have a Fourth of July parade. A construction project was taking place on Michigan Avenue to upgrade the infrastructure, replace the sidewalks and the roadway. Maple Street was also being used as a main detour through Grayling due to the replacement of the bridge over the AuSable River. “We are having the Fourth of July parade. The Fourth of July parade to me – as the commander and with 30 years of service – it means a lot,” said Leonard Nemeth, the commander of the VFW Post of Foreign Wars Carl W. Borchers Post #3735.
Grayling High School’s varsity boys golf squad competed in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s District 21-3 tournament, and two Vikings will advance to regionals based on their scores. JC Bertram and Garrett Anderson, both of whom are seniors, qualified for regionals individually.
The America Legion Post #106 hosted a Memorial Day Service in Grayling’s Elmwood Cemetery.
Grayling High School’s Class of 2016 – a group that set a school record for ACT score and earned more than $900,000 in scholarships – celebrated its graduation with a commencement ceremony at GHS. The graduation event was held indoors in the Grayling High School gymnasium instead of outdoors at Viking Stadium due to rain in the weather forecast for Sunday. “The (Class of 2016) is small but their accomplishments are numerous. We had high expectations for the Class of 2016. Not only did they meet the expectations but they surpassed them. This class scored the highest ACT composite score of any class before them ever at Grayling High School,” said Grayling High School Principal Donna Boughner during her speech at commencement.
Crawford County officials provided another tool for first responders and firefighters in a day and age when they never know what they are heading into at some businesses. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners agreed to pay a $1,500 licensing fee for software that will provide up to date information regarding hazardous materials. Crawford County has a Local Emergency Planning Committee, which consists of government officials, firefighters and business owners, which develops plans for companies and businesses that have hazardous materials on site. The State of Michigan requires information to be submitted by a company when a hazardous material arrives on site at a business, but it can take up to a year for that information to be sent to local first responders.
An educator and long-time fly-fishing guide has opened up a fly shop and retail store in downtown Grayling. Ron and Ronda Rakoczy, along with their children, opened Ron’s Fly Shop on April 15 just before the opening of trout fishing season. The family purchased the building, located 228 Michigan Avenue, where Radio Shack was located and completed a total interior and exterior remodeling job. “It’s been a family project. We had an opportunity and we wanted to see something go in that was retail and would benefit the community and hopefully be part of the downtown growth,” Ronda said.
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon’s time trials event – a competition that determines starting positions for the race’s run to the river – will feature significant changes this year, including a new course and a new spectator viewing area. For many years, the time trials competition has started at Penrod’s and had paddling teams going downstream for the first half of the sprint and upstream for the second half after making a buoy turn in the middle of the course. The buoy turn area was not easily accessible for spectators. With the new course, it will be. Now, teams will start at Penrod’s and paddle upstream to the Old AuSable Fly Shop, turn around at the buoy, and finish their sprint going downstream. Event organizers are hoping the change in the course will boost exposure for the time trials.
As Grayling area residents and visitors celebrate red, white and blue and the 240th anniversary of the founding of the country, they can also appreciate the removal of orange barrels and cones around one of the main bridges in the community. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s project to replace the I-75 Business Loop Bridge over the AuSable River in Grayling was expected to be substantially completed soon. The project to replace the North Down River Road Bridge over the East Branch of the AuSable River won’t be completed until near the end of July.
Starting in the fall of 2016, cross country will be back as a varsity sport at Grayling High School after several years of being a club sport through Grayling Recreation Authority. Justin Andre, coach of the high school’s cross country squad, said it’s taken a few years to get the program back as an official varsity sport. “It’s been a six-year process. The kids have worked hard. This is a testament to them, their hard work,” Coach Andre said. Grayling High School cut cross country as a varsity sport in 2003. Cross country, a sport that is open to both boys and girls, involves running on natural terrain. Courses can feature grass and sand; some even include water and mud.
Due to rain in the forecast, numbers were down a little bit for this year’s Hanson Hills Challenge mountain bike event, but the race – conducted by Fun Promotions and hosted by Grayling Recreation Authority at Hanson Hills – still featured hundreds of cyclists competing in a variety of divisions.
An 89-year-old home ordered through a catalog company will be moved to Wellington Farm, USA to create a farmstead. A crew began preparing to move a Montgomery Ward Home, which was built in 1927 on Beaver Road in Beaver Creek Township, to the farm park.
The Grayling Skate Park, located next to City Hall on City Boulevard, hosted the fourth annual Father’s Day Skate Competition, and 14 skateboarders participated. The event featured three different divisions: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Each skateboarder in each division had three one-minute rounds to perform for the judges and the crowd. After the scores were tallied, event organizers gave trophies and prize packets to the top three finishers in each division.
Twenty-two four-person teams participated in the D.A.R.E. Golf Outing – an annual scramble event that helps the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department raise money for youth programs – at the Grayling Country Club. Kirk Wakefield, Crawford County Sheriff, said the number of teams was down a little bit this year due to schedule conflicts, but donations were up. The money raised through the D.A.R.E. Golf Outing helps the Sheriff’s Department pay for D.A.R.E. – Drug Abuse Resistance Education – and other youth programs such as Junior Deputy and safety patrol.
Grayling Little League hosted its annual Father’s Day baseball tournament at the Crawford County Sports Complex, and the squad from Grayling posted a final record of two wins and two losses at the event.
The Grayling Robo Vikes robot was featured at a presentation at the Devereaux Memorial Crawford Library as part of the community’s summer reading program.
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon is moving its time trials course this year in an effort to gain more exposure for the event, and race officials and paddling teams conducted a test of the new course. Race officials recorded times for 17 runs during the test event on the new course.