Six days in July, three emergencies on lakes near the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, two cases of people not wearing life vests, and one death. These stories yield cautionary tales about enjoying but respecting these waters which are beautiful but can prove perilous, too. Read about the young men rescued in Lake Michigan floating in inner tubes one mile off Platte Point, a death on South Bar Lake in Empire, and a family that survived a boat fire on Big Glen Lake.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel met with local business owners and nonprofit leaders at the solar array on the corner of M-72 and Bugai Rd in southeastern Leelanau County on Friday, July 7. Nessel said that renewable energy generators such as this solar array are an important tool to combat man-made climate change, which has affected Michigan in recent years in the form of rainstorms and flooding, heat waves, toxic algal blooms, rapidly fluctuating Lake Michigan water levels and beach erosion, and more ticks and tick-borne diseases. Warmer and shorter winters have also put northern Michigan’s cherished cherry crop at risk, and smoke from Canadian wildfires has polluted the air across the Midwest this spring and summer. “Climate change is real,” said Nessel. “And if you didn’t believe it before, you ought to start believing it now.” Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a Democratic-led state legislature, Michigan’s climate plan to wean utilities and industry off fossil fuels and coal- and gas-fired power plants is among the most ambitious nationwide.

On calm days this spring when Sleeping Bear Bay resembled glass, some Glen Arbor residents with homes on Lake Michigan heard what they described as periodic burps, or the sounds of water gurgling in a pipe. On days with wind and waves, they heard nothing. The sound may have come from two “propane cannons” on the North Manitou Shoal Light Station, commonly called “the Crib” which lies 4 miles from Pyramid Point, the closest spot on the mainland. According to Dan Oginsky president of the North Manitou Light Keepers, which acquired the Crib from the federal government in 2016, the canisters are used to scare away cormorants, large aquatic birds that nested on the lighthouse and covered it with “guano” poop after it was decommissioned by the government and sat empty for decades.

Priest José Luis Díaz Cruz and Sergio Jose Cárdenas Flores, political asylees from Nicaragua, have been living in the rectory at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Empire since March after they escaped the autocratic Ortega regime, which has cracked down on dissent and persecuted the Roman Catholic Church. Originally from the city of Matagalpa, Díaz and Cárdenas were among dozens imprisoned for six months in the capital of Managua after living under house arrest in their church last August. In February, they were among 222 political prisoners flown to the United States after being forced to relinquish their Nicaraguan citizenship. “We’re offering them a safe place to be,” said Rev. Ken Stachnik at St. Philip Neri. “This is important because it’s in the gospel. We are watching out for those who are lost and have no place to go.” The push to bring the Nicaraguans to northern Michigan came from Reverend Wayne Dziekan with the Diocese of Gaylord and who co-directs the Justice and Peace Advocacy Center, an organization which helps asylees and migrant workers in northern Michigan. Matagalpa and Gaylord are sister diocese.

The historical and human significance of the presence of the Johnsons and other African-American families in the Empire and Glen Lake area cannot be overestimated. To be there they would have had to deal with all the exigencies of frontier life, mainly the constant hard work and the ability to maintain good cheer and endure isolation. In addition, to get there in the first place, they would’ve had to have survived slavery, including the physical brutality and the trauma of family members being sold. They would have needed to be diplomatic enough to circumvent the laws that made it illegal for slaves to learn to read, write or own property in order to acquire the skills and the goods they’d need if they were later to escape.

“As my 80-year-old dad and I make the trek slowly up the heavily-canopied, half-century old two-track, I wonder what his reaction will be as we make it to the cherry orchard entrance,” writes Rebecca Carlson in this first installment in a series about the legacy and impact of Leelanau County farming families. “With the sun shining in our faces, Dad stops dead in his tracks and takes his first look at the orchard in several years. ‘Where are all the trees? Where are all Herman’s trees?’ Silent and shaking his head, my Dad continues to scan the empty orchard. ‘Dad, all our trees were removed last year,’ I say. ‘There were only about 20 cherry trees left.’ He responds, ‘But I don’t remember agreeing to that.’ While his eyes well with tears, I realize this was yet another loss of family ties and precious memories from our years of farming.”

Tick bites and cases of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease and Anaplasmosis are increasing in northern Michigan, according to statistics from the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department and confirmed by local doctors and staff within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Leelanau County registered 14 cases of tick-born illness last year, more than doubling the previous year’s tally. Beyond statistics, the upward trend has proven tragic for this community. Glen Arbor lost popular realtor and ski coach John Peppler to a tick-born disease last August. National Lakeshore superintendent Scott Tucker said that one Park employee nearly died last year of Anaplasmosis caused by a tick bite that happened at a Sleeping Bear campground.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Spring Enduros Contentious debate fills Township Hall tonight; riders invited to flood meetings By Jacob Wheeler Sun editor Voices both in favor and against a proposed motorbike race on Memorial Day weekend on rural farmland in Leelanau County’s Kasson Township will flood the Solon Township Hall tonight, May 8, and on […]

Leelanau County has added another notch of fame to its belt. Now the two most popular boys’ names in America have their roots in beloved taverns in Glen Arbor and Empire. Last year, 18 percent of all newborn boys nationwide were honored with the names “Art” and “Joe” on their birth certificates. “Art” for Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, and “Joe” for Joe’s Friendly Tavern in Empire.

One year ago the Leelanau Early Childhood Development Commission launched a campaign to recruit more people to open home-based childcare facilities in Leelanau County—where a dire lack of affordable childcare options has imperiled the ability of young parents to return to work. The commission is well on its way to reach that goal, with three more facilities set to open soon. But the LECDC has also been forced to pivot and work with the state’s licensing agency to include centers outside the home, as well.