High water, Dollar General top Glen Arbor Sun’s 2019 stories

It was the year of high water, as Lake Michigan water levels nearly eclipsed their all-time record—just six years after setting their all-time low. That made beach walking difficult; it exacerbated conflicts over beach-walking rights along riparian-owned property; it made the reality of Climate Change even more dire, and it contributed to flooding in Leland’s historic Fishtown.

It was the year of Dollar General pursuing a foothold in several local communities (Maple City, Lake Ann, Empire), all of whose citizens and local officials rose up to stop the big-box developer. For the Glen Arbor Sun, it was a year of featuring female winemakers in Leelanau County, stories about young professionals struggling to find housing in paradise, and one man’s incredible swim to North Manitou Island the day before the Fall Equinox.

Enjoy this tour of our 10 top most-read stories of 2019.

  1. Supreme Court reaffirms Great Lakes public beach access, Feb. 20: The public has the right to walk the Great Lakes shoreline, even along privately owned beaches. The United States Supreme Court reaffirmed that right this month. The court declined to hear an Indiana case filed by riparian land owners who live along the south shore of Lake Michigan.
  2. Dollar stores targeting northern Michigan towns? April 8, by Jacob Wheeler: Citizen movements arise, and municipal zoning is strengthened, in Maple City, Lake Ann and Empire to stop Dollar Stores from moving in. “I see Dollar General’s business as moving into places where there are a couple local grocery stores and they put them out of business,” said Maple City organizer Scott Mills. “Dollar General doesn’t sell fresh foods. Local businesses add value by keeping dollars in our community.”
  3. “Don’t let go of the raft!” July 8, by Jacob Wheeler: Mother Courtney Kaiser-Sandler reflects on the day one year ago, in July 2018, when her daughter Sofia floated 1.6 miles into Sleeping Bear Bay in a unicorn floating plastic raft before the Glen Lake Fire Department saved her life.
  4. Detroit to Leelanau: Taking over the Ciccone Family Winery Aug 23, Madeleine Hill Vedel: Sometimes you end up where you never thought you would be. This is the case for Paula Ciccone, the introverted and warmly welcoming head wine-maker at Ciccone Winery, taking over from her father Tony, founder and creator of Ciccone Winery just south of Suttons Bay. As she tells the story, it was not something she actively sought, nor ever really imagined till it just started to happen.
  5. APRIL FOOLS DAY: Fast Tourism sets frenetic sights on Sleeping Bear April 1: Fast Tourism, a global digital tourism company, has launched a new app that guides visitors on a frenetic, one-hour tour of the Sleeping Bear Dunes region. Users are encouraged to maximize their “up north” experience by visiting as many destinations as possible in a short amount of time. The app recommends they spend 5 minutes at the iconic Sleeping Bear Dune Climb, 10 minutes dipping their toes in Lake Michigan at Glen Haven, and 10 minutes sampling products and spitting cherry pits at Cherry Republic.
  6. A little house in Empire: one couple’s small housing solution July 26, by Mae Stier: The topic of housing in Leelanau County––and the lack of affordable housing––is one that seems to come up often for those who live here. Among my peers––entrepreneurs and workers in their late-20s to early-30s––housing discussions are often filled with discouragement. Many of us work multiple jobs to afford to live where we do, and still some are living with parents or in seasonal rentals requiring them to move out for three months of the year while the home is offered as a short-term rental to vacationers. 
  7. Climate Change to blame for high Lake Michigan water levels July 5, Linda Alice Dewey: Some seek to explain what is happening with our Great Lakes water levels as a natural cycle. They point to other swings in water levels over the past 100 years. But what is happening now has not, in fact, ever happened before. Here’s how it’s different, and why.
  8. Beach Alert! Areas of Lake Michigan shoreline unwalkable on rough water days May 31, Linda Alice Dewey: Pack away those dreams of walking miles from bay to bay along the shores of Lake Michigan this summer—unless you want to get wet, that is. With the “Ordinary High Water Mark” on Sleeping Bear Bay currently under water and cliffs marking the Natural High Water Mark, the question of where one can walk the beach becomes more than a question of trespassing. Now the issue is safety. That has prompted staff at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to discourage the public from running down popular water-facing dunes like the overlook the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
  9. Late summer swoon: a swim to North Manitou Island Sept. 25: Delightful summer temperatures returned for one final hurrah in late September, just before the Fall Equinox and the onset of autumn. Holland, Mich. resident Jon Ornée took advantage of it. The triathlete, who is both intensely driven but affable, swam from Pyramid Point to North Manitou Island on Sept. 20. The 7.4-mile swim took him two hours and 50 minutes. If anyone has swum that route before, they probably didn’t do so in less than three hours.
  10. Dollar Store targets Empire July 15, Jacob Wheeler: Midwest V, LLC, a developer based in Spring Lake, Mich., approached a landowner and made a purchase offer to acquire six acres in a mixed use, commercial-residential district of Empire, one block southeast of the M-22/M-72 intersection. Empire has been without a full-scale grocery store since Deering’s Market closed its doors in the spring of 2018. “If Dollar General came in, it would be the death knell for the possibility of a full-service grocery store in Empire, at least for the foreseeable future,” said Paul Skinner, owner of the Miser’s Hoard and president of the Empire Chamber of Commerce. “It would definitely impact the potential sale of the current grocery store building (Deering’s Market). A Dollar General is not the type of business we want to see here. We want a full-service grocery store. It would turn Empire into a fresh food desert.”