This column originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2016, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Like that week, this one had a big snowstorm, but the column is appropriate for other reasons. As I keep archiving my old work, my appreciation grows for our friends who helped build the community into what it is. The local history represented by the Zimmermans and Bev Laska is significant, especially when it comes to places like Schmeeckle Reserve and the Green Circle Trail.
Tuesday’s snowstorm was a big block party that brought all the neighbors out for a fiesta of snowblowers and shovels. There were almost as many folks out on the sidewalks as we can see on our way back from downtown summer festivals.
Observing everyone simultaneously taking care of our city-owned sidewalks is just one more reminder of the good Midwestern community ethos we have here. It’s also a fine time to recognize some folks who have made Portage County a wonderful place in which to live.
Zimmermans not slowing down
Visiting with Ron and Donna Zimmerman is like the best kind of snowfall. Stories start drifting down around you. You can just sit back and take it all in; next thing you know, you look up and you’re buried in wonderland.
I spent a couple of hours talking to the longtime University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point naturalists at their home east of Polonia recently. “Naturalists” doesn’t nearly do justice to their collective accomplishments and careers, but it might be the easiest way to describe the two of them together.
We are in the thick of “Throwing Money into the Recreation Industry” season, and I am pleased, shocked and regretful to report that my family is doing its part to indenture its parents into several more decades of servitude to fund its outdoor activity.
It all starts with children who outgrow their toys (primarily Dad), but continues with more basic needs, such as food and fashion.
The spies in our microwave oven – if you’ve forgotten about these, just ask the president’s minions – were highly effective in detecting my susceptibility to outdoor-related purchases in July. A couple of tactical e-mails later from said spies and I committed to two purchases, demonstrating just how mindless and thoroughly patriotic I have become in support of my outdoor habit.
But that’s getting ahead of the point of this column, or perhaps just distracted from it. Or maybe there’s no point whatsoever. Who can tell?
In any event, this week is about last week’s first-ever, single-day circumnavigation of the Green Circle Trail by yours truly. It’s also about bears, books, bike shops, burgers and by-gosh any other thing worth bandying about while planning where to go next.
Last week was all about thankfulness. Now, a week into the holiday season and with winter apparently ready to hit us full on, it’s time for a little crankfulness.
Being cranky is easy when we look outside to see a cold, dreary, dank, dark world. But doing something about a bad mood doesn’t have to be difficult. In this case, I’m talking about counteracting our continued destruction of American outdoor values.
My son Sam and brother-in-law Fernando enjoying a sunset on the Cape Final Trail, Grand Canyon’s North Rim, 2007. The park is one of many funded by the LWCF.
Before we get there, a little scene-setting is in order. I’ve been hoping recently for at least a bit of warmer, drier weather to finish up the fall yard and garden cleanup – getting rid of the decay and dead remains of that which once brought beauty and hope, the growth from warmer seasons when it’s easier to focus on good things in life.
In winter, we may be prone to looking around and detecting rot and putrescence that eventually freezes into a lump of useless, ugly blight. You know what I mean: Congress.
Not all of Congress. It’s primarily one guy, who also happens to be the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources –Rob Bishop of Utah.
Never was there a congressman whose first name more aptly described his relationship to the American people.
He’s the guy holding up reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program which for 50 years provided the country with many of its spectacular and well known outdoor recreation opportunities, along with immeasurable benefits to communities, regions and states that used the fund for park and recreation projects.
The small green space next to Sentry’s downtown building.
We all got a reminder Nov. 4 of the good that can happen when citizens speak up and both government and business listen to them. The right thing just might get done.
Big thanks are in order for both Sentry Insurance and the City of Stevens Point for examining an eminently reasonable solution to a proposal that could have killed off a small park downtown.
The issue came before the Historic Preservation/Design Review Commission Nov. 4. Citizens argued that Sentry’s plan to add more parking to its lot on the 1200 block of Clark Street would take out a number of mature trees and probably the very best open, green space in the center of downtown. Continue reading →