New Schmeeckle app highlights history; vandals hit bike hitch

schmeeckle cap

Schmeeckle Reserve’s new interactive app features aerial-photo layers underneath a trail map. Click photo for a closer view.

Last week’s Gazette column is posted on the paper’s web site, which can be accessed at this link.

In the meantime, here’s a screen shot of the app.  Head on over … and, as a teaser for this week’s column, I wish everyone happy holidays!  (Yes, I’ll make fun of Texas, my former home state. But it will be an equal-opportunity column.)

1,631 words of outdoor thankfulness … and counting

Many faithful Gazette readers know the TV listings are now gone.  When Gazette managing editor Nate Enwald and I first talked about this column, he mentioned that at least for a few weeks, I could write up to 1,500 words if I wanted.  It would help fill the void when those listings faded to black.

Footbridge over the Eau Claire River, Marathon County

Footbridge over the Eau Claire River, Marathon County

I keep waiting for Nate to tell me to tap the brakes, but the last time I checked he said I should keep the pedal down.  That means, because it’s that time of year, I’m writing 1,500 words of thanks.

First things first: I’m thankful for the opportunity to do this column, meaning much appreciation goes to the people at the Gazette, a locally owned publication that covers real local news with local folks.

I’m writing for two reasons.  I love to write, and I love to get outside.  I don’t do either one enough, but the Gazette encourages me to do both.

And here’s a point of gratitude that needs to be right out front.  I’m thankful for the life and work of Gazette co-founder George Rogers, who I never met and who passed away in 2013, but whose influence on the community and on people’s love for the outdoors was clearly enormous.

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A walk around Schmeeckle

This is my  Oct. 22 column for the Portage County Gazette.  The paper’s web site is not quite there yet, but it’s coming soon.  I’ve been a bit distracted lately by my day job, including chairing a faculty search committee.

A swing at the pond on Schmeeckle's Trail of Reflections.

A swing at the pond on Schmeeckle’s Trail of Reflections.

Bad circulation, bad sleeping.  Bad bones, bad muscles, bad mood.  Mental decline.  Shorter life.

Bad week?  More like a bad month.  Or maybe it’s been a month and a half. I don’t remember.

The good thing, though, is a short walk with an old friend reminded me of something I can do to fix those things.  Thanks, Schmeeckle.

I write, of course, about Schmeeckle Reserve, one of the most spectacular offerings of any kind that we have in Stevens Point.  The 280-acre conservancy just north of UW-Stevens Point drew me back for a walk recently, and like any good friend reminded me of the things I already knew but was neglecting.

Among those are the extraordinary benefits that come so freely to us if we just make the effort to get off our tushes and onto the trails – or sidewalks or back streets, for that matter.  Regardless of the route we choose, walking blesses us with the opposite of my list above: better circulation, better sleep, stronger bones and muscles, a longer life, and a hedge against mental decline.

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Obey to grads: Ask yourself if these are consistent with your values

(Part 2 of a report on former Congressman Dave Obey’s commencement address at UW-Stevens Point)

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey fired up most of the morning commencement crowd at UW-Stevens Point’s May 16 ceremonies, although there was a more muted response during the afternoon ceremony and at least a few folks who apparently did not look kindly on Obey’s criticism of our approach to education, social responsibility and politics (see yesterday’s post for more).

Click to visit Dave Obey's Facebook page and let him know you appreciate his support of education.

Click on “Dave Obey” in the first paragraph to visit his Facebook page and let him know you appreciate his support of education.

Word is that a very small number of individuals walked out on the speech by Obey, a Democrat from Wausau who served 42 years in the House of Representatives.  It’s easy for many of us to find this ironic, but few of us are any longer surprised by folks who avoid confronting unpleasant truths about social responsibility even while they’re at a celebration of the good that comes from that very thing.

But Obey was reminding us all of a particularly hurtful truth: how easily we have turned our backs on supporting education.

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Dave Obey to graduates regarding politics: “Only you can change that.”

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey at UWSP's May 2015 commencement. Click picture for full address (begins at 47:47 on UWSP's YouTube channel).

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey fires up the morning commencement crowd at UWSP’s May 2015 ceremony as Chancellor Bernie Patterson listens. Click on the picture for his full address, which begins at the 39:15 mark (video posted on UWSP’s YouTube channel).

There’s little doubt among supporters of education, and probably most honest supporters of democracy, that we’re in the midst of a very dark period in Wisconsin’s history. The answers to getting out of the dark were laid out to UW-Stevens Point graduates by former Congressman Dave Obey of Wausau at the university’s May 16 commencement.

I’ll have another post addressing Obey’s commencement thoughts tomorrow. His three primary pieces of advice follow below.

“The fact is that money in politics and what has happened with redistricting is making government far more unaccountable than it ought to be in a democracy,” Obey said, citing examples of the 40:1 spending advantage that corporations have leveraged in their Washington lobbying efforts as opposed to unions.  He faulted both Republicans and Democrats on the redistricting issue.

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