Update on Zoning Meeting: Text Amendment Denied!

The Barry Planning Commission listened to the packed meeting room Monday night; and voted to deny Mr Spoor’s request for a Text Amendment. They will bring this recommendation before the Barry Co. Board of Commissioners at the next meeting. Generally, the Commissioners honor the advice of the Zoning Board, which means that marinas will continue to be banned in Mixed-Use Zoning (“grandfathered marinas” such as Mattesons, Circle Inn, etc are naturally exempted)

A quick show-of-hands showed the unanimous support of the crowd against the Text Amendment – thank you to everyone who braved the rain and foggy conditions to attend the meeting!!


We Need You: Zoning Meeting Monday Jan 22nd 7PM

This is a critical meeting, regarding the Landing At Gun Lake Marina. Mr Spoor is asking for a “Text Amendment” to the Barry County zoning regulations for Mixed-Use Zoning.

This is what I learned from our lawyer: “Mixed-Use” is exactly what it implies: a nice mixture of homes and low-impact businesses.  The regulations suggest possible business uses, and also specifically mentions things that are not allowed, including marinas*.  A Zoning Variance to change these regulations for a piece of property requires a Public Hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals.  A Text Amendment asks for the wording of the regulation to be changed.  In Mr Spoor’s case, he’d like to have the word “marina” moved to the “possible business” side, so he can run his marina legally AND enlarge it.  Of course, changing the wording also means that everyone else along that side of the lake who is zoned Mixed-Use, can likewise apply for a marina permit.  Clearly, amending text in a zoning regulation is opening a can of worms…..

*Yes, Mattesons have a long-standing, active DEQ Marina Permit.  They have been on Gun Lake for generations – they are grandfathered-in.  Opposing the Text Amendment will not affect them in any way.

So back to the meeting: this a Zoning Meeting – and they know this is a hot-button topic.  They have moved their meeting to a larger facility than the Courthouse Mezzanine: the Commission On Aging building at 320 W Woodlawn Ave in Hastings.  It’s .8 miles north of the old Courthouse, at the corner of Broadway and W Woodlawn.  Here’s a map of its location just north of downtown Hastings:

The meeting starts at 7 PM; there will be a break at 8:30 PM.

Last week, Mr Spoor had asked the Orangeville Township Board to support his proposed Text Amendment to the Barry County Zoning Board.  I hear 100+ people showed up for that meeting; and the Township Board denied his request.  After the break, Mr Spoor spoke to the Twp Board and the remaining crowd, and rescinded his request.

If you would like our Township representatives to hear your voice, or you just want to see/hear what happens next – please set aside Monday Jan 22nd at 7 PM.  To those who have attended meetings in the past, or written letters to our elected officials, I offer you my sincerest THANK YOU!

Batman vs. Starry Stonewort

For the last 3 years, though a Michigan Grant program, a group of researchers from Central Michigan and Grand Valley Universities, the Nature Conservancy; and aided by the Gun Lake Improvement Board (GLIB) have been studying Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in Gun Lake.  I know many of you saw the teams of scuba divers, or students in boats, who checked the test sites on a weekly basis.  Their report is finished, and I wish the results were more encouraging.

Today’s post is about Starry Stonewort (SSW) – that bright-green mat of algae-that-looks-like-a-plant.





It chokes out beneficial plants, and offers no habitat for fish or other aquatic critters.  You can’t fish through it; and when dense enough, it will stop motorboat traffic and foul jet-pump intakes.  It doesn’t have roots, and apparently is impervious to herbicides and algicides.  No matter what the Grant Program folks or GLIB did to SSW, it prevailed.  The best control method we have for the moment, is to simply mow it down with harvesters (which is VERY expensive to do) – and of course, like grass, it grows back again.

Meanwhile, some of us played Batman.  A few years ago, perplexed by the mat of SSW that prevented my grandkids from fishing from our dock (their favorite pastime), and being a former horse owner – I took a “tack hook”, tied a 25′ length of 1/4″ rope to it, and started lobbing it into the lake and dragging out gobs of SSW.

(A tack hook looks like a 15″ grappling hook, with no sharp points.  Weighs about a pound)

Well, my grandkids thought this looked very Batman-ish and fun.  So I bought more, to encourage their participation – they’re about $10 on Amazon.com: https://smile.amazon.com/Tough-1-4-Prong-Cleaning-Hook/dp/B002HVIAMU/ref=pd_sbs_200_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B002HV8X36&pd_rd_r=JBGFYC759YGJH335N1RV&pd_rd_w=QLKKa&pd_rd_wg=xPL01&refRID=JBGFYC759YGJH335N1RV&th=1&psc=1

(They can also be found at most horse-products stores)

Before you knew it, our waterfront was clear, although we had heaps of SSW everywhere along the seawall.  Once it dried for a couple of days, it weighed nothing, so was put in our trash cart since it refused to burn (?).  My neighbors did the same thing – now the kids could swim/fish/play.  YAY!  (Disclaimer: the hook does NOT pull out rooted, beneficial lake weeds, which is actually a very good thing!)

But here’s where it gets interesting: since the “big haul” of SSW, very little has grown in front of our houses in the 2 or 3 years since we Batmanned it.  Last year, my neighbor hauled out a small pile that might have filled a 5-gallon bucket.  That’s all.  In light of the Grant Group’s report, playing Batman might be important?  I told Pam Tyning, our Aquatic Engineer from Progressive AE about our tiny success, and she wants to test a few more areas next summer!  I will challenge my grapple-throwing abilities in our Gun Ho Channel, where the SSW is truly a huge problem (and where another neighbor has had some  success with HIS tack hook!).  But I’m passing this along now, in case others want to join the fun (and help eliminate the scourge of our beautiful lake).  SSW seems to really like our lake’s channels, and these should be the easiest areas to grapple clean, so get a hook and rope, don your Black Cape – and let’s clear this “bad guy” from our lake!

PS: if you DO decide to clear your lakefront via tack hook, please let me know the results?

“Innovation and Excellence” : Cuddy Update

Left to right: Chad Mencarelli. Project Manager w/LRE;  Brent Scholten, Allegan Maintenance Engineer; Denise Medemar, Allegan Drain Commissioner; Dan Fredricks, VP and Project Designer/Manager w/LRE;  Jim Dull, Barry Drain Commissioner; and Deb Masselink, Rich Beukema, and Greg Purcell of the Friends of the Cuddy Drain  (*)


Thursday October 12th, several of us met once again at our beloved Cuddy Drain.  The entire project is being submitted to the Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners – who will pick one project to win an “Innovation and Excellence Award”!!  Of course, we “Friends of the Cuddy Drain” feel it’s a shoo-in, but it would be nice if our Drain Commissioners were to win this accolade – a lot of time and effort went into it.  For the 3+ years of this project, Denise Medemar, Russ Yarger; and later Jim Dull; have consistently listened to and respected the voices of the residents.  Dan Fredricks designed a plan that finally solved the issues that had plagued Cuddy residents for decades, and his design turned a flood-prone, silt-laden, drain-filled-with-pathogens into the crystal-clear and safe body of water that we see today.  Chad Mencarelli was on-site during the construction, and Brent Scholten keeps everything running smoothly.  The Cuddy residents told the commissioners they were prepared to pay the (admittedly-steep) assessment as long as the “job was done right”.  And it was – all our original remediation goals were met.

All of the above still strikes me as amazing

*Absent from photo: Mark Englerth, Yankee Springs Supervisor who facilitated countless meetings between the Drain Commissioners and the residents, giving everyone a voice in the project.


I have to add a PS: on October 14th and overnight into the 15th, we received 6.75″ of rain, twice the amount that triggered the Great Cuddy Flood of 2013.  When I drove past the Cuddy on the 15th, it was happily burbling along.  No flood, no silt, no debris, no drama.

GLPA Annual Meeting Aug 12th, 2017

We had a great turn-out for today’s GLPA Membership Meeting on a beautiful day! We sort of joke every year that a drizzly morning is our friend, so that our members have nothing better to do than attend a meeting 🙂

A quick recap for those who weren’t there:

Chad Kraai was elected to fill Doyle Smith’s seat on the Board; and then Rob Heethuis, Deb Masselink, and Chad Kraai were re-elected to serve another 3-yr term.

Our 501C4 status has been finalized!  We are no longer being taxed on any money we hold aside for future needs – 100% of our members’ dues now goes toward the good of the lake.  A huge THANK YOU! to Ryan Cole for making this happen!

Barry Co Sheriff Dar Leaf, Sgt Julie Jones, and two deputies presented Certificates of Appreciation to the people/families who assisted at the July 1st boating accident and surely saved lives – all of them were given a standing ovation by the membership.

I gave a happy recap about the round-the-lake water testing that showed zero e-coli in the lake – and one of the lowest e-coli readings on the Cuddy Drain, ever!  The Cuddy remediation is finished, and working nicely.  The Dam replacement is waiting for DEQ permits, and tentatively scheduled to begin late this fall.  GLIB (Gun Lake Improvement Board) is encountering a particularly-heavy year with invasive weeds and harvesting requests; and is currently $35,000 over the proposed yearly budget.

Rob reported that several of us on the GLPA are working with the Gun Lake Tribe, the State DNR and the Allegan County Parks Dep’t to hopefully install boat washes at Yankee Springs State Park and Allegan County Park, to help stop the spread of the aquatic invasive species that create so many problems.

Rob told the crowd that the DNR Fisheries Department has asked the GLPA to consider a very small Muskie planting – one fish per 2.5 acres.  Rob had the crowd respond, by a show of hands, how many supported or did not support this proposal (also – how many had “no opinion”) – I’ll edit this post later to give the ratio; but the “no” group was the majority.  The GLPA will be sending out a card with more info and a formal ballot this fall on this topic.

Jan Schuiling and Dan Ullery gave a report on this year’s fireworks (which were awesome, by the way!) – Jan will be stepping back (after decades of expertly handling the program – you just can’t imagine how many permits and groups need to be coordinated for this!) and letting Dan handle next year’s display with her assistance.

A motion was made by a member in the audience, to add a line item “Legal Fees Donation” to the annual GLPA membership cards that will be mailed out next spring.  Many members expressed their desire to help financially.  The motion was seconded, and approved unanimously.  Another motion was made, seconded, and also unanimously-approved to continue working with our lawyers past the Marina’s  DEQ permit deadline (still no permit as of today), since zoning still needs to be addressed; and appeals might need to be filed.

Sarah Nelson of the Barry County Conservation District dropped off flyers showing what Phragmites look like and why we don’t want them – unfortunately, they are becoming very prevalent in our area.  They are easy to spot – they look like TALL grass (6′ to 15′ tall) with huge purple seedheads in the summer,  turning to silver plumes in the fall and winter.  They like “wet feet”, so can be found where cattails like to grow.  It’s a pretty plant; that can turn into a terrifying fire once ignited.  Here’s Sarah’s flyer, and I tagged a photo of a “Phrag Fire” at the end:

Circuit Court Dam Meeting 7/31/17

The Gun Lake dam replacement process took another step forward: today, Circuit Court Judge Amy McDowell signed the paperwork setting the boundaries for the Special Assessment District; and re-affirming the lake level at the same altitude as was set back in 1921 and again in 1950.

Another meeting will be held, probably in a couple of months, that will outline how the assessment will be figured (based on linear feet of frontage, acreage, or simply by parcel?). There seemed to be concern in the crowd attending, that the State (Yankee Springs State Park) and Allegan (Allegan County Park) pay their fair share. Of course that seems more than “proper” – if the lake disappeared, who would pay to attend those parks? On the other hand, how can we force them to actually white a check?

Stay tuned for the “Write a letter to your State Representative” campaign 😉

And as a P.S: After watching 130+ amazing Cuddy Channel residents fork over $6600+ EACH in assessments in order to preserve a clean, safe Gun Lake – I will not be sympathetic towards whining about the puny assessment (rumored to be around $200) it will cost each property owner to preserve our beautiful lake.

Gun Lake is priceless and we all know it.

The Cuddy – Before and After

I put this together to show another group – I know it’s crude, but I’m not a Powerpoint sort of girl (heck – I did my chemistry calculations on a slide rule!). It was amazing to see the difference between “before” and “after”! Yes, some of the pictures are from the Great Flood of 2013, when we received 3.3″ of rain in a 2-day event; ironically, we received a similar amount this past June, and the newly-renovated Cuddy handled it like a champ!  How soon we forget what a raging, moody thing the Cuddy used to be….. or the scary amount of erosion that happened.

At 1st St, where there were elevation changes, rock “riffles” stopped the cutting-away of the stream floor; and rip-rap stabilized the banks.  The “perched” area where the banks eroded downstream of the 1st St bridge, used to extend all the way to the right side of the last photograph.

Now the Cuddy is just a happy, burbling stream with a nice gravel bottom – until it hits the deep Sedimentation Basin, where it slows down and lets any suspended sand, etc fall out.  The little dam at the end keeps the sediment in place; and the Cuddy turns back into its happy little self again downstream.


The amount of debris that washed down was staggering – the old barrier stopped a lot; but was hard to clean.  The new debris barrier is simple and easy; and accessible from its very own (private) road.


Timber Creek’s 2 drain crossings were a nightmare of perching, erosion, and worn-out culverts.  The whole area was so overgrown that you couldn’t even see the water – I had to find the culverts by listening for them.  Now the protective shade that e-coli loves, is missing in many places; and the overhanging trees and shrubs, while pretty, added a lot of unwanted nutrients to the water

And one last look at the headaches the Cuddy brought on a too-regular basis:

This has been an amazing journey, and none of it would have happened without the Cuddy Residents stepping up and saying “We’ve had enough”.  And our government officials, both elected and appointed, listened. Add an engineer (Dan Fredricks) who took the Friends of the Cuddy Drain’s goals and made it work.  And finally, under a truly massive Special Assessment…. (yeah, that was a bit painful) – it all came together.  A giant group hug!! to all of you!!