Archive for the ‘Feature Stories’ Category

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BROOKS, Calif. – The Yocha Dehe Golf Club has achieved designation as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, an Audubon International program. Kyle Jones, Course Superintendent, has led the effort to obtain sanctuary status on this course and is being recognized for Environmental Stewardship by Audubon International. Yocha Dehe Golf Club is the 51st course in California and the 796thin the world to receive the honor.

“Yocha Dehe Golf Club has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property,” said Jim Sluiter, Staff Ecologist for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Programs.

“To reach certification, a course must demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas,” explained Sluiter. These categories include: Environmental Planning, Wildlife & Habitat Management, Outreach and Education, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management.

“This has truly been a team effort. All of us at Cache Creek Casino Resort, in one way or another strive towards the goal of sustainability. I want to thank everyone that has helped throughout this certification process and look forward to many opportunities ahead in educating and promoting a healthier eco system,” said Jones.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, endorsed by the United States Golf Association, provides information and guidance to help golf courses preserve and enhance wildlife habitat and protect natural resources. Golf courses from the United States, Africa, Australia, Canada, Central America, Europe, and Southeast Asia have also achieved certification in the program.

For more information on golf and the environment, visit http://www.golfandenvironment.org. In addition to golf courses, Audubon International also provides programs for businesses, schools, communities, and new developments. For additional information contact Audubon International, (518) 767-9051; acsp@auduboninternational.org; or visit their website at http://www.auduboninternational.org.

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By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

Lake Michigan is the main tourist attraction for Manistee in the summer because of its spectacular sunsets and inviting beaches, but also because of the fantastic sport fishing opportunities to be had on the big lake. So it’s no surprise how protective the fishermen can be, who make Manistee their main port of call.
What has local fishermen concerned these days is the entry of a new type of fishing out on the lake this summer — because the waters of Manistee are in a state of change with commercial fishing now underway, as a venture by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
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This business expansion will have five commercial fishing boats operating out of Manistee, and when completed, it is hoped it will bring up to 100 jobs to the area for tribal and non-tribal people alike. Currently, the operation employs about 25.
The structured fishing coalition is made up of commercial fishers from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and is based in Manistee, but also operates out of Ludington and Muskegon, fishing the waters of Lake Michigan from Grand Haven north to Arcadia as part of what is known as the Treaty Fishing Zone, established in the 2000 Consent Decree. They are also proposing to fish in the intertribal waters that extend north from Frankfort across to Escanaba.
“We want to protect our rights as tribal fishermen,” said Don Stone, who, along with his sons, was key in getting an accord created and presented to the tribe to fund the operation. “It’s something we had all along that’s never been taken away from us, and traditionally our people supported themselves — made their livelihoods and existence — on fishing in one form or another.”
The president of the Manistee County Sport Fishing Association, Kevin Hughes, and Howard Vaas, representing Manistee Area Charter Boats, were part of a recent meeting held with the commercial fishermen to educate the public about the venture.
“Our biggest concern is safety,” says Hughes. “They have their right to fish out there, but our concern is being able to fish and not impeding the safety of recreational fishermen.”
Hughes is optimistic so far.
“They’re doing a good job of trying to mark (the nets),” he said.
Regardless, many sport fishermen are worried that the public may steer clear of fishing in the area due to a fear of the nets, and the perception that it may be less safe to troll the waters where they are set.
“The professional guys like ourselves, we’re pretty knowledgeable and have good navigation equipment,” said Hughes.
“But I’m concerned about ma and pa — and the guy that comes from Rogers City, or the the guy who comes from Harrisville. A lot of those people came to Manistee last year because their fishing (Lake Huron) wasn’t so good. If all of the sudden people are scared to go out there because of the net situation, that’s not good for the whole economy.”
That’s why all of the fishermen seem to feel that the proper education of the public is key to the success of the situation.
And that’s one of the prime reasons for participation in a running dialogue of the sport fishermen with the commercial fishing operation — to gain information on how the nets used by the tribal fishermen will be marked, mapping procedures planned so that the charter captains would know where the nets are located, and an update on the posting of GPS coordinates of the nets on a Website and in other public places to assist local fishermen and boaters.
The tribal fishermen have promised to pass all of this information along. An agreement was also reached on posting information on the nets themselves, and assisting recreational fishermen to learn how to navigate safely around nets.
“They say they want the spirit of cooperation,” says Hughes. “And I think we’ve had that. We’ve had some good dialogue. Time will tell. The bottom line is, rhetoric is fine, but action speaks louder than words.
“We’re just taking a wait and see policy; see how well they’re marked, and are they trying to share the fishery. We’ve got to be able to have some coastline to troll out there unimpeded. I’ve been urging my members to be patient, to give it a chance — we should be able to co-exist.”
And the commercial fishermen say that they can and will work to co-exist. In 2000, the Little River Band agreed not target any fish that is caught by sport fishers (i.e., trout, salmon); and not to authorize the use of large mesh gill nets in Lake Michigan from the Manistee/Benzie County line south to Grand Haven.
They are, however, allowed to keep a certain amount of this “by-catch,” (non-targeted fish) legally, if they choose to do so.
“We’re trying to catch whitefish,” said fisherman Ken King, who is also a consultant to the fishing operation. “We’re not trying to catch brown trout or steelhead. I can count on one hand the number of salmon I’ve caught, and I’ve been fishing for 20 years. It’s not what we’re in business for. We’re just honest guys trying to make an honest living.”
They also say they don’t want to push sport fishermen out of their favorite spots if at all possible.
“We had set nets up in a place called ‘The Barrel,’ just outside of Arcadia. We had one of the charter boat captains come in and explain to us that was a favorite area of fishermen,” says Don Stone.
Stone decided to pull his nets out of that area as a result of the information.
“We’re not going to be setting there anymore,” he said. “If we had known ahead of time, we wouldn’t have set there.”
The commercial fishermen say that they want to work with others as much as possible, and to ensure that the fishing is managed properly.
“A methodical approach to commercial fisheries, in respect of charter, and what we do — everyone’s going to have a certain amount of responsibility to maintain the (fish) herd,” said Levi Stone.
“And that’s our job as individuals, not to abdicate too much, but to take enough to earn a living off of and leave enough so that it’s there for the next guy. Once there’s human intervention, you have an obligation to manage it.”
The trap net operations are limited to 12 nets per boat and the small mesh gill net operations are limited to 24,000 feet of net per operation. Tribal trap net fishers are only allowed to target and retain whitefish (19 inches and larger) and menominee. Small mesh gill net fishers may only target and retain bloater chubs.
The fishers are required to release all other species back to the lake. Commercial trap net fishers are required to observe a spawning closure from noon on Nov. 6 through noon of Nov. 29 of each year to protect the fish stocks. All trap nets must be either removed from the water, or tied closed.
Tribal Natural Resource Department director, Jimmie Mitchell, has volunteered to take responsibility over the commercial fishing program, which includes monitoring the fishing activities and mandatory catch reports. “Tribal fishing with nets is culturally inherent to our people,” Mitchell said. “Fishing in this old way has been fraught with controversy over previous years, but fishing is central to our identity as Indian people.”
And the fishermen themselves feel that they are doing their best to make the situation work for both sides.
“By going above and beyond the required markings, and marking every single amount of rigging we have on that net, we’re doing the best we can to avail them (other fishermen) of what’s there,” said fisherman Levi Stone.
“I think they (the public) need to be educated on the gear, and how the gear works,” said fisherman Mike Kerborsky, another consultant for the project. “So they can have an understanding of what’s going on out there.”
Some fishermen who are familiar with netting operations and how to navigate them even fish near the nets, the commercial fishermen say.
“Once they get familiar with them, they love them,” said Levi Stone. “There’s a guy in Ludington who just tears it up in tournaments fishing around the nets.”
CPO Mike Jensen of Coast Guard Station Manistee believes that the net markings are adequate and he hasn’t seen any problems, so far, with the operation.
“We were out there the other day, and it seemed to me that they were marked well enough that I wasn’t getting into danger with them,” said Jensen. “I know that the tribal police monitors (them) — they have regulations set in place for what type of markings they’re supposed to display — so I know they’re enforcing that. To me, it seemed adequate.”
“At night, if there’s no retro (retroreflective tape), that might be another story,” Jensen said.
He added that crabbers on the ocean do not use retro tape, and it sometimes can be a problem with fishermen running at night with the crab traps.
“Comparatively speaking, these (here in Lake Michigan) are fairly well marked,” he said.
Some fishermen who have spoken out about the situation see running their lines in low light conditions with nets in place as a major safety concern.
“You can’t fish in the dark, even if they’re marked, and some of the best fishing is right at dawn,” says Ken Glasser, who has been fishing in Manistee for years, but cancelled his plans to fish over Memorial Day weekend because of the netting, and says he won’t come to Manistee at all this year to fish.
“I’m just not coming…and taking that kind of risk. I’ll go somewhere else. They’re in places where we fish, like in the shelf, and up to the north. Once the nets are gone, I’ll think about coming back — if there’s any fish left.”
Dan Agnello, of Jackson, feels the same way.
“I’ve been going up to Manistee for 27 years, and if those fish nets are there, I’m not going to go fishing there,” he says.
It is these types of comments that are frustrating for the commercial fishermen, and the association leaders alike.
Don Stone promises that information and education are a primary goal of the new venture. To aid in this, the commercial fishermen are planning to set up nets within the next few weeks for the public to view on dry land to see them first-hand, and invite the public to stop by and visit.
Stone has also extended an invitation to anyone wanting more information about the operation to contact him at 398-9805 or come by the office on Washington Street in the Good Thunder Motorcycles building. The fishermen can also be found where they dock their boats near the S.S. City of Milwaukee.
“We have captains, a few of them, stop in…to chitchat and see what’s going on and stay informed, and that’s real helpful,” said Don Stone.
“Because if we stop talking and everybody starts feeding on misinformation, innuendo and rumor, then that’s where the problem begins. As long as we can keep talking and keep the lines of information open, then it’s going to be better for everybody.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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National Forest Service uses fire to fight fire
By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

To prevent an uncontrollable forest fire, the National Forest Service does exactly what they are trying to prevent – they start a fire. Their goal is to actually burn the fuel that such a fire would feed on. It’s called a “prescribed burn,” or “prescribed fire.”
“We have to wait for the right conditions, the right weather,” says Ramona DeGeorgio-Venegas, who was one of the local Forestry Service personnel who was on hand for a prescribed burn in the Manistee National Forest along Udell Road. Prescribed fires are carefully planned in advance, long before ignition happens. This was the fourth attempt at finding the right conditions for this particular burn.
The temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and the projection for rain all were right for the burn which happened last week. Fire is a natural part of many ecosystems on the Huron-Manistee National Forests.
Ecosystems such as jack pine forests evolved with fire. Modern firefighting altered the natural cycle of fire that maintained these valuable habitats. As a result, many plants, birds, and insects have become rare or endangered.
Fuel management is an important part of the forests’ fire program. Fire is used to eliminate “hazardous fuel loads along the ground, especially in the pines and mixed hardwoods,” according to DeGeorgio-Venegas. “There are a lot of leaf litters that are down from last fall.” Presribed fire consumes available fuel, reducing the potential for catastrophic wildfire.
The burn last week was part of a project which has been ongoing for four years. Small chunks of the burn area are set fire as conditions permit. “We did this piece four years ago, and we only burned about 20 acres last fall. It went out and we stopped, so now we’re back today,” said DeGeorgio-Venegas. “There’s a very short window between when we can burn and when we have our fire season.”
The fire is highly controlled, with an assortment of personnel on hand and clear boundary lines to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Besides fire crews, bulldozers are on hand to control fires, and the whole process is monitored via a fire plane circling overhead. The safety of drivers along fire area roads is also taken into account. “We have to try to not have problems with visibility from the fires (and smoke they generate),” says DeGeorgio-Venegas. “Safety is our number one priority, both for the public and for our firefighters.”
Local firefighters for the forest service had help from some of their counterparts from out west with the burn. “Firefighters are from the Huron-Manistee National Forest,” said DeGeorgio-Venegas. “There’s also some from region one out in Montana, as part of the hot-shot crew, and jumper crew. They don’t have fires out west as much until later in the summer. We try to do our prescribed burning before our fire season. So they come out from Missoula.”
According to the Forest Service, fire in the ecosystem is a natural and revitalizing process. This particular one day burn had a goal of accomplishing at least 60 percent of the fuel load. “Then we won’t have to come back,” said DeGeorgio-Venegas.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

In an emergency situation, especially a fire, five minutes can make the difference between life and death. That’s why Manistee Blacker Airport has a new tool to fight an aircraft fire on their runway — the Quick Response Crash/Fire/Rescue Truck.
“We’ve got commercial airline service with a 19 passenger airplane, and the new regulations which take place in June require us to have a quick response fire truck,” says Bill House, who heads the airport’s operations.
“It will respond to the accident and then it will last long enough that the local fire department will be in to back us up.”
Manistee Township’s fire department is the local responder for fires at Blacker.
“With us being trained in how to operate it, and we’ve got dry chemical foam and water on (the truck), we should be able to take down most accidents on the field prior to the fire department showing up,” says House.
“Manistee Township is only about two and a half miles away, so their response time is really fast — less than five minutes.”
Before purchasing the new fire fighting vehicle, which was built in Texas by a company called Crash Rescue, the airport relied solely on the fire department in case of a fire.
On Thursday, seven employees from the airport and six volunteers from Manistee Township and Eastlake departments were trained to fight fires using the Airport Firefighter Mobile Trainer, a state-of-the-art unit that is trailered in on a semi truck, and can simulate an aircraft fire right on the runway.
Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek operates the 50 foot-long trainer, the first of its kind to be approved as a rescue and fire fighting trainer by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The simulator uses environmentally acceptable propane fuel to provide a variety of realistic aircraft fire scenarios. One of the distinct advantages of the ARFF Mobile Trainer is its accessibility by rescue personnel to sharpen aircraft passenger and crew rescue skills.
The passenger rescue training is very realistic, right down to the recorded screams which play during the drill. Dummies are placed inside the trainer to simulate passengers, and the cabin is filled with thick smoke — so thick in fact, that firefighters can walk by open flame without ever seeing it.
Trainees then “rescue” the 150 pound dummies just as they would in an actual emergency fire rescue.
All of the flame and smoke is highly controlled and safety-monitored by infrared cameras via the control unit which is housed inside the semi-trailer portion of the simulator.
Firefighters do not actually put the fires out, even though they use water to spray the flames. The fire is controlled and extinguished by an operator remotely when he has determined that the proper technique has been used to quench a blaze.
All of the other equipment, from the trucks to the houses, breathing apparatus, rescue equipment, and protective clothing is the same as would be used in an actual emergency.
The simulator has the ability to simulate brake or tire fires, fuel spills, prop or jet engine fires, fuselage fires, and interior fire situations.
Even though it is a simulation, the flames and the smoke are real, and the training is customized based on the local airport. The effectiveness of the simulator lies in how it teaches responders to rapidly control and contain aircraft emergency situations by using “real-world” scenarios.
With their new vehicle and training, Blacker airport is fully prepared for any emergency, and will continue to hone their skills.
“Every airport with commercial air service needs annual training on this, so it will be back every year this time of year,” said House.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

The sign on the wall says it best, “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.”
Surroundings on River Street in Manistee is filled with unique gifts and other items of interest to the pedestrian shopper downtown, but the main feature of the store is its walk-in humidor, and the best night to show up at the shop is smoke night, on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.
Last Wednesday evening’s get-together was made even more special, as master cigar roller Billy Perdomo, brother of Nick Perdomo, owner of Perdomo cigars, was in town to demonstrate his cigar rolling expertise, and to let the customers roll their own cigars under his expert tutelage.
“You roll it, you smoke it,” was the event’s motto.
“This is probably our most popular cigar,” says owner Oscar Carlson, who along with his wife Karen, started running the eclectic downtown shop two years ago. The store has an event like this about four times per year with the Perdomo company. “They come fourth of July weekend,” says Karen. “And then we do one in the winter time, and then spring and fall. This trip is unique, however, because of the cigar rolling that takes place.
Customers love the event. They enjoy hors d’oeuvres, take turns rolling cigars and talking with the representatives from Perdomo, relax and talk with each other in the smoke room, and of course — enjoy quality cigars.
“Billy gets out four or five weeks a year,” says Roger Sherburn, who is the local representative for Perdomo cigars. “And then we have several other rollers that go out and travel with the representatives too. We do rolling events fairly regularly, but they’re definitely kind of a special occasion.”
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s nice, because you really want to educate people on our products, and why we think ours is better than others,” says Billy. Perdomo’s company is different in that they actually allow people to learn from masters like Billy and get the hands-on experience of putting a leaf wrapper around a tube of tobacco to make a cigar. Very few cigar makers give the public this rare opportunity.
“Most of them will do straight-out rolling,” says Billy. “They bring someone difficult to communicate with. As far as the teaching, it’s kind of a lost art. You don’t see it that much anymore.”
But Billy isn’t difficult to speak to at all, and he has a sense of humor that usually ends up with his pupil being the butt of his jokes. One amateur roller finishes his cigar, and proudly holds it up, beaming with pride at what he has created. Billy doesn’t let him down easily.
“That one is too loose,” says Billy. “It wouldn’t pass inspection.”
The assembled group enjoys a laugh, and the next victim steps up to try their hand at rolling one that might pass Billy’s muster. Perdomo is open, knowledgeable, and will answer any question, which makes him an instant hit with customers, who become more like fans by the time the night is through. Regular customers come back whenever he is in town, and newcomers become instantly hooked on the rolling events.
Marc Soles comes up from Scottville for the smoke nights. “I’ve been to smoke night a half a dozen times so far,” he says. This was his first Perdomo cigar rolling event, and although he has been smoking cigars for years, this was the first time he had ever actually rolled his own cigar. “It took me a good five minutes. It was hard, because the leaves are very delicate.”
When Billy is asked how long it takes Perdomo craftsman to roll a cigar, he points to the student he has been tutoring for the last ten minutes through creating his first cigar and says, “not this long.” Professional rollers produce 300 finished cigars in an eight hour day.
“Obviously, they’re artisans,” said Soles. “They’re good at what they’re doing.” Soles wasn’t familiar with the brand before, but bought a Perdomo to try after working with the master and actually making one himself. Perdomo is a good teacher, because cigars are a long-standing tradition in his family.
Billy’s a third generation cigar maker. “My grandfather started,” he says. “He was originally a roller at a factory in Havana. He rolled there, and he became an apprentice, and then a master. My father went up the same ranks, and came to the United States in 1959. My grandfather became friends with Batista, who was against Fidel (Castro). My father got shot and had to come to the United States, and my grandfather went to prison in Cuba, where he stayed until 1970.”
“But my father, when he came (to the U.S.), he didn’t want anything to do with cigars, because he thought that it would never be the same thing that it once was. But my brother took a very big interest into the company, so he kind of restarted us back into it.”
Wanting his son to succeed, Billy’s father helped to get Nick and the business set up in Nicaragua with the factory and plantations. The company is still based in Nicaragua with a home office in Miami.
The company now sells cigars world-wide. “I’ve been to Russia, China — I’ve been all over the world,” says Billy. “I like the business very much.”
Although Billy has two daughters who haven’t shown an interest in the business, his brother has a 13-year-old son who will carry on the family tradition of fine cigar making. “If it was up to him, he’d start tomorrow,” says Billy.
As another smoke night neared its close, and Perdomo prepared to leave to continue his cigar-rolling tour in other shops around Michigan and the Mid-West, it was quite evident from looking around the smoking room at Surroundings that another group of cigar smokers had “entered as strangers and would leave as friends.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

In 1870, Marilla petitioned for and was granted township organization. Relatively unchanged today, this quaint corner of Manistee County has remained untarnished by strip malls, parking lots, and the other blights of urban sprawl since its inception.
The lumbering and trapping days which helped put Marilla on the map have since ebbed, but the area still maintains its charm and sense of history, thanks in large part to the Marilla Historical Society and Museum, along with the museum’s director, Jan Thomas, and the many volunteers who labor year-round to promote the area’s historical landmarks, buildings, and artifacts.
The museum, which is also the Township Hall and community center, has been in operation since the early 1980’s. “It’s a community building; a lot of things happen here,” says Thomas. “We have food bank, there’s a church that meets here every Sunday, TOPS, and our historical board.”
The town hall, like much of Marilla, has been kept true to its historical beginnings. “It’s changed a little, but not a lot,” says Thomas. With the closest major highway (M-115) five miles to the north, Marilla is off of the beaten path. The area wasn’t always so isolated, though.
Now just a raised earthen bed, a railroad track once ran through the area. “How enthused the people felt when the train came,” says Thomas. “Because we’re such an isolated community, and when the train came, that was bringing the world to them, and allowing them to go out into the world.”
This early growth and connection to the rest of the world brought some colorful characters and stories, as Thomas explains. “In the cemetery, there’s a tombstone that says George Lever, and it says ‘shot.’ The story we hear is that he was out hunting, foolishly — he was wearing a fur coat — and he was leaning over his kill, and someone shot him.”
Another early citizen was Nells Johnson. “He had never married, he lived by himself in the woods,” says Thomas. “Nells was an interesting gentleman.”
His re-imagined cabin lives on for the education of visitors on the museum grounds. “This cabin represents that self-sufficiency spirit of the early pioneering people. When he came, he lived in a little dugout in the bank. Then he built something called the ‘bark house.’ And then he built the cabin, himself.”
Johnson had quite an influence on the area’s early inhabitants. “He was a wonderful trapper, and a lot of the young men in the community would come out here and spend time with him in the woods and learn the skill of trapping.” Johnson was also what was called a “road monkey,” whose primary job was to clear manure and debris off of the logging trails for early lumberjacks.
The area holds a wealth of interesting lore about its people, and these are only two of the early Marilla settlers who are the root of a good yarn. “There’s just so many interesting stories I could tell you of the early people who came,” says Thomas.
Luckily, these stories are preserved by the Museum, and the people of Marilla for the enjoyment of visitors and tourists. “What we’re trying to do is interpret the agricultural forestry life,” says Thomas.
Farming, which despite the loss of logging in the area, still goes on, just as it did back when the township incorporated. “Farmers had a connection to the logging people,” explains Thomas. “Furnishing food to the hungry loggers. So they did very well. They prospered. They started out with seven farmers, and in eight to ten years time they were up to almost 80 farms.”
Many of the historical farms, farm buildings, and early businesses are still standing, and they all have their own stories. Because history is so alive in the township, Marilla is the perfect place to see how things were in Manistee County before urbanization and commercialization changed the landscape forever. “Marilla has not changed as much as some townships, and so it still is very very rural, and in a sense we’re still isolated in a way,” says Thomas.
In addition to their recent Sugar Bush Tour and Pancake Supper, which was held in March, the museum also has several other events on its calendar: a Strawberry Social on June 23, an Open House and Antiques Appraisal on Aug. 18, and their Autumn Reflections event on October 13. School trips are always welcome, and a special treat is the Tea and Tour. “When you come to visit, plan on spending two to three hours visiting. A very special part of your visit is being served a delicious dessert plate with cheese and fruit accompanied by a fresh brewed tea in the Pioneer House Kitchen,” boasts the museum brochure.
For additional information on how to sample a piece of Manistee County and Marilla’s history or events at the Museum, contact Jan Thomas: (231) 362-3430.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

For most people, the idea of having a needle put into your body isn’t looked upon as a favorable experience — but for anyone who has actually had the opportunity to have an Acupuncture session, the undertaking is no longer looked upon with anxiety or apprehensiveness.
Acupuncture is rapidly being accepted as an effective form of complementary medicine in the United States. Unknown of 30 years ago, acupuncture is now used successfully by millions of Americans to treat pain and disease. This form of treatment has not only survived the scrutiny of Western science and controlled, double-blind studies, it has been endorsed by a National Institute of Health consensus committee for use as treatment for many health disorders. The World Health Organization identifies over 40 conditions that acupuncture successfully treats. Currently, the National Institutes of Health are funding several studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of certain conditions.
Manistee County residents don’t have to travel far to receive treatments, either. Margaret Batzer, who operates Healing Perspectives, is a nationally board-certified Acupuncturist (NCCAOM). She holds a Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland. Her training included over 3,000 hours in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, Western sciences, and Shiatsu — all of which she practices at her Manistee facility for patients.
“It’s a nationally accredited program,” says Batzer. “As part of our training, we studied Acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine theory, Chinese dietary therapy, meditation, Asian body-work therapy, and then we also have pretty extensive background in Western sciences as well. We studied anatomy, physiology, and can diagnose really basic things, so we can refer out to other practitioners as appropriate. Just about anyone I am working with, also is working with their primary care physician as well.”
Acupuncture does not seek to replace any other form of treatment, but rather, complement other forms of medicine. Batzer refers patients to other practitioners, and they refer patients to her as well. “I refer to massage therapists, chiropractors — really any other health care provider.”
There is a long list of ailments which Acupuncture will work to alleviate. “Common conditions that I treat,” says Batzer, “are back pain and sciatica — the number one conditions that I treat — and various body pains and aches, like headache pain or migraines. I also treat a lot of Sinusitus, digestive disorders; and I also work part time at the West Michigan Regional Cancer and Blood Center. So, I treat folks for affective chemotherapy, and other issues that they’re dealing with along with their conventional cancer treatments.”
Batzer decided to become an Acupuncturist after having her own favorable treatment experience. “Acupuncture helped my asthma, and after my experience with that, I really wanted to learn more about it, and how I would be able to help other people in the same way that I’d been helped.”
There are some misconceptions about Acupuncture, and what the practice actually entails. Acupuncture uses extremely fine, sterile needles, which are inserted at specific points in the body to restore balance. Electromagnetic research has confirmed the location of traditional Acupuncture points. Practitioners like Batzer use a detailed theoretical framework over 2,500 years old to diagnose patterns of “disharmony” that causes disease.
Acupuncture is rapidly becoming more commonplace in Michigan, and is being noticed more by the medical community and the general public here in the state.
“We now have an Acupuncture Registration Bill which has been passed in the state of Michigan, and right now the Acupuncture Board is working on establishing what standards will be so people can register under the bill,” explains Batzer. “Michigan was one of the last seven states that didn’t have some sort of regulation on the practice of Acupuncture, so we’re really stepping into the complementary medicine mainstream.”
Treatments usually take an hour and a half to two hours for the initial visit, and about an hour and a half for follow up visits. Patients have a medical history taken at their first visit, then receive a pulse and tongue diagnosis. The Acupuncturist then determines how to treat based on the meridians of the body.
“There are 12 different meridians,” explains Batzer. “And then there are eight extra meridians. The 12 meridians are basically like the superhighways of qi (pronounced ‘chee’) in the body, and the additional eight are sort of like the reservoirs.” Qi, also commonly spelled ch’i or ki, is a fundamental concept of traditional Chinese culture. Qi is believed to be part of every living thing that exists, as a kind of “life force” or “spiritual energy.”
“Depending on the condition that they’re coming in for, I’ll choose appropriate meridians to treat that,” says Batzer. “All of these different meridians have relationships with one another, which is part of how I construct treatment for people. Each channel also has its associated organ.“
At that point, Batzer will make a Chinese differentiated diagnosis to treat the problem, and may recommend Chinese herbal medicine in addition to the Acupuncture treatment, which she has right in her office.
Sessions consist of having the patient lie down on a table, with soothing music, comfortable pillows to help the recipient relax, and then the insertion of the needles, around 15 to 20, according to Batzer. “I never know how many I’m going to use until I actually get started,” says Batzer.
Patients then relax and let the needles do their work on the pressure points for about 45-60 minutes. The experience is similar to a therapeutic massage or a spa treatment in comfortability level, and involves no pain or discomfort. “Sometimes there is feeling of pressure when the needle first goes in. Some patients say it feels like a pin prick, others don’t feel anything at all,” says Batzer.
If there is an unusual amount of sensation at the Acupuncture point, all it takes is a deft adjustment by Batzer to relieve the pressure a little. There is no pain to endure — the entire procedure is a pleasurable experience.
The response to a treatment varies with the individual. Many people notice immediate total or partial relief from pain or other symptoms. For others, the results may take a few days or a few treatments. “Part of it depends on the person’s general state of health,” says Batzer. “Part of it depends on the type of condition they’re coming in for, how long they’ve had that condition, and how severe it is.”
For anyone seeking an additional treatment for their medical ailments, Acupuncture is definitely an avenue that has been proven to work, and should be considered — and most importantly — not feared.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>A successful casino marketing strategy obviously relies on many different variables. Advertising, special events, promotions, and direct mail are most often used to attract guests and increase gaming revenue. In order to impart the marketing message to the widest audience possible and to assure the maximum exposure to the message, it is very important to use as many marketing channels as possible. This is where electronic marketing communications enters the picture.

Marketing communications for many years has typically been in the form of advertising through direct mail, television, radio, billboards and print media. Over the last few years, technology in the area of electronic communications has been advancing steadily and now there is a wealth of new methods for communicating marketing messages to prospective casino players.

The Road Sign
Once only seen on the Vegas strip, Atlantic City, or in sporting venues, these signs are now seen at tribal and corporate casinos across the country. The static or monochromatic signs of the past are slowly fading away and now full color high resolution video displays are often the norm. These moving billboards produced by companies such as Daktronics can display graphics, text, images, animations, and pre-recorded video clips as well as live video. The sequences which run on these screens can be scheduled down to the minute you want them to run and are easy to administer remotely from any location on a regular PC equipped with the sign software and hardware. By purchasing an animation and video editing program, sophisticated eye catching sequences can be created by in-house casino staff members or existing commercial footage can be converted and used for the display.

The uses of this medium are varied; advertisements of upcoming promotions, special events and entertainment, giveaways, and live or pre-recorded video feeds of special events such as slot tournaments and entertainment acts. What’s important to note when employing this type of dynamic billboard is that it is a highly visible message center and the information needs to be updated on a regular basis. It’s also key that the messages placed on the sign only run in short sequences and the amount of text is kept to a minimum as most people only have a few seconds to read them as they drive past. Sequences which need to have more impact or are of higher importance can be scheduled to run more often than less important ones, making this a flexible form of advertising which can be administered quite easily in-house.

The Video Distribution System
The size and clarity of these displays (normally plasma or LCD screens) make them an eye-catching way to impart your casino marketing messages. Information regarding promotions, giveaways, special events and other advertisements for your resort can be shown 24/7 to guests in high-traffic areas as they wait in line for a slot machine, at the players club, or at the cage. These networks are simple to set up and can be supplied with material from a desktop PC or server running a simple presentation program like Microsoft PowerPoint. Another reliable way to send video to these channels is through the use of a video server such as the Firefly by Visual Circuits. They are essentially a large hard drive that digitized video is stored on. These systems have one to four different channels of output and the video can be scheduled and changed as needed. The systems are easy to use and feature a web interface for making changes to the server. Internal Marketing or I.T. staff can change the content on either of these broadcast systems and the network is scalable to any size you desire should your property grow. The same content can also be piped over a video distribution system feeding traditional television sets on the casino floor, in retail and restaurant outlets, and in other high traffic areas of the resort. Placing these monitors in areas where lines naturally develop grabs a captive audience and reinforces the marketing message.

If your property has a hotel, this same video can be piped into guest rooms on an open channel or channels. Commercial televisions are highly customizable now, and can be set to always display the in-house channel when they are first turned on. If your property had a video on demand system such as Lodgenet or Nstreams, you also have the opportunity to add customized content to one or two of their channels and this information can be customized and updated for promotions and special casino events as well.

Another great way to use in-house displays is by broadcasting live video. For a relatively low cost, you can install small remotely controlled cameras in a stage lounge area or in different areas of the casino floor. They can be powered, controlled, and their video signals can be transmitted back to a video distribution system using a single cat 5e wire. Uses for these live feeds could be broadcasts of poker and slot tournaments, large scale promotional events, or entertainers performing on stage. Remote hand-held cameras can also be hooked up to this network for more flexibility and switched video can be sent back to the distribution system. Another way this remote camera network can come in handy is for videotaping promotions that require documentation for gaming compliance reasons or for insured promotions that require videotaping as part of their contract.

One important pitfall to avoid with a video distribution system on the floor is the improper use of the network. You want to build in the flexibility to show a variety of channels which you may obtain from either the local cable or satellite company so you can broadcast important sporting or news events. What you don’t want to do is allow this free advertising medium to be wasted by having the displays tuned to CNN or ESPN all the time. There must be an understanding among the different casino departments that the televisions and plasmas are there for imparting the casino’s messages, not necessarily for the entertainment of the guests and staff.

There are several ways to avoid this problem. One way is to zone the televisions so that control of individual sets and the channels they display is controlled from a central location such as the machine room in the I.T. department. Another way is to lock out all the channels on the individual sets with a master remote except those in-house channels you wish to display. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to keep tabs on what’s playing in the resort just as you would track outside media such as television and radio commercials.

The Audio Distribution System
Most casinos have the typical piped-in music playing over tinny overhead speakers. It serves as background noise and really doesn’t add much to the overall experience. Building a comprehensive audio distribution system is a good way to add to the guests’ experience and provide another channel for providing marketing messages. Change the music selections daily and have themed days with appropriate music. The wide selections of music available from local cable and satellite providers allow a casino property to tailor the music played to the specific promotion or event being hosting on a particular day.

Don’t scrimp on speakers. Use high quality speakers from a company such as JBL and make sure that coverage and the volume of different zones sounds even as guests walk between zones. Group the speakers so you can control different areas of the casino separately and they can be adjusted for different levels of traffic, background noise, and noise from the games on the floor. It’s even possible to create a system which will self-adjust the volume levels based on the level of background noise so the speakers’ volume does not overpower small crowds or fade to inaudible levels in large crowds. Have a variety of different tuners that can send separate music selections to different parts of the casino or resort. That way it’s possible to have a separate musical selection playing in each different restaurant or common area depending on the needs of that particular casino venue.

As a back-up, think about investing in an MP3 server. This can be a standard PC with a large hard drive and a good sound card which hooks directly into the audio distribution system. It serves two purposes. The first purpose is to provide music if the satellite or cable provider is down. The second purpose is to provide customized music for special events and promotions. For example, if your property is having a particular country star appear that weekend in the amphitheater, play his music the day of the concert. Caution must be exercised, though. Make sure that your licensing is up to date with the appropriate music licensing agencies ASCAP, BMI, and SEASAC and don’t play MP3’s that were downloaded from the internet; only use those which were actually ripped from a CD that was purchased through an appropriate vendor.

Another common feature of the audio distribution system is paging. Informational announcements from the players club and pages for guests are a necessary part of this system. Make sure there are hard wired microphones in the player’s clubs, wireless microphones for use out on the floor during promotions and special events, and phone paging for areas that these microphones won’t cover. Make sure that paging can be heard in all of the outlets and hallways for big giveaways so people don’t miss hearing their name being called for a drawing. This will give guests the flexibility to continue gaming, eat meals, or visit a retail venue while waiting to hear drawing results and will also keep congestion in the drawing area down.

Also consider having pre-recorded announcements play over the audio distribution system. This could mean running radio ads or actually recording special audio segments and messages to play specifically on the casino floor speakers. It’s also fun to have employees read live scripted messages at different intervals throughout the day detailing promotions or other information. Most importantly, pack as much information on this system as possible so guests are up to date and informed of all of the casino current events.

Control of the audio system doesn’t have to rely solely in the hands of the Information Technology staff. A control system such as Crestron can be used with touch-panels strategically placed around the resort and in the casino outlets. This type of password protected control system allows key employees the ability to change music sources and volume levels on the fly without chasing down technical staff.

The Web
Every casino has a web page but the quality and amount of useful information that are imparted by each page vary greatly. The first key to a good casino website is to have a main page where surfers are pointed to which has dynamic and up to date information that is both important and relevant. This is where the most recent promotions, special events, and other information such as upcoming entertainment should reside. Also on this page should be links to all the other pages of the website which a guest might want to use to find information such as sections for gaming, hotel, dining, and group sales. If the information is not useful and never changes, people will stop visiting the site.

Pack as much information as possible on the web-site. Rates for the hotel, prices of meals in the dining outlets, lists of the most recent slot machines and table games on the floor, rules for poker tournaments, and gaming guides are all fantastic pieces of information to have online. This will alleviate the number of calls coming into the PBX and to marketing staff from patrons looking for information and will also serve as one more medium to get marketing messages out to the world. People prefer to get their information via the web because it’s more immediate and time saving so take advantage of this fact.

One way to add value to the web experience for your guests is to put some type of exclusive web offer on the main page such as a coupon which is redeemable only online. This will help drive traffic to the site. Avoid having flashy animations and videos on the site and keep the graphics sizes to their minimum. Although all of these items look fancy, they can slow download times of the page drastically. It’s important to remember that there are still people using dial-up modems out there to access the internet.

On-hold Messaging
On hold music is a standard part of any PBX based phone system. Guests often have to wait on hold during busy periods. This is another opportunity to broadcast your marketing messages to a captive audience. It’s easy to digitize radio ads and copy them to a device which will play them periodically over the on-hold music. You can also record customized messages and place them on this system as well. Some companies will even record and update the messages in return for a small monthly fee.

Another way of getting the message out via the phone system is to have staff members update their outgoing voicemail messages with a short marketing blurb of the day. Keep these short and update them daily to maximize their effectiveness. The phone system is another weapon in the marketing arsenal that often gets overlooked, so maximize its potential.

Content and Collateral
Re-use existing material to save money. One radio ad can play not only on several radio stations, but also on your in-house audio system and your on hold music. A television ad can play on television stations, the in-room hotel channel, on the road sign and on the plasma display network. The digitized audio and video can also play on your website, but be careful of the file sizes. Similarly, graphics created for buck-slips and print ads can be reused on the web, road sign, and video distribution network. Re-using collateral marketing materials as much as possible drives down the cost per message delivered and helps to keep advertising expenses down. It also assures that the messages all have a similar theme and style giving the marketing campaign thematic continuity.

Cooperation between Information Technology and the Marketing Department
One last point which cannot be stressed enough is that cooperation between the technical and content creation staff is critical. All of these new methods of marketing communications are technically complex and need regular administration to operate properly. It’s important to have a good relationship between the Information Technology and Marketing departments at the casino property. Regular communications internally between the two groups need to be maintained to assure that the content on the different marketing channels is correct and up to date and the internal systems need to be maintained regularly to achieve a high level of “up-time” guaranteeing that messages are not lost to potential receivers.

The line between content and delivery mediums in the casino industry is merging so that marketing directors and managers are required to become more technically savvy and I.T. professionals are required to think more like marketing staff people to achieve the goal of successful marketing communications for the property as a whole. Look for new ways to get the message out there and use as many different methods as possible to reach your target audience. Chances are that if you have an idea for getting the message to your audience, a communications technology exists that can get it there.

Cean Burgeson is the Communications Administrator at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee Michigan. He holds a Master of Arts in Telecommunication from Michigan State University and has worked in Washington DC and Los Angeles in the broadcast and entertainment industries.