Rockford Area Historical Society News and Updates

Dear Editor,

The opportunity to improve our local museum by relocating it to the vacant Rockford Courthouse building has appealed to the giving spirit of many individuals and businesses not only in our area but also from other places. Pledges and donations have been received on a daily basis from all over the place. Many of those, but not all, donating have ties to our area and realize that the time is now to help improve our museum situation and to make a change that will affect our community in a positive way. We need a new museum!

I feel that it is important to emphasize that we need a better building to continue to do the job of preserving and presenting our history. A better, larger building will allow the display of things not available for display presently because of lack of space. A new museum will allow for easier public access to our displays and our research areas. Our new museum will have restrooms and storage space. Our new museum will be safer and public parking will be much easier. Please notice that everything mentioned so far has to do with the building improvements, but there is more.

We need to have a museum that is open on a regular basis. Our present museum is not open enough because volunteers (docents) are not always available. We try to have regular summer hours but sometimes volunteers are not able to fill all of the time slots. We are not open in the winter on a regular basis. We are open by appointment and volunteers handle that. Volunteers also open the museum for Rockford student tours and other group outings.

It is time to emphasize that our volunteers do a great job! We have had some hardworking museum directors who have donated their time and energy to run our museum. People like Katherine Mancell, Kathy Cornwell, Susie Fair, Char Guzin and present director, Pat Frye and her assistant Janet Matthews, have all been important in keeping our museum alive. They were not paid money for their efforts. All of the docents who worked with them over the years also were not paid. The directors and docents are not the reason we need a new museum. Their efforts are not the problem. Having a new museum is not a criticism of our present volunteer workers. We need more of them.

In order to have regular hours (probably about 20 a week) and to be open at least five days a week year round, our present plan is to hire at least one part-time director to be in charge of our operations. Volunteers would still be needed.

A special “Thanks” to Rockford resident and Grand Rapids Press columnist, Tom Rademacher, who will be selling and signing copies of his latest book, “Knocking on the Door” on Friday, Dec. 23, at Kimberly’s Boutique, 54 Courtland St., from 4 to 6 p.m., and at Great Northern Trading Company, 10 Squires St., from 6 to 8 p.m., with part of the proceeds going to North Kent Community Services and Rockford Area Museum. Please stop by and get your copy! Tom also will be doing a signing at the Rockford library in the spring.

Anyone with questions about our fundraising or desiring to get materials may contact me at (616) 866-0530.

Terry Konkle, President
Rockford Area Historical Society

Reply to Johnston letter

Dear Editor,

I would like to clarify a misstatement made by Mr. Johnston in his letter to the Squire published Dec. 1, 2011 (“Groups’ Tactics Questionable”), specifically, that the Central Rockford Neighborhood Association (CRNA) and the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Development (CCRD) are related.

They are not.

CRNA is a local Rockford neighborhood association. We were officially founded November 2009. We are a nonprofit with the State of Michigan. We have boundaries, bylaws, and even a by-line (“CRNA—Rockford’s Pretty Good Neighborhood Association”). We actively contribute to the community. We have done garlic mustard pulls on Rum Creek and the Rogue, have helped at the annual Rogue River Clean Up, and have collected food for Feeding America at the Farmers Market, among other things. We love Rockford, and our by-laws state this in so many words. Our by-laws are a public document; feel free to request a copy.

However, by early August 2010, about a month prior to the start of the tannery demolition, the CRNA had received a large number of inquiries and expressions of concern from its members regarding the lack of any environmental investigation or any significant environmental testing data taken at and around the Wolverine Worldwide tannery site. After determining that its by-laws did not support an active role in the oversight of the demolition process, and not wanting to polarize those members that sought more information and those that did not, CRNA officers elected to step away from the issue. Since that time, the CRNA has avoided any active role in the tannery demolition or redevelopment.

To address the concerns of local citizens, the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Development was founded in August 2010 as an independent entity, wholly unrelated to the CRNA. Although some CRNA members are also members of CCRD, the groups are very distinct, as are the membership rolls. Full disclosure—I am a member of both. CRNA broadly seeks to help make Rockford a better place to live, while the CCRD is focused specifically on the demolition, cleanup and redevelopment of the former Wolverine Worldwide tannery site. While both groups desire to see the health and welfare of our City, their focuses and goals are very different.

As to Mr. Johnston’s allegations that empirical sampling results and sworn historical accounts of activities at the tannery constitute “lies” and “misstatements,” or that historical river water samples prove that the tannery site is “uncontaminated,” I will leave it to the CCRD to respond… if it chooses to do so. I merely wanted to clarify Mr. Johnston’s own misstatement that the CCRD is a “sub-group” of the CRNA. It is not, and I’d encourage any resident of Rockford to find out for themselves by contacting our local neighborhood association. A community is defined by its citizens, and Rockford has been blessed with a large number of interested, active and diverse citizens. Contact me or any our officers, all local residents: Ken Phillips, vice president; Gail Mancewitz, secretary; or Erin Burke, treasurer. We would love to have you join us!

Mike McIntosh
President, CRNA

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