Rockford’s city parks matter more than ever

Rockford’s award-winning Rogue River nature trail boardwalk is

Rockford’s award-winning Rogue River nature trail boardwalk is beautiful on a fall afternoon. Photo by CLIFF HILL


With almost two months of the “white stuff” on the ground and no end in sight, we’ve decided to “think green”—parks, that is.

Through its Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE), the Trust for Public Land (TPL) reported, “American park users, consisting mostly of families with children, have increased their visits to local parks and playgrounds during this recent period of economic difficulty,” according to CCPE Director Peter Harnik.

According to a nationwide poll conducted by Harris Interactive (on behalf of the TPL), more than 70 percent of surveyed park visitors say they are using parks as much, if not more so, than they did when the economy was strong.

“The poll results indicate both a strong and consistent use of parks and playgrounds along with a renewed recognition of their value in tight economic times,” said Harnik.

Rockford is blessed with many fine parks providing close-to-home outdoor recreational experiences. People turn to local parks in a time when fewer people have money to travel. Rockford’s parklands are well distributed around town, often only a short walk or a bike ride away.

The CCPE conducts an annual survey of the 77 largest U.S. cities, comparing acreage of parklands per 1,000 residents. In the latest survey, if we compare Rockford (population 4,625) with the 77 cities (all who have populations in excess of 242,000), we find that Rockford would rank 15th.


Rockford City Manager

Rockford City Manager Michael Young proudly displays the award received from the American Public Works Association for 2009 Project of the Year. The City was honored last September for the recently completed phase two of the Rogue River nature trail boardwalk. Photo by CLIFF HILL

However, Anchorage, Alaska—placing first in the survey—includes the gargantuan 495,204-acre Chugach State Park within its city limits. When we factor out the huge size of the third largest state park in the U.S., Anchorage drops out of the top 15 and Rockford moves up to 14th nationwide.


This is lofty company. By example, we can compare Rockford with 25.9 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents to our largest metropolitan neighbor, Chicago, with a minute 4.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.

“The decision to move and reside in Rockford is based on numerous quality-of-life issues, not the least of which is our fair City’s developed recreational parklands and green space,” said Rockford City Manager Michael Young.

To quote Rockford Living Magazine, “Over the past 15 years, the City of Rockford has developed, improved, or created several parks, paths, trails, and boardwalks, giving us intimate access to the natural treasures that make Rockford a truly special place to live.”

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Words on Weather & Climate — January 21, 2010

Meteorologist Craig James, new Squire columnist

Meteorologist Craig James, new Squire columnist

Global warming and ‘Climategate’


If you follow the subject of global warming, you have likely heard of what has been called “Climategate.” Back on November 17, 2009, a very large file containing over 1,000 e-mails between climate change researchers and nearly 2,000 other documents related to climate change were posted on the Internet. If you doubt how quickly information can spread over the Internet, consider that in just two weeks the subject of Climategate could be found on over 28 million websites.

The e-mails and documents were released either by a hacker or by a whistle-blower inside the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in England. CRU maintains one of the five databases of temperature records for the globe and is one of the premier climate research centers. Many of its researchers and others mentioned in the e-mails have been lead authors in reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The released information has been verified as authentic by CRU and has, so far, resulted in Phil Jones, the director of CRU, temporarily stepping down from that position. Since so much information was released, it is not easy to summarize but Lon Glazner, in a blog post entitled “Men Behaving Badly,” has captured the essence of the issue. Here are the main points of that post:

1. The scientists colluded in efforts to thwart Freedom of Information Act requests (across continents no less). They reference deleting data, hiding source code from requests, manipulating data to make it more annoying to use, and attempting to deny requests from people recognized as contributors to specific Internet sites.

2. These scientists publicly diminished opposing arguments for lack of being published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In the background, they discussed blackballing journals that did publish opposing views, and preventing opposing views from being published in journals they controlled. They even mention changing the rules midstream in arenas they control to ensure opposing views would not see the light of day. They discuss amongst themselves which scientists can be trusted and who should be excluded from having data because they may not be “predictable.”

3. The scientists expressed concern privately over a lack of increase in global temperatures in the last decade, and the fact that they could not explain this. Publicly they discounted it as simple natural variations. In one instance, data was [apparently] manipulated to hide a decline in temperatures when graphed. Other discussions included ways to discount historic warming trends that inconveniently did not occur during increases in atmospheric CO2.

4. The e-mails show examples of top scientists working to create public relations messaging with favorable news outlets. It shows them identifying and cataloging, by name and association, people with opposing views. These people are then disparaged in a coordinated fashion via favorable online communities.

If you would like to read some of the e-mails for yourself, visit At the end of each bullet point is a link to the original e-mail.

Climategate certainly doesn’t disprove the possibility of human induced global warming, but it definitely exposes the political side of what has been portrayed to the world by the IPCC as a settled scientific theory. Efforts to prevent scientific data from being released, if that data does not fit a particular viewpoint, casts a very dark shadow over the science of climate change. The suggestion to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request is likely illegal and could result in legal proceedings.

Skeptics, who all along have been stating we should not spend untold billions of dollars to combat a problem that may not exist, now claim to have evidence to support their view that the data supposedly supporting human-induced global warming has been manipulated.

New research shows the raw temperature data has also been manipulated in questionable ways at other climate centers such as NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Climate Data Center. I’ll show examples of this in another article.

Craig James has been retired since July 1, 2008, after 40 years of broadcasting television weather. He was chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV for 12 years and chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV for 24 years. He is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Centennial Fellowship Award. He was also honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

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Obituaries — January 21, 2010



 Mr. Dennis Stapleton, aged 59 (1950-2010), was taken too soon from us as he fought a long and hard battle with cancer. He went to be with his Lord and family on January 13, 2010.

Dennis was preceded in death by his mother, Patricia (Scrivener) Stapleton, and his father, Roscoe Stapleton. He is survived by his loving wife, Diana (Prindle) Stapleton; his daughters, Erika (Stapleton) Mallory and Nicholas Mallory, Nicole Stapleton, and Heather (Brandt) Sherman and Andrew Sherman; grandchildren, Paxton Mallory, Linnay Mallory, Austin Brandt, Dylan Sherman and Brandon Sherman.

Dennis owned and operated several businesses over the years, including currently The Crazy Horse Saloon, Stapleton Foods, Bugsy’s Restaurant, and the Frontier Inn. His favorite pastime was making people laugh! He had a new joke everyday for people, and nobody could stump him. Customers would start a joke, and he would finish with the punch line.

Dennis truly was a loving husband, father and friend to us all. He will be greatly missed along with all of his jokes!

The Stapleton family would like to thank everyone for all of their thoughts, prayers and prayer circles throughout the years. A special thanks to all of the doctors and nurses who have cared for Dennis and guided his family as they learned to accept that he would soon be at peace and finally home with his Lord. The service for Dennis was held on Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. at the Pederson Funeral Home. Interment was in Fairplains Cemetery in Grand Rapids. Those planning an expression of sympathy are asked to consider St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

Arrangements were made by Pederson Funeral Home, Rockford.

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Main Street by Roger Allen, publisher — January 21, 2010

Roger Allen, publisher.

Roger Allen, publisher.


Wall Street screwed up and we had (have?) a recession. Now it looks like things in the financial industry are getting better. The President wants the banks—that we the people bailed out of trouble—to pay back the money. If taxpayers are the insurance company of last resort, it’s only right that the banks pay the premium on that insurance.

We won’t soon forget those multi-million dollar bonuses paid out by the banks we kept out of bankruptcy. Seems like managers that lead their companies into near-bankruptcy should be fired, not rewarded. If those guys deserve a bonus because of all the profits they’ve made, where are the profits?

Right here in town we have managers who made do during the business slowdown crunch with lots less income than the big banks. Give them a few $billion of business and I’ll bet they wouldn’t need to be bailed out.

Darwin Awards!

A Darwin Award is a tongue-in-cheek honor named after Charles Darwin, given to people who “do a service to humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool.” According to Wendy Northcutt, author of the Darwin Awards books, the awardees must accomplish that in a “sublimely idiotic fashion.” Northcutt’s Darwin Awards website tries to verify all stories it receives about the least evolved among us. But if they are fiction, I don’t mind. It’s the laugh that counts.

For example: “When his 38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California, would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.”

Here’s one I like, although it doesn’t involve total self-destruction:

“The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat-cutting machine and submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company, expecting negligence, sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine. He also lost a finger. The chef’s claim was approved.”

And here’s one that displays both idiocy and ingenuity. I don’t think it qualifies for a Darwin Award:

“After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn’t discovered for three days.”

Closing thoughts

Never take life too seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway. On the other hand, I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.

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Rockford’s divers steal show at home

Sophomore Mac Finnie

Sophomore Mac Finnie not only swims a personal best in the breaststroke, but also swims a varsity letter time. Photo by GORDY PETERSON

Rockford 186, Hudsonville 128


There’s always one distinct event that remains in a spectator’s mind when leaving a captivating high school sporting meet. From Rockford’s January 14 swim/dive meet against Hudsonville, the event was undeniable—event five: diving.

“The divers absolutely stole the show tonight,” said swim parent Sarah Ginebaugh, a former diver and diving coach.

All five divers earned personal bests, and senior Tyler Johnson and juniors LJ McCauley and Kurt Plaggemars scored more than 200 points each—228.60, 211.90 and 206.90, respectively.


Senior captains (l–r) Brian Ginebaugh, Derik Bothma, Tyler Johnson, Kyle Peterson, Connor Thelen and Alex Devries get their team pumped for the Hudsonville game.	Photo by GORDY PETERSON

Senior captains (l–r) Brian Ginebaugh, Derik Bothma, Tyler Johnson, Kyle Peterson, Connor Thelen and Alex Devries get their team pumped for the Hudsonville game. Photo by GORDY PETERSON

“Tyler continued to step up and dominate as the veteran on the team,” commented Ginebaugh. “LJ and Kurt also did some amazing dives with incredible height off the board.”


Ginebaugh also added, “Drew [Cornelius] was very solid tonight, and Noah [Markel] performed a very tough list of dives for his first year on the team. I’m sure Coach Marc VanDyken is incredibly proud of his team.”

Rockford’s dive team did perform impressively. For example, Johnson received a 7.5 score from one judge on his front one-and-a-half dive and then scored a 6.0, 7.0, 7.0 on his inward one-and-a-half dive.

After the meet, the ear-to-ear smiles of the dive team communicated more effectively than words how they felt about their performance.

Besides the astounding diving portion of the evening, the meet also generated excitement in the swim lanes.

Of the 12 events, Rockford captured a first-second-third finish in two of them—the 100-yard butterfly (sophomore Bryan Wasberg, junior Ben Fredrickson and sophomore Josh Travis, respectively) and the 100-yard backstroke (senior Alex Devries, Travis and sophomore Nick Willison). The Rams also placed first in seven other events, totaling nine firsts in all.

Additionally, four events were swum in state-qualifying times, including the relay team of seniors Devries and Brian Ginebaugh and sophomores Eric Chisholm and Travis in the 200-yard medley relay (1:43.05). Devries swam 57.69 in the 100-yard backstroke. Ginebaugh improved his previous time by 1.17 seconds with a 1:02.39 in the 100-yard breaststroke. The relay team of senior Derik Bothma, Fredrickson, Chisholm and Wasberg swam a state-qualifying time in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

“The meet went well this evening,” said sophomore Mac Finnie, who swam a varsity letter time and personal best in the 100-yard breaststroke. “It was a true representation of Ram pride.”

“Well said,” confirmed sophomore Bryan Wasberg, with a smile and nod. Wasberg captured three of those first-place finishes.

As a special treat to the swim/dive team that evening, the Rams had guest timers on deck: Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler, Assistant Superintendent of Finance Mike Cuneo, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jamie Hosford, Rockford High School Principal Dan Zang, Assistant Principal (11th grade) Katie VanCuren, Rockford Freshman Center Principal Doug VanderJagt, Rockford Freshman Center Assistant Principal Mike Ramm, and Cannonsburg Elementary School Principal (and Connor Thelen’s mom) Maggie Thelen.

The Hudsonville team couldn’t have summed up the evening better than with their congratulatory team cheer on deck after the final score of the meet was announced: “Good job, Rams!”

The Rams’ next meet is at Jenison on Thursday, Jan. 21.

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