By BETH ALTENA The City of Rockford has just received approval of their designation as a National Arbor Day Tree City and will celebrate with a gift of a tree in their honor to newborns who reside within city limits. “We have always had a tree planting program where residents pay half the price and the City pays the other half. We thought this would be a nice way to welcome a new resident to the City,” said City Manager Michael Young. Rockford has spent the past year deciding whether to try for a National Arbor Day Foundation designation as a National Tree City. When Council looked at the requirements specified by the organization, they realized Rockford was already fulfilling the majority of them. City residents who have had a new baby in 2010 are invited to call the city to have a free tree delivered and planted, either on their property or in the parkway. Residents who have not had a newborn in 2010 can still participate in the parkway tree program and split the difference of a new tree with the City.
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL At a recent Rogue River Watershed Council meeting, invited guest Rockford City Manager Michael Young let it be known that Rockford had been extremely fortunate in again receiving a DNR trust fund grant to complete the final phase (III) of the Rogue River Nature Trail. Envisioned by City planners some 20 years ago, the Rogue River Nature Trail was conceived to provide a beautiful and safe walkable trail along the west side of the Rogue River. More importantly, it was meant to provide a pedestrian pathway connecting the City neighborhoods on the west side of the river to the heart of Rockford’s downtown area. Two phases have been completed. Phase I, originating at the City’s southern border and continuing a third of a mile to Peppler Memorial Park, was completed in 2005. Inclusive of the first trail segment was the existing Trestle Bridge across the Rogue River and the White Pine Trail, allowing trail users from the City’s southwestern neighborhoods access to downtown and the walkway across the Rogue River Dam. Phase II, completed in 2008, connected to Phase I in Peppler Memorial Park at the gazebo and continued northward riverside for another third of a mile, ending in the vicinity of Prospect and W. Prospect streets. Constructed as a boardwalk with railings and lookouts, this beautiful elevated segment was so well conceived that in 2009 it was awarded the “Project of the Year Award—Structures” for projects less than $5 million by the American Public Works Association. If Phase II had one failing, it was that it terminated at its north end with no direct connection to riverside neighborhoods and the Highlands neighborhoods to the west. As a result, trail users had to make a u-turn and return to Peppler Park. With the awarding of 2011’s DNR trust fund grant to complete the missing link, Phase III will continue the trail riverside some 700 feet to an already existing sidewalk connector off Chelsea Court in the Riverchase neighborhood. Eureka! With the completion of this final segment, the Rogue River Nature Trail will open up pathways to all of the neighborhoods, from north to south, on the west side of the river, including the Highlands and Heritage Park. In doing so, […]
A long fight to keep a full service courthouse in Rockford has ended with a denial to hear the case by the Michigan Supreme Court. With one justice, Elizabeth Weaver dissenting, the seven member court denied considering the case, citing “We are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.” The denial was issued July 16. “This has taught me one thing for sure, and maybe I’m naive, but justice isn’t blind, it’s political,” said City Manager Michael Young. Rockford initiated a lawsuit against Judge Sara Smolenski which was joined by Kent County. Many northern communities passed resolutions against removing the northern office of the 63rd District from Rockford to a consolidated location on Knapp Street off the East Beltline. A court presence, as required by law, remains in the former court building but is now limited to only four hours a month of service. Rockford, and Judge Steven Servaas, the judge who served his whole career from the Rockford court, believe legally Kent County is required to offer more service, if not a complete court, to the northern communities from the Rockford court location. They hoped an appeal to the Supreme Court could bring the complete court—judge and all—back to Rockford. “We fought it, we litigated it and we did not prevail,” Young said. “This is a huge loss of services for not just Rockford, but all of the northern communities.” Young said the end of the fight means that all the judges of the district, now just Servaas and Smolenski, are located in a facility that is in the southern half of the district. As cases are divided up, Smolenski is presiding over cases from the northern communities and Servaas is presiding over cases originating in the southern half of the district. “You can’t even vote to remove a judge if you don’t like what they are doing,” Young explains of the significance of this situation. “I find it incredibly ironic that they can say that Servaas has to live in the northern half of the district, but he can’t work here,” Young noted. “Tell me how that makes any sense at all.” Kent County Commissioner Roger Morgan said there are no hard feelings over the court issue and […]
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL One of the most popular entrants in last year’s 2009 ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids was “Nessie,” who finished in sixth place in the inaugural event. Kids, in particular, loved “Nessie” as she regally floated in the Grand River while tethered to the Blue Pedestrian Bridge in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Rockford believes they can do Grand Rapids one better. Rockford City Manager Michael Young announced at the April City Council meeting that “Water Dance” had been completed by its creators and is almost ready to be installed above the water and in front of the concrete wall between the two wings of Rockford’s iconic Rogue River Dam. This could only happen in the biggest little city in Michigan! Readers may remember the Squire’s exclusive front-page coverage of “Water Dance” in the Dec. 3, 2009 edition (visit www.rockfordsquire.com to read the entire story). The imaginative and genius mind of Steve Anderson of Anderson’s Metal Sculpture in the CedarRock area was then in the midst of creating a stunning and breathtaking stainless steel sculpture of three leaping fish—not just any fish, but three fish synonymous with the Rogue River: a brown trout, a steelhead, and a rainbow trout. Anderson’s Metal Sculpture had been commissioned by the City of Rockford to create “Water Dance.” Costs associated, less labor, were underwritten by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Rockford Area Arts Commission. For his part, Anderson was gifting labor costs to the City he and his family have come to love. Last week we paid a return visit to Anderson’s studio, tucked away in the woods between Rockford and Cedar Springs, for an exclusive look at what for Anderson was a work of love. It is both beautiful and stunning and, when placed in front of the dam in the Rogue River, will encompass an area 25 feet wide by 9 feet high. The fish, of the three-dimensional sculpture, are awesomely grand in size. Coincidentally, “Nessie” was recently reported to be lurking in the waters of Rockford’s Rum Creek millpond. But those rumors turned out to be a great April Fools joke. “Nessie,” in reality, is currently suffering a slow deterioration in a temporary home on the waters of the […]