At a recent “Reroute” meeting at Schoolcraft’s Village Hall, people talked about ways to build a sense of community. Debbie Dehart mentioned to her small group that singing Christmas Carols in Burch Park in Schoolcraft would be one way. The idea took off.
Darby Fetzer called her the next day and after several conversations with the Schoolcraft Community Library staff and the Schoolcraft Village, they have put together a novel program of singing Christmas Carols in the Park.
Tuesday, December 20th at 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. anybody who likes to sing will meet at the gazebo in Burch Park to sing Christmas Carols in the Park. In case of inclement weather, the meeting will be on Thursday, December 22 at 6:30 p.m.
Everyone is invited, even if you’re not a resident of Schoolcraft. Please dress for the weather and bring a flashlight to read the printed carols. To bring the gift of the season full circle, a donation to Schoolcraft’s Food Pantry of an unexpired canned good is suggested. A collection box will be at the park, Fetzer said.
After singing, everyone is invited for hot chocolate and coffee until 8:30 p.m. at the Schoolcraft Community Library across from the Burch Park. If you have questions, please call Debbie Dehart 269-679-2723 or Darby Fetzer 269-569-5557.
A ribbon cutting to inaugurate the newly constructed walkway between Jaspare’s Pizza and Aaron’s Music Store was attended by community members in November, just before cold weather blew in to town. Shown in the ribbon cutting ceremony are from left to right: Bill Adams, village president; Brian Pitts, chamber president; Bill Oswalt, Vicksburg Foundation president; Jim Mallery, village manager; Ted Vliek, Visions Campaign co-chair; Dave Reno, Lions Club president; John DeBault, DDA president; and Kristina Powers Aubry, Vision Campaign co-chair.
The $100,000 renovation of the alley that faces across the street to Liberty Lane West, was borne by donors through a crowd-funding effort. It was sponsored by the Downtown Development Authority and the State of Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation. Local donors gave $50,000 and MEDC matched that amount.
The pedestrian pathway connects the downtown district from Michigan Street to Kalamazoo Avenue as a walking corridor in the heart of the central business district. “The project has turned a dark, rundown alley into a vibrant pedestrian only garden pathway with outdoor seating to compliment the downtown 1880s Italianate architecture,” said Kathleen Hoyle , DDA director. “Liberty Lane East will unify our two shopping and dining areas into one cohesive district and provide a gateway connecting our parking areas.”
The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority (SKCFA) and the Village of Schoolcraft administration held a ribbon cutting ceremony in late October at the site of the newly installed Fire Signal Tower antenna on the Schoolcraft water tower.
Pictured above in the front row are Randy Smith, chair of the authority; Cheri Lutz, Schoolcraft village manager; Keith Gunnett, Schoolcraft village president; Richard Fuller, sheriff; Bryan Campbell, Schoolcraft police chief. The new fire tower was placed on top of the highest structure in the village, the water tower located on Lee Street, just south of E. Eliza Street.
This project began in the spring of 2016, when it was discovered that the signal to alert firefighters of an emergency call had very poor reception in the Schoolcraft area. The signal from the nearest existing signal tower, in Adams Park near Indian Lake, was degrading; its signal was too weak to reach the south County firefighters who lived and responded from the Schoolcraft area. Sheriff Richard Fuller obtained funding to add a fire signal tower in the area. With the cooperation and approval of the Schoolcraft Village Council, the antenna was erected on top of the Schoolcraft Village water tower.
When construction started, it was determined that the signal quality could be upgraded for greater reliance at which time the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority contributed funding. This project represents a significant improvement in emergency and fire notification to first responders in the South County area, Sheriff Fuller said.
New life was breathed into the future of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) with a highly successful Arts and Moore live auction in November, according to Syd Bastos, the Center’s lively manager.
Keeping the Arts Center open has been a year-long financial struggle for Bastos, Lisa Beams, the Gallery manager and their coterie of artists and volunteers. With a net income of $8,919 from the auction and the launching of the 133 Club, Bastos predicts that she can finally engage in some long-range planning to keep the doors open indefinitely.
“One of the Arts Center’s most critical objectives is to contribute to the sense of community in Vicksburg,” Bastos said. “We formed the 133 Club because that’s the amount that it costs to operate the Center for one day during the year. The total operations cost is $48,600 including salaries, rent and utilities.”
“When someone becomes a member, that person links the future of the VCAC to an event that is significant to the member. They can choose a day of the year they want to sponsor. If it is in honor of a loved one, a favorite artist or a special day that they wish to commemorate, it will be acknowledged on Face Book and in the Gallery with all the details included. We are also planning an exciting event that is exclusively for 133 Club members in 2017,” she said. So far, 17 members have joined the Club.
The Gallery’s purpose is to support and serve artists by offering juried exhibitions, education, the promotion and sale of art, as well as presenting special programs, events and performances, Bastos elaborated. To be successful, she wants to engage the community in the artistic process and foster a relationship between artists and the community.
The auction event, held at the Angels Crossing Golf Clubhouse, received art, services and other enticing items from over 60 donors for 92 guests to bid on. The highest single bid received was $1,200 for a golf package with a retail value of $1,650. The package included an annual golf membership at Angels Crossing donated by an anonymous individual, a golf bag trash container, Angels Crossing golf towel, a private golf lesson and sleeve of premium golf balls.
The next highest bid was for $600 for Chef Joe Tsui donating his skills to prepare a four course dinner for four in the successful bidder’s home. The chef got even more generous and offered to do the very same package for another bidder that also sold for $600.
Regular Gallery hours of operation are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Wednesday it’s 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. plus the many times its open for special events. Bastos and her staff accepted the responsibility for being the visitors’ center all year long for out of town guests and also keeping an up-to-date listing of the many activities taking place in the surrounding area. She can be reached at 269-501-1347.
Contrary to some expectations, the Reroute Schoolcraft public meeting in November was not about changing the location of U.S. 131. It was a public meeting at the Village Hall to discuss ways to bring more businesses to Schoolcraft and help it grow.
More than 50 people who turned out to listen to a presentation by Jordan Parker of Wightman & Associates. That’s the consulting firm engaged by the Village of Schoolcraft to envision what is needed in its planning for the future with a goal of keeping residents here and bringing new ones to the village.
Wes Schmitt, former village president and member of the Planning Commission, explained to the group that the workshop was organized to listen and obtain valuable feedback on how residents view their village and how they might want it to grow and change.
By gathering views on how people feel about attracting businesses, new residents, tourists, millennials, boomers, food establishments, offices and other types of businesses, the Village could incorporate the findings in its land use plan and village zoning ordinances, Schmitt told the group.
Small groups were formed to come up with ideas. What village officials heard from each was that lack of sewers in the business district is the main deterrent to growth. They also agreed on several other key issues and opportunities that need to be considered in the planning process. These included:
• U.S. 131 is both good and bad for the village. Over 27,000 cars travel Grand Street each day, helping with visibility for the village. It also means that traffic speeds can be excessive and crossing the street is often dangerous.
• Schoolcraft is a small, tight-knit community with a great quality of life for its residents who often represent three generations or more of family residing in the village. The small-town, family feel is important to those who choose to stay in Schoolcraft.
• The schools are excellent and a draw for families who want the best education for their children.
• There are nearby amenities such as Busch Park and the central location in SW Michigan, colleges and universities, Lake Michigan, and outdoor activities available.
• There is safety and security because of the caring nature of the residents.
Besides sewers, some of the more frequent needs mentioned included:
• More restaurants, including a craft brewery.
• More volunteering in the community, although there is great volunteering in the schools.
• That the railroad and highway could be capitalized upon. Give the 27,000 cars going by each day, more reasons to stop should be developed.
• The 35-mph speed limit needs to be enforced.
• New businesses and more variety are needed to further the growth in the downtown.
• Incentives for businesses and industry to locate in Schoolcraft are needed.
• More community activities to engage residents are needed.
• Biking and walking trails need to be developed, possibly to connect to outlying communities that already have trails.
• Need to capitalize on Schoolcraft as a farming community.
Each small group was asked to come up with a slogan for Schoolcraft. These offered included:
• “Growth without losing the community.”
• “Schoolcraft is a growing community with strong historic pride.”
• “Schoolcraft is a vibrant community where people want to come to visit and live.”
• “Schoolcraft, a small town with big potential.”
Residents of Schoolcraft are encouraged to get involved with more public meetings scheduled in early March and the middle of June by contacting Cheri Lutz, village manager, at 269-679-4304.
The Schoolcraft Library recently received a subscription to AncestryLibrary, the library edition of Ancestry.com. Patrons can now do genealogical research in the library. Dale Miller from Harding’s arranged a donation to cover this database. He deserves a lot of credit for helping the library add this service, Director Faye VanRavenswaay said.
The Schoolcraft Lions Club also made a donation to the library to be applied to acquisition of large print and audio books. The donation will also cover the costs of a digital sign that burned out in a lightning strike last August. It’s great to have community support, VanRavenswaay exclaimed.
Christopher Wise, a 2008 Schoolcraft High School graduate can now put the word “Doctor” in front of his name, having completed graduate studies in physical therapy at Grand Valley State University last spring.
“He came to this profession because he truly likes to help people,” said his father, John Wise. “He volunteered at a camp for disabled kids in the Upper Peninsula some years ago and found his life work. He knew right away that helping people improve their health was his calling.”
Dr. Wise did his undergraduate work at the University of Utah in health sciences then was accepted into the masters and doctoral degree programs at GVSU. He was selected for the Graduate Dean’s Citation for Academic Excellence for Service to the Community or Profession in the Winter 2016 semester. This is an honor given by Grand Valley State University to graduate students who have been nominated by the faculty for outstanding academic performance.
He has stuck to his studies although he loves to mountain bike, is a member of the ski patrol and ran a marathon while in Venice, Italy, his grandmother, Madeline Watkins of Schoolcraft, proudly proclaimed. Wise participated in varsity baseball and cross country during his high school years at Schoolcraft. He now lives in Grand Rapids and accepted a job right after graduation at Mary Free Bed Hospital as a physical therapist.