By Pat Maurer
The sign designed last year by Edwin Wilkes III will not be removed from its place in area near the Rail-Trail in Farwell a short distance west of the Isabella Bank parking lot.
Eleven acres there were donated to Clare County Parks and Recreation by Isabella Bank and were to be left as a natural habitat.
The Friends of Clare County Parks and Recreation Committee sponsored the contest to name the area last year for students from Clare, Farwell and Harrison Schools to create a name for the area.
Wilkes, one on nine finalists, was chosen as the winner of the essay contest to name the area at “A Gateway Affair” by the attendees June 2, 2012.
He chose the name “Eagles Nest,” because of a nearby Eagle Sanctuary and the the Farwell Eagles and also in memory of his cousin Nicholas, who died at four and who loved going to the park and appreciated both eagles and the American flag.
Wilkes, 13, is an eighth grader at Clare Schools.
His grandmother Dawn Bennett, of Clare, was at the Friends meeting because she said she was told the engraved sign, which she paid to have made, would have to be taken down because the wording suggested it was a memorial.
The sign contains the complete essay written by Wilkes.
At Tuesday’s Friends Committee meeting, Chair Gerry Schmiedicke told Mrs. Bennett that the sign had too much on it and was difficult to read. “It would be better if it was less wordy. It is difficult to read from the Rail-Trail.”
Schmiedicke said he had told Mrs. Bennett in a letter last year that the committee would have to “sign off” on the wording for the sign before it was made. “The first time I saw it was when Mrs. Bennett brought the finished sign to me.”
“I was told that a lot of the committee members had mixed emotions about the wording on the sign,” Mrs. Bennett said. “Gerry said I would have to come and ‘plead’ with the committee about it.” She had the park sign made and delivered it to Schmiedicke last fall. It was erected this spring.
Bennett said she had contacted Schmiedicke by email with the wording for approval and never heard back from him. “I assumed it was okay,” she said.
“I didn’t get any email,” he replied.
A lengthy discussion followed on the placement of the sign and if it could be moved closer to the trail so it could be read better. The sign is approximately 15 feet off the north side of the Rail Trail and just over a half-mile west of Isabella Bank. It cannot be read from the trail.
Schmiedicke said the sign had to be on Parks and Recreation property and not on the Rail-Trail right of way. “We will be working on making a decision,” he told Mrs. Bennett.
“We never were going to take the sign down,” Committee member Jon H. Ringelberg told Mrs. Bennett. Don Kolander agreed. “There was never any talk about taking it down.”
A motion was made and the board voted 5-1 to move forward with the official dedication of the sign. Schmiedicke voted no.
Other business at the “Friends” committee meeting included a discussion on sponsoring an activity for cold weather, possibly a fundraiser. Schmiedicke suggested an activity on the Rail-Trail possibly a poker run with snowmobiles, snowshoes and cross country skis. He asked the board for ideas. An event including snowshoeing, Geo-Cache and cross country was also suggested.
The committee also discussed the maintenance and mowing at the Gerrish Higgins Railway Terminal Park, the roadside park on Old U.S. 27 north of Clare, and voted to grant $200 each to Clare, Farwell and Harrison Youth Football programs, although the fundraiser for the event, a golf outing, on cleared less than $300.
The Friends of Clare County Parks and Recreation has sponsored many events and made grants totaling over $6,000 in the past year. Committee members include Gerald Schmiedicke, Jeff Poet, Jon H. Ringelberg, Don Kolander, Fred Deboer, Marty Johnson and Deb Sherrod who was recently appointed. They are looking for additional members.
Projects undertaken and Grants awarded last year include:
*Mowing/Maintenance Roadside Park $400,
*Farwell Parks & Recreation Basketball hoops $600,
*Co-sponsored Green Pine Pathway Clean-up,
*Clare County Road Map Publication Cost $1500,
*City of Clare Soccer $1000,
*Harrison Youth Football; Field Renovation $1160,
*MMCC Trail Marker,
*County wide Halloween Party Hayes Township,
*Support Clare County Convention Bureau,
*Farwell Village Parks & Recreation Park Improvement Grant $2400,
*Hamilton Township Park Improvement Grant.