Home Around Town Year in review

Year in review



By Scott Sullivan


Will the year 2020 provide us the hindsight to understand 2019? Our annual Year in Review — or “Rear in Your View” — offers high- and low-lights from what just happened. Make of the following what you will:



A record 240 participants ring in 2019 enjoying the seventh annual Hair of the Dog New Year’s Day 5K Run and Walk hosted by Spectators Restaurant. Fun — which for some included refreshments at a pop-up Bloody Mary bar — raised funds for Saugatuck Education scholarships.

Friends of the Blue Star Trail, at Saugatuck City Council’s behest, hire city engineering firm Fleis & VandenBrink for $18,000 to study east and west side of Blue Star Highway options for linking non-motorized path stretches built in Douglas and Saugatuck Township.

Saugatuck city spent 39 percent less July 1 through Nov. 30, 2018, contracting with the Allegan County Sheriff’s office for police service than it did with Douglas during the same span in 2017, city treasurer Peter Stanislawski says.

The new Saugatuck Township Board interviews just one candidate — municipal planner Natalie Dean, who has 13 years’ experience as a City of Marshall planner, zoning administrator and, eventually, assistant city manager — for a possible combined post as manager and zoning administrator. Both jobs have been open since a November recall.

What’s black, white, read and worn all over? This newspaper, per Ox-Bow art students turning our pages (literally) into wearing apparel for a “When Print Performs” class, which ends in a ballet performance Jan. 17.

The Saugatuck school board OKs asking voters May 7 for a $39.94-million bond to remodel and improve district facilities. The ask is scaled back from a $50.7-million nixed by voters in May 2018, 1,005 to 719.

The Douglas Planning Commission approves a site plan, with conditions, for a new $4.35-million, 9,000-square-foot Saugatuck-Douglas District Library at 174 Center St.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says cougar sightings reported in and near Saugatuck Dunes State Park have not been confirmed. Which doesn’t mean they’ve not been persistent.

An estimated 250 participants in the third annual Saugatuck-Douglas Women’s March make their views heard in spite of 10° temperatures and sharp winds.

Gerstner Hardware is closing after 73 years in Glenn, to be replaced by The Vintage Bee, which offers furniture, jewelry, home décor, candles, bath soap, accessories and art.

The Saugatuck Township Board votes 4-0 to hire Natalie Dean as manager/zoning administrator and 3-1 to appoint trustee Abby Bigford clerk pending Bill Wester’s resignation from the latter post, effective Feb. 1.



Carl Jennings, co-founder with Larry Gammons of the Dunes Resort and an icon of the Saugatuck-Douglas business community, dies at age 80.

Gerstner Hardware, closing after 73 years in Glenn, will donate its entire store inventory to Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity and the Holland ReStore.

Douglas City Council agrees to lease the Old Root Beer Barrel to Michael White for a second year.

Douglas, working with developer Dave Barker, is eyeing a 75-acre project that would level the former Haworth plant and provide family housing on the west side of Blue Star Highway.

Saugatuck’s Henry Gleason celebrates his 94th birthday a day early Feb. 10, signing copies of his new book “The First 80 Years” — a compilation of his “Meanderings” memories published in The Commercial Record — at Ganges Baptist Church.

Saugatuck Township’s plans to pursue a grant to link bike path sections are on hold while Saugatuck city considers interim trail proposals within its boundaries.

The Saugatuck Township Fire District board says it believes the township board not requiring sprinkling fpr community or storage buildings in the NorthShore of Saugatuck development is a mistake.

Douglas creates a Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to pursue state grants to address contamination on the former Haworth site and nearby properties the city hopes to revitalize. It would presumably involve tearing the old plant down.

The State of Michigan presents The Commercial Record a plaque recognizing 150 years of “contributing to the lives and well-being of countless residents in the area.”

The Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau unveils the new Spring/Summer Pure Michigan Travel Guide featuring the area plus plans for a June-long Saugatuck Expo celebrating local arts and culture.

Saugatuck’s All Saints’ Episcopal Church honors and thanks Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel and his wife, Pat Dewey for his 29 years before retiring as parish rector.



Local Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt realtors climb the snowy Mt. Baldhead steps in pajamas after collecting 3,000 items to give to the Christian Neighbors Food pantry.

Saugatuck Brewing Co. adds Gonzo’s BiggDog Brewing to drinking/dining portfolio.

Saugatuck Township Board members appoint fellow November recall supporter Brenda Marcy over fellow applicants Mary Fechtig, Lori Goshorn and Joe Novakoski to the trustee seat opened when they elevated Abby Bigford to township clerk.

Saugatuck city seeks someone who can crank out quality service to keep its chain ferry afloat now longtime operator Marilyn Starring has retired.

Local photographer Kim Zahnow’s images of Lake Michigan ice pancakes here go viral after being aired on The Weather Channel.

If there are messy geese near your new amphitheater, who you gonna call? Fake swans, naturally. Community Church of Douglas has bought and placed two such plastic birds on its west pond hoping to scare honking flocks away.

Rolf Dieter Schmidt, 68, of Illinois pleads to arson and stalking charges for Memorial Day weekend Lakeshore Drive incidents and gets jail plus probation time.

The City of Douglas closes on buying the 7.11-acre former Haworth property at 100 Blue Star Hwy. for $100,000, signing off on paperwork that allows the Holland-based furniture maker to apply for a tax write-off between that and the land’s $200,000 assessed value, with plans to seek a Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment grant to raze the old 156,900-square-foot factory and clean up pollution on the land.

Beachgoers can’t miss the offshore barges and pipes spreading sand newly dredged from the federal Kalamazoo River channel onto Oval Beach, work that turns out sparing it later from high Lake Michigan levels that close other area public beaches.

Holland realtor Chad Van Hoorn and his family are building a pond and have 17 lot splits on 39.63 acres west of 66th Street and south of 135th Avenue. The site, part of the old Allen family orchard, is next to the Van Hoorns’ Saugatuck Township home.



How’s that new fake coyote doing scaring geese away from Community Church of Douglas’ west pond? Not much better than the fake swans put in earlier. “Now we have to move him around,” CCD operations director Mike Mora says.

The Saugatuck Township Board agrees to rejoin the Fennville Area Ambulance Service and resume subsidizing it to cover township land south of the Kalamazoo River.

Longtime resident, “Meanderings” contributor Kirke White dies at age 88.

Longtime lakeshore resident George Schumann dies at age 86.

Natalie Dean resigns after three months as Saugatuck Township Manager and Zoning Administrator, followed by Supervisor Chris Roerig to step down also.

A $29,000, 402-page Douglas retail and housing market study shows both have unmet potential and details ways the city might better meet them.

The nonprofit 92 for 22 U.S. veterans group passes down Blue Star Highway as part of its third annual 92-mile walk to raise awareness and funds to help deal with veteran suicides.



How close is close? Try voters nixing Saugatuck Public Schools’ $39.94-million bond request, 1,055 “no” votes to 1,041 “yes.”

Douglas names Lowell assistant city manager Rich LaBombard to replace nine-year city manager Bill LeFevere who is retiring.

Developer Scott Bosgraaf, who last summer contested the Saugatuck Township Fire District’s water extension requirements, has agreed to pay for an 8-inch main to his 6519 135th Ave. storage buildings’ site, with the township adding as much as the $22.000 to make it a 12-inch main.

An injured white pelican rescued by local Samaritans from the Kalamazoo River near Saugatuck Township’s Riverfront Park is recovering at the Wildlife Rehab Center in Grand Rapids.

You know life’s good when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile rolls through Saugatuck. The Commercial Record, apprised the vehicle is in town, dispatches Wienermobile Editor Laura Schippa to track it down.

NorthShore of Saugatuck LLC completes building and paving a 2-mile private entrance road leading through gages north of 135th Avenue to newly-built homes on Lake Michigan

Josh Albrecht, who in 18 months as Saugatuck-Douglas Area Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director led a successful drive to raise room assessments, adding $500,000-plus yearly to its marketing, announces he is resigning. The CVB board beings search for its fourth leader in the last three-and-one-half years, with no deadline given.

The Saugatuck Township Fire District board asks member governments for a .2-mill property tax increase to provide a stipend for paid on-call firefighters and EMS personnel next year.

A local couple who wish to remain anonymous make a $200,000 pledge to the Friends of the Blue Star Trail towards completing the non-motorized path’s northern section, contingent on Saugatuck City Council supporting an 0.4-mile stretch through its limits by year’s end.



The Saugatuck-Douglas Visitors Guide cover showing children playing on Cynthia McKean’s “Family of Man” public sculpture in Coghlin Park draws social media criticism for encouraging unsafe actions. “Shame … Shame … Shame” writes one poster. “I would bet $1,000 that Cynthia McKean is not very pleased either.” When McKean responds that she is pleased that children play on her sculpture, the poster is invited to donate his $1,000 to Child Protective Services. The shame expert does not respond.

The Saugatuck Township Board chooses recent recall election leader Cindy Osman, who is also Saugatuck city zoning administrator, as new supervisor. The city’s attorney has apprised her, she says, that working for both neighbor governments will not pose a conflict of interest.

EatDrinkSD, weekend one of the Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau’s new June-long Saugatuck Expo, is washed out by a deluge, high winds and hail.

Saugatuck High School senior Brad Dunn duplicates his older brother, Blake Dunn’s, achievements, winning state championships in the 110-meter high hurdles and 300-meter intermediate hurdles. Overall, the boys team ties for second, just one point behind state titlist Ithaca.

Kay Smalley and Larry Kimmel share a famous grandfather, father and 68 years of not knowing they were half-siblings. The two reunite with other family from faraway to visit, explore, hike and more at Kay’s home in Saugatuck.

Douglas’ efforts to disentangle “spaghetti lines” — side yard water connections not linked to mains — hits another snarl when the only bid on the city’s request for proposals comes in 22-percent higher than engineers’ estimate.

Friends of the Blue Star Trail provide new lower-cost route options for a non-motorized trail they hope to build through Saugatuck city limits.

Avery Betts, the daughter of Saguatuck Township Fire District Capt. Mike Betts, dies at age 7 from Diffuse Instrinsic Pontine Glioma.

Jeff Spangler, described by longtime peer Mark Bekken as “the conscious of Saugatuck City Council,” resigns after more than two decades holding office, as he is moving out of town.

A Kalamazoo manaccused of a crime spree that ended near Fennville is arrainged on 20 felony counts including attempted murder.