Thursday, September 20, 2007

Video: Rev. Philip Johnson, Ph.D., at Finlandia Inauguration

The Rev. Philip Johnson, Ph.D., Finlandia University president, gives an introductory speech during his Inauguration in the Paavo Nurmi Center on Finlandia's campus Sept. 20. (Video © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu, Keweenaw Now photographer)

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University (formerly Suomi College) held an Inaugural Ceremony for its new President, the Rev. Philip Johnson, Ph.D., a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with 18 years of church-related leadership experience, including congregational ministry, teaching and administration. He has lived and worked in the United States, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The Inaugural Ceremony was the highlight of a day of special activities for visitors to Finlandia. It began with a Call to Gather by the Four Thunders Drum of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Lac Vieux Désert. The Inaugural Celebration Chorus, directed by Gregory Campbell and accompanied by Carla Phillips, sang former Suomi College music director and composer Martti Nisonen's "Olen Niinkuin Pilvi" ("Like a Cloud I Am"), with soloists Ann Campbell, soprano, and Charles White, tenor.

The Inaugural Chorus, directed by Gregory Campbell, performs "Olen Niinkuin Pilvi" ("Like a Cloud I Am"), by former Suomi College music director Martti Nisonen, during the Finlandia University Inauguration Ceremony Sept. 20 in the Paavo Nurmi Center in Hancock. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

The program also included music by pianist Clay Hilman and organist Carla Phillips. Northern Great Lakes Synod-ELCA Bishop Dr. Thomas Skrenes led the Rite of Installation.

Kivajat, the local Children's Finnish-American Folk Dance Group, performed under the direction of Kay Seppala.

Finlandia University fiber students designed the special Jacquard fabric panels hanging from the ceiling for visual and acoustic effect during the Sept. 20 Inaugural Ceremony in the Paavo Nurmi Center. The students designed the fabric panels for a Jacquard Design course taught by Liz Folk in the spring 2007 semester. Five yards of each of the six students’ two designs are visible in the background of this photo. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

The Rev. Dr. Said Ailabouni, senior pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, LaGrange, Ill., delivered the inaugural address. Pastor Ailabouni was born and raised in Galilee in the city of Nazareth. He studied for pastoral ministry at Luther Seminary, St. Paul Minn., and at the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago. Ailabouni was President Johnson’s supervisor at the Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Rev. Dr. Said Ailabouni, senior pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, LaGrange, Ill., delivers the inaugural address during Finlandia University's Inaugural Ceremony for President Philip Johnson Sept. 20 in the Paavo Nurmi Center. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

President Johnson and his wife, René Johnson, Finlandia's interim campus pastor and director of servant leadership, also participated in the evening dance, with music played by the PasiCats and Erik Koskinen.

Finn Fall Ball offers three Finnish music events Sept. 21 at Runeberg Hall, Dollar Bay

HANCOCK -- For one night only, Finn Fall Ball offers a unique opportunity to see three Finnish musical performances in four hours Friday evening, Sept. 21, at the historic Runeberg Hall of Dollar Bay (across the street from the Partanen Bar). From M-26 turn onto Main St. in Dollar Bay at Quincy's. Take the second right (Elm St.) at the statue. Runeberg Hall is the second building on the left (23259 Elm).

The evening begins at 7 p.m. with a documentary film, Haapala Boys, by renowned Finnish filmmaker Erkki Määttänen. This film gives a glimpse into the life of musicians Albert and George, who live in Bruce Crossing but have never visited their native Finland.

From 7:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. the LÄNNEN-JUKKA STRING BAND will climb on stage for the first time in the U.P. After playing for sold-out shows through the summer in Finland, they are touring in the Midwest and will perform songs from the Lännen-Jukka album, which was selected the 2006 Album of the Year by Finnish music critics. The songs of Lännen-Jukka are a unique fusion of mountain folk songs from the southern United States, Mississippi blues and old Finnish sleigh songs.*

Between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. the PasiCats, arguably the third-best Finnish dance band in the whole Copper Country, will take the stage and get everyone to spin around the room -- waltzes, polkas, jenkkas, tangos -- you name it.**

Finnish coffee and bakeries as well as some shirts and CDs will be available at the cafeteria.

Tickets are: $10 ($5 after 9 p.m. Children under 12 -- free admission)

* For more info on Lännen-Jukka, check their website,
** See who the PasiCats are at

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Finlandia to hold all-day Inaugural celebration Sept. 20

HANCOCK -- A full-day celebration marking the inauguration of Finlandia University President Philip Johnson, Ph.D., will take place Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007. The event will showcase the people, programs, heritage and vitality of Finlandia University as the school begins its 111th academic year. All are welcome.

Philip Johnson came to Finlandia University in January 2006. He served as campus pastor and associate dean of Finlandia’s Suomi College of Arts and Sciences.

President Johnson is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with 18 years of leadership experience in church-related contexts including congregational ministry, teaching and administration. He has lived and worked in the United States, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.*

A formal inaugural and installation ceremony for President Johnson begins at 3 p.m. at the University’s Paavo Nurmi Center, followed at 4:15 p.m. by a reception at Finlandia Hall.

Events throughout the day include informational symposia, open classroom visits, student-led campus tours and other opportunities to learn more about Finlandia, its degrees and programs.

At 9 a.m. at North Wind Books, visitors will learn about the Suomi College of Arts and Sciences Finnish Studies Program with Finnish instructor Anna Leppanen, Finnish Studies students and others. All day, the bookstore’s Finnish collection will be highlighted, and discounts will be offered on Finnish collection books and Finnish functional design items.

At 10 a.m. at Finlandia’s Portage Campus, students, faculty and staff will be on hand to tell visitors about the International School of Art and Design and the Jutila Center for Global Design and Business.

Finlandia’s Servant Leadership program -- especially its annual service learning trip to Tanzania -- is the subject of a symposium at the Chapel of St. Matthew at 11 a.m. Interim Campus Pastor René Johnson, along with many of the students who traveled to Tanzania this spring and in 2006, will be on hand to share photographs and engage in informal discussion.

At 1 p.m. in Wargelin Hall, Room 303, Finlandia Nursing program students will present a report of their May 2007 study abroad trip to Finland .

The celebration concludes with two evening events -- a Finnish film and a dance.

At 5:30 p.m. the Finnish film Mother of Mine will be shown at the Finnish American Heritage Center. The poignant film tells the story of one of the more than 70,000 Finnish children who were evacuated to neutral Sweden during World War II.

The fun reaches its zenith at 7:30 p.m. at the Paavo Nurmi Center with traditional Finnish dance music by the PasiCats and the unique Copper Country rock by Erik Koskinen. Admission is $5. Finlandia students are admitted free.

With the exception of the dance, all of the inaugural celebration activities are free. Finlandia University is in downtown Hancock, at 601 Quincy St. (U.S. Hwy. 41). For additional information please call the President’s Office at 906-487-7201 or visit the Finlandia Web site for the full schedule of events.

*For more about President Johnson, visit the Finlandia President's Page on their Web site.

Audubon Club passes resolution on Swedetown Creek habitat protection

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Audubon Club (CCAC) passed a resolution on Tuesday, Sept. 18, supporting protection of the Swedetown Creek River mouth riparian area and making up to $1000 -- plus volunteer time -- available for improving public access at the site if certain conditions are met. The following is the text of the resolution:

Whereas the Copper Country Audubon Club is a non-profit organization committed to the conservation of birds; and

Whereas the riparian area at the Swedetown Creek River mouth provides high quality habitat for migratory birds; and

Whereas over 30 CCAC members reside in the City of Hancock and many Audubon members enjoy the birding opportunities provided by Swedetown Creek; and

Whereas the CCAC desires to work with the City of Hancock to dedicate the city-owned property at Swedetown Creek, also known as Government Lot 5, as a nature sanctuary;

Now, Therefore, Be it resolved, that the CCAC pledges up to $1000.00 plus a commitment of volunteer time to the maintenance and improvement of the Swedetown Creek riparian area for public access in a manner that is consistent with the protection of birds and their habitats, if the City Council of Hancock agrees to retain city-owned property at the Swedetown Creek River mouth and not sell any portion of Government Lot 5 west of Hwy M203 for residential development.

Adopted September 18, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Planning Commission recommends larger buffer for Swedetown Creek

City of Hancock parcel (in color) borders on Swedetown Creek, at left, and the Portage. The City is considering sale of public waterfront property to the east of the creek for residential development, arousing considerable public concern because of the ecological and recreational value of the area. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo © 2007 Joe Kaplan. Reprinted with permission.)

Text and meeting photos by Michele Anderson, with information from Hancock Planning Commission minutes.

HANCOCK -- Public participation at the August 27 Hancock Planning Commission Meeting and letters from residents led to a vote recommending a larger buffer of recreational land near Swedetown Creek and a reduced area for the proposed residential land sale near the mouth of the Creek on Portage Lake. The vote is not final, but is a recommendation to the City Council, whose members must vote for any land sales. Thus, the issue may be decided at the City Council meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the Council Chambers of Hancock City Hall.

After residents had expressed much opposition at a public hearing on July 18, the City Council sent the land sale proposal back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration.*

At the July 23rd Planning Commission meeting, residents again spoke out against the proposed sale.** At that meeting, City Manager Glenn Anderson suggested the Commission ask the City to obtain a survey of the city-owned parcels on both the east and the west sides of the creek so that any plan could be reviewed in the entirety of the property. The survey was done previous to the August 27th Planning Commission meeting. Commissioner Terry Monson also asked residents attending the July meeting to submit their written comments to the Commission.

Many residents -- both those who had attended the meetings and others -- wrote letters expressing their interest in keeping the area near the mouth of Swedetown Creek in its natural state for public access and recreation.

At the Aug. 27th meeting of the Planning Commission, Chairperson Dan Lorenzetti discussed the City Council's request for a review and recommendation on the proposed sale. He stated the commission had voted last year -- on August 28, 2006 -- a vote of 5 yes and 1 no to recommend sale of the three lots, but added that they would review the sale again.

Lorenzetti invited the those in the audience who had not written to the Commission to comment on the proposed land sale. He expressed appreciation for the letters received by the Commission.

"The comments were very well put," Lorenzetti said. "I don't know if I agree with a lot of them, and I think there's a lot of misconception."

He said many people wrote that the City was planning to sell an area they were using for recreation and seemed to be unaware that the City was not planning to sell anything to the west of Swedetown Creek (sometimes known as the north side of the creek).***

"Nothing beyond Swedetown Creek was ever being thought about -- being sold," Lorenzetti said.

Swedetown Creek itself was not in the proposed area considered for sale either, he added. However, comments from the public concern the effect of potential development on the ecosystem of the whole area and watershed. The Commissioners asked the City Manager to look at the property on the east side of the creek to determine whether people's concerns can be accommodated. Some copies of concept sketches of the area were made available to the audience.

This concept sketch shows the three city-owned parcels -- A, B and C -- being considered for sale for residential housing. At the Aug. 27 Planning Commission meeting, two votes resulted in a recommendation to keep Parcel A as a buffer along the Swedetown Creek recreational area. Click on image for larger version. (Image courtesy City of Hancock)

Glenn Anderson said he learned from the letters that birding in that area was a concern of residents -- in addition to kayaking and fishing (which were mentioned at previous meetings).

In fact, a letter from Owen Mills, Copper Country Audubon Club (CCAC) life member, and Dana Richter, CCAC president, says the CCAC members favor leaving both sides of the creek undeveloped to protect bird habitat.

Their letter states, "The mouth of Swedetown Creek is an important sanctuary for birds that require the riparian habitat. The water opens in early spring at the creek mouth providing feeding for early migrants. Spring and summer residents include waterfowl and perching birds that depend on seclusion from development to successfully reproduce. Development of any kind would disturb these species during nesting. We expect our leaders to recognize that the environment is inextricably linked, because a negative impact to one species has a negative impact on the entire ecosystem."

"That's one of my more favorite fishing places," Anderson said. "We weren't fully aware of the multitude of uses there."

Noting the roughness of the existing trail along the creek, Anderson added he thought it would be a perfect place for a boardwalk (suggested in the letter from the Audubon Club) and possibly a kayak launch. He noted the City might be able to apply for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for recreation.

Commissioner Bob Wenc mentioned that he understood even on the south side of the creek, a half acre of city-owned parcels right next to the creek were not being considered for sale.

Lorenzetti confirmed that in the present plan the City would own both sides of the creek and the entire gorge.

Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson, second from right, reports on letters he, Council members and Planning Commissioners received from the public -- about 30 at the time of the meeting, Aug. 27, 2007 -- expressing concern at the City's potential land sale near Swedetown Creek. Planning Commissioners pictured are, from left Dan Lucchesi, Bob Wenc and Dan Lorenzetti, chair. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Joe Kaplan mentioned the Commission should take into consideration the present low water level and the need to protect the mouth of the creek.

Marcia Goodrich commented that Swedetown Creek is "a fabulous blessing to the City -- a beautiful little coldwater stream that's still running even in this kind of drought."

Goodrich said she understood the temptation to waterfront development and knew the tax base could stand to be improved, but a place like that is "irreplaceable ... a gem."

Bill Deephouse, retired DNR (Department of Natural Resources) fish biologist, spoke about collecting samples of Coho salmon with the DNR at the mouth of Swedetown Creek in 1992 and noted an array of different fish species they found instead of Coho.

In his letter to the Commission, sent shortly after this meeting, Deephouse says he remembers finding "big rainbow trout (steelhead), large smallmouth bass, lots of yellow perch, northern pike, always several nice-sized walleyes each day, crappies, rock bass, white suckers, redhorse (a type of sucker), bullheads and various forage species (alewife, golden shiners, etc.)."

Noting the drop-off in the cove on the south side of the creek, Deephouse writes, "All fish were easily available to the shore angler. It would be a shame to take this wonderful public recreation area away from the citizens of Hancock and the public, in general. The recreational values of this property with respect to the fishing are obvious and well documented."

Bill Deephouse, retired DNR fish biologist, addresses the Planning Commission at their Aug. 27 meeting, reading parts of his letter to city officials on the ecological potential of the mouth of Swedetown Creek, especially for fishing. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Deephouse adds that the creek acts as a natural fish hatchery for such species as young rainbow trout.

"I encourage the City of Hancock to reconsider the proposal to sell this valuable recreational water frontage. Instead, they should consider making the entire area more user friendly to enhance more outdoor use. The public water frontage the city owns is vastly more valuable for public recreation than allowing it to be sold to a private entity to generate tax dollars. And it will only increase in value to the public as time passes. I think you owe it to future generations to formally dedicate this area as a park," Deephouse concludes in his letter.

Keren Tischler commented that the wording of people's letters may indicate that they recognize the value of the entire watershed. In her own letter she says she sees the Swedetown Creek rivermouth as both a natural and an economic resource.

"It represents greenspace within the city limits that offers waterfront access for the public," she writes. "I believe selling Government Lot 5 is a step in the wrong direction for the City of Hancock, especially at a time when cities across the country are spending taxpayers' money to buy greenspace."

Lorenzetti mentioned he had found out that 1.95 miles of waterfront in Hancock is privately owned, i.e., 62%, while 38% is publicly owned. He added that the city also has control over some of the private property, such as the area owned by Portage Health System.

Merle Kindred asked that the City provide a color-coded map of this ownership so that citizens could be better informed about it. In her letter to the Commission, Kindred asked for a Citizens Waterfront Committee to allow more citizen involvement.

Commissioner Dan Lucchesi said he had caught 10-lb Steelhead on Swedetown Creek and had walked the property with Lorenzetti.

"It's a compromise" Lucchesi said. "You do understand that we do have a responsibility to everybody in the city to try to develop tax base and also preserve something as pristine as the Swedetown Creek."

He said he knew the Commission couldn't make everyone happy but they would try their best.

Commissioner Terry Monson said he was against selling the property, with the exception of the Sintkowski property (Parcel C).

At the Aug. 27 Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Terry Monson, right, repeats his opposition to most of the land sale. Also pictured are Dan Lorenzetti, chair, left, and Barry Givens, Hancock mayor. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

"I voted against selling the property whenever it came up last time, and I'm going to vote against it again," Monson said. "I think it's a wonderful area."

Monson noted the city has other attractive properties on top of the hill (that could be sold instead).

Hancock Mayor Barry Givens said he hoped they could come to some compromise.

"It's great to have a lot of publicly owned property, but you have to manage that property and manage it well," he said.

Givens pointed out the problems of managing Hancock Beach and the Campground are not for lack of effort, but for lack of money. He noted the land sale could provide a grant match for supporting recreation.

George Desort, who said he moved here from Chicago
because of the natural beauty, said Hancock's greatest asset is waterfront, which he would like to see kept in public ownership.

George Desort, standing, who recently moved to Hancock from Chicago, addresses the Planning Commission at their Aug. 27 meeting. Also pictured are, from left, seated, Bill Deephouse, Keren Tischler and Allyson Jabusch. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Allyson Jabusch said she opposed the sale because of the peace and solace she enjoyed in the Swedetown Creek Corridor. Jabusch said she would support an increase in property taxes to pay for the city needs.

In her letter to the Commission, Jabusch writes, "It is a valuable resource with its waterfalls, wildflowers, berries, song birds, and the nonesuch shale that occasionally juts up along the creek bed."

A preliminary motion was made to sell parcels A, B and C and defeated 4 to 3.

Bob Wenc then made a motion to sell parcels B and C and leave parcel A as a bigger buffer zone for the creek.

Joe Kaplan commented that the buildable site is closer to the road. If the city markets this land (parcel B) as lakeshore the new owner will have to cut down a great deal of vegetation to get a view of the lakeshore.

"I would consider some sort of limitation on viewshed," Kaplan suggested.

Finally, it was moved by Wenc and seconded by Givens to recommend to the City Council to sell one 20-foot-wide parcel (parcel C) and one 100-foot-wide parcel (parcel B).

This motion carried, with five in favor: Lucchesi, Wenc, Anderson, Givens and Lorenzetti. The two opposed were Monson and Tom Gemignani.

Letters from public oppose land sale

Here are some more excerpts from residents' letters and emails to City of Hancock officials:

Norma Veurink of Houghton: "Part of what makes the Keweenaw special is the many natural places that residents and tourists can enjoy. Other areas, particularly in lower Michigan, are riddled with 'No trespassing' signs. Please do not contribute to this happening in the Copper Country."

Shirley du Fresne McArthur of Hancock: "The Council perhaps lacks vision in not realizing that great waterfronts are not dominated by residential developments. A case in point, Helsinki, Finland, has the Esplanade which masterfully leads from the heart of the city down to the water .... The waterful is an inherently public asset to be protected. Development should never interfere with pedestrian connections."

Gregory Booth of Hancock: "High quality natural areas accessible to the public for recreation are an important element of what makes this community a unique and appealing place to live."

Linda Nagel of Hancock (Associate Professor, MTU School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science): "As a member of the Michigan Tech community, I chose to buy a home and raise my daughter in Hancock seven years ago partly because of the access provided to natural areas ...that are literally out my back door....We have the power and responsibility to conserve and preserve this wonderful and unique place."

Doug Holmes of Hancock (MTU Research Engineer, Keweenaw Research Center): "I think it is obvious that the loss of recreational opportunity resulting from this proposed sale would greatly outweigh the monetary gain. You simply cannot build a creek and they aren't making any more of them!"

Robert Pastel: "The city has already made a mistake permitting the building of a 4 story near the bridge. I advise not (making) another mistake."

David Flaspohler of Hancock: "As a professor at MTU, I have used the Swedetown Creek area for ornithology field trips and have visited the area with my family. Such areas, once developed, cannot be replaced in terms of their public value and the role they play in increasing the quality of life for Hancock residents. I am an advocate for development but believe that a wiser and more viable model would focus development on the city center and areas immediately adjacent to Hancock, leaving nearby natural areas to increase the amenities our community has to offer."

Christa Walck of Houghton (Dean, MTU School of Business and Economics): "I am not a resident of Hancock, but I own property in Hancock township and drive past this area daily in the summer. There is almost always someone at the mouth of the river walking, fishing, putting in a boat, kayak, or canoe, or giving their dogs an opportunity to swim. This is the only place I am aware of that allows residents this kind of access to the Portage."

Matt Van Grinsven of Hancock: "Aside from ecological importance it would be a shame to spoil such an area for aesthetic reasons .... I have heard innumerable negative complaints with regards to the enormous condo complex that is being built next to the bridge. This structure is entirely out of place in historic Hancock, and I think the citizens have suffered enough at the sight of this monstrosity to at least have a natural river course be preserved."

Billie Yarbrough of Hancock: "Already too many of Hancock's lakeside lots have been put into private hands. One glaring example is the Moyle condominium, which is practically under the Hancock-Houghton bridge."

Ann Pace of Hancock: "I believe that property has much greater long-term value to the city and its residents as public land. I do not believe that it needs any further development. We do not, for example, need a boat dock or ramp. In fact it would make the area less, not more, useful for kayakers and canoers. Perhaps the city should even consider zoning it as 'Conservation-Environmental Protection.'"

Evan McDonald, Executive Director, Keweenaw Land Trust: "The City of Hancock's current Strategic Plan identifies quality of life, recreational opportunities and environmental protection as values and goals for the City, representing tremendous overlap with the mission and goals of the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT). The KLT also believes that economic vitality in our region is essential to our quality of life and is very important for the success of our land conservation efforts....Our recommendation is simply that the City of Hancock should retain ownership of all of its parcels in Government Lot 5, permanently maintaining them in their natural state for public enjoyment and to benefit wildlife and the water quality of Swedetown Creek and the Portage Waterway."

John Slivon of Hancock (fisherman): "Another large house will mean another large lawn with all the incumbent lawn chemicals that will naturally leach into the creek and subsequently into the lake .... Beyond its value as a fish habitat, what makes Swedetown creek unique is its accessibility to the fisherman. Privatization of any property bordering on a stream automatically limits access to that part of the stream."

Douglas LaBar of Hancock: "This river mouth area is an outstanding natural area and very important to wildlife. I have spent a lot of time in the area fishing with my children and it is an outstanding asset for the City of Hancock. It would be a complete tragedy to see this wonderful place forever ruined."

Editor's Notes:
*See our article on this July 18 hearing and City Council Meeting on Keweenaw Now.

See also the article on the July 23 Planning Commission meeting.

*** Keweenaw Now requested and received copies of about 30 of these letters -- all of them opposed to the proposed land sale near Swedetown Creek. We also quoted City Manager Glenn Anderson in a previous article as saying the City did not plan to sell land on the west side of the creek. The letters indicate to us not a misconception as Lorenzetti claims, but a concern that development on the east (or south) side of the creek could spoil the whole atmosphere and ecosystem of the area that is now conducive to the recreational activities of fishing, kayaking, canoeing and birding.