As we say goodbye (and good riddance!?) to 2020, let’s take a look at some of the top stories we posted here on Old Mission Gazette. You can also read every story we’ve ever written here (dating back five years to 2015, when we started the Gazette).
Covid-19 Pandemic. The Covid-19 virus, aka coronavirus, infiltrated just about every area of our lives. The virus made itself known in the United States in February, and in March, Gov. Whitmer issued a stay-home order to slow the spread of the virus, then extended it. Many executive orders were issued to Michigan residents; township meetings were canceled and went virtual; Log Cabin Day was canceled, as were the annual Legion Pig Roast and Old Mission Parade; Peninsula Community Library closed and then went to curbside service; and restaurants were closed, then opened, then closed. At this writing, we’re still being advised to mask up, “social distance” from other people, wash our hands, and avoid crowds and gatherings. Several vaccines are now being distributed, so we’ll see what 2021 brings. Thank goodness for virtual meetings on Zoom, which most of us had never heard of until this year.
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Librarian Gets Lost at Sea. Peninsula Community Library Director Vicki Shurly and her husband Bob were on a cruise in the South Pacific when Covid-19 made its way into our world. Gazette readers followed their ocean adventures as they tried to get home and were turned away at port after port, which Vicki graciously shared with us in nine parts. We were all so happy they finally made it home at the end of March. Her cheery-despite-the-circumstances installments were some of our most-read stories of the year. Read more here.
OMP Survey Results Revealed. As part of Peninsula Township’s Master Plan work, they asked for our opinions on what we want the Peninsula to look like in the coming years. Limiting wineries and preserving farmland were just a few of the things OMP residents would like to see. Read more here.
WWI Letters Discovered in Back of Closet. And they were deeply embedded in Old Mission Peninsula history. Read more here.
Kyle Sarber Awarded Firefighter of the Year. And it was a great event at the Peninsula Township Hall. Read more and see pics here.
OMPS Sled Race Takes Place. Before the world went to heck, the kids at Old Mission Peninsula School had their annual cardboard sled race in February. Read more and see pics here.
Great Lakes Whale Migration Takes Place. As is always the case every April, the whales began migrating, and we spotted a humpback swimming around in West Bay. Read more here.
Fire Truck Birthday Drive-Bys Happened. It was a tough year for kids to have birthdays, but the Peninsula Fire Department delivered plenty of cheer with their birthday drive-bys. Of course, the community joined in. Read more here.
Father Rexroat Blesses Cherry Blossoms. The beloved priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church was on the job with the annual Blessing of the Blossoms, and the blossoms responded by blooming beautifully. Read more here.
Group Plants Trees Along Center Road. And those trees and tree-planters are so appreciated, both now and for generations to come, as the trees grow up and offer shade and respite. Read more here.
Library Children’s Garden Opens. In the midst of the pandemic, the lovely Mack and Lorraine Beers Children’s Garden opened quietly at Peninsula Community Library. And it is SO peaceful. Read more and see photos here.
Problematic Weather Challenges Cherry Farmers. High temps and massive rains proved challenging for Old Mission Peninsula cherry farmers this year. But there was a bit of good news, too. Read more here.
John DeVol Retires from Phone Company. The longtime “Phone Guy,” known as “J.D.” to locals, retired from AcenTek (previously Peninsula Telephone Co.) after 46 years. Read more about his family history and years of service to the community here. (And Tim and I were so happy that he was the one who showed up to help us “cut the cord” in January.)
’81’ Vandal Serves Time. Traverse City hand surgeon Mark Leslie served time for vandalizing ‘The 81 on East Bay’ development, now known as Peninsula Shores. Read more here.
Citizens Group Opposes Road Millage. The millage passed in the Nov. 3 General Election, but the group brought attention to many road issues around the Old Mission Peninsula and Traverse City area, and Peninsula Township officially opposed the millage. Read more here.
High Water Batters OMP Shoreline. The water level along OMP shorelines was the highest its been in ages. Trees along the shore near Mission Point Lighthouse dropped like toothpicks into the woods and bay. Read more here and here.
Baby Dogman at Haserot Beach. One of our most talked-about stories involved this photo about a deceased animal that washed ashore at the beach. You all had a lot of opinions about what it might have been!
Pyatt Lake Trail Gets Upgrades. The project makes the beautiful trail more universally accessible. Read more here.
New Play Structure Built at Haserot Beach. The Parks Committee spent many hours, weeks and months researching the logistics of a new playground at the south end of the beach, and the structure was completed in October. Read more here. Up next, they’ll begin the process for new play structures at Bowers Harbor Park.
Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Continues. Some residents felt the process was rushed and not properly promoted, despite the fact that the ordinance rewrite draft has been on the Township’s website for residents to view since January 2020. The process continues at this writing, and a Planning Commission subcommittee has been formed to see which of the more controversial items can be set aside for now, while the less controversial items move forward.
Peninsula Township Sees Record Voter Turnout. A whopping 85.64 percent of Peninsula Township’s registered voters turned out to vote in the Nov. 3 General Election. That’s a record, said Township Clerk Becky Chown. Read more here.
Mission Point Lighthouse Gets New Shutters. And a new kitchen and other renovations. The OMP Historical Society, through the now-dissolved Friends of Mission Point Lighthouse, helped to fund the shutter project. The lighthouse also turned 150 this year. Read more here.
Bear Spotted on the Old Mission Peninsula. It’s been many years, perhaps a generation or two, since any of us have seen a bear out here. But Brad Wheat caught a photo of this one on his trailcam.
Roads Crumble and Erode. Our roads on the Old Mission Peninsula took a beating this year. From the closed section on the north end of Bluff Road (perhaps permanently?) to wash-outs on Peninsula Drive, Center Road at the Hogsback, Smokey Hollow Road, and Neahtawanta Road, driving around the neighborhood got a little dicey.
Murder at Peninsula Community Library! To get us through the month of November, Library Director Vicki Shurly created a fun whodunit murder mystery at the library. A staff member was murdered and another staff member did it! Read more here.
Children’s Christmas Program Goes Virtual. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Old Mission Peninsula United Methodist Church had to re-think their annual Children’s Christmas Program, which is always a fundraiser for a family in need. It turned out awesome – watch it here. (Look for my cameo.)
New Fire Station Built at North End. Construction began this fall, and the new Fire Station 3 between Swaney Road and Tompkins Road is moving right along. Read more here.
Seven Hills Motel Proposed. The two-story, 10-unit motel was part of a development group’s plan to re-imagine the commercial property on Seven Hills Road just north of Devils Dive Road. Lacking the required five acres necessary for a motel, the group went back to the drawing board and will come back to the Planning Commission with a revised plan. Read more here.
OMP Historical Society Forges On. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the group made the decision to close the Dougherty House for tours, and the Hessler Log Home, Mission Church and Mission Point Lighthouse scaled back, as well. But the group forged onward, working behind the scenes to preserve and protect the Peninsula’s history. Read more here.
We Lost Many OMP Elders. Dougherty House champion Bill Cole, OMPS secretary Shirley Blackmore and teacher Bob Bacon, Rev. Richard Selleck, lifelong OMPer Jim Hilt, Peninsula Phone Company helmer Vi Solomonson, Bluff Roader Nancy Stych, longtime Peninsula Fire Chief Rich VanderMey, and my mom, Mary Johnson, are just a few of those we lost. Read more here. Coco, the longtime Reading Dog at Peninsula Community Library, also passed away. (Always feel free to send along info if you’ve lost a loved one, and I’ll be honored to post it in the Gazette.)
Dougherty House Featured in Primitive Quilts Magazine. I had the privilege of sitting in on the photo shoot (and took a few photos of my own). Read more here.
Ted Ayers Barn Demolished. The iconic barn on the corner of Center Road and Swaney Road was demolished in December. Click here for photos and video.
As always, thank you for reading Old Mission Gazette and sticking with us for another year. Feel free to leave comments in the comments section below. Onward to 2021!
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb