Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Cherry Tree Vandals at Large
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Cherry Tree Vandals at Large

Patrick Sullivan - February 27th, 2012  

Months after a strange and disturbing crime, still no answers

It’s been almost five months since someone took a saw to an orchard in Garfield Township and wasted 428 cherry trees.

The search for the culprit or culprits has gone cold, despite a $10,000 reward in the case.

Three other cases of orchard or vineyard vandalism have also gone unsolved in Leelanau County.

In two of those cases, 15 cherry trees were cut at one orchard and 22 at another. At a vineyard, someone destroyed 161 grapevines.

What’s partly stymied investigators is how strange these acts of vandalism are – these were not typical random acts of malicious destruction of property, which are often hasty, drunken undertakings, sometimes easy to solve.

These were acts which left no evidence behind and which required sweat, hard work, and long hours, presumably at night.

And for what reward?


Police in Grand Traverse County first investigated Oct. 12 when a sheriff’s deputy received a call from Gary Kroupa, whose son, Mike, had just discovered the loss of a large number of cherry trees on his orchard.

Dep. Justin Revnell met the Kroupas at the farm.

There he found hundreds of trees, around five years old, destroyed. Someone had cut into them, about halfway to three quarters of the way through the trunks, and then pushed them over.

Revnell talked to the owner, Mike Kroupa, who said he had no idea who might have done this to his orchard.

Kroupa told the deputy he thought all current or past employees could be ruled out as suspects – they were all friends or family and he knew of no reason why they would want to lash out at him or the farm.

Revnell also checked with neighbors across the highway and next-door.

They had not seen or heard anything, they said. They had no idea who might have done this.

Undersheriff Nathan Alger said investigators believe more than one person had to have been involved, given the scope of the undertaking.

He said another thing that’s made this case odd is that word hasn’t spread about it from those involved, bragging to friends about what they pulled off.

“You would like to think that because it is so unusual, people would know about it,” Alger said. “People would talk about it, and we could solve it.”


That day at the orchard, Revnell walked through row after row of the now decimated orchard and inspected the trees.

He looked for footprints or vehicle tracks among the rows that had been cut, but found nothing useful.

“I was able to ascertain that the people did come in a vehicle as they had left tracks in the grass,” he wrote. “On further examining of the vehicle tracks, I could observe that the tracks had been rained on” and the tread patterns were no longer visible.

It appeared a vehicle had entered the orchard from M-72, on a driveway just east of where Jacob’s Corn Maze is located in the fall.

Revnell even attempted to get fingerprints from the trees but those efforts, after trying around 20 trees, were unsuccessful.

He examined the way the saw blades had cut through the trees.

He stood a broken tree back up on its stump and examined how it fit back together.

“Upon looking at the curve that was cut out by the saw, it appears to be a thinner blade,” Revnell wrote. “This could not have been done by a chainsaw.”

He also concluded that given the straightness of the cuts, the cuts could not have been accomplished by a rounded, spinning blade.

“Upon gathering all of the information, it is believed most likely a straight pruning or hand saw or possibly a battery powered reciprocating saw was used,” Revnell concluded.

He collected sections from two trees to keep as evidence.


Revnell also noted in the report that the case was similar to other acts of vandalism that had recently taken place in Leelanau County.

In one, around 15 cherry trees were cut on one farm “in a very similar manner and with a similar type of saw,” Revnell wrote. Those trees were older and thicker than the ones cut at the Kroupa farm.

In another case, 161 grapevines were cut at Crain Hill Vineyards.

“Once again, it looks like somebody has used a straight bladed saw for this destruction of property,” Revnell wrote.

Leelanau County Sheriff Michael Oltersdorf said there have been no developments in those cases and they remain unsolved.

He said they are difficult cases because there were no witnesses and there are no suspects.

Former employees were interviewed by investigators, Oltersdorf said, but no leads emerged.

He said he suspects all of the cases are related but he doesn’t know for sure.

“It’s our gut feeling they are, just because they’re so unique,” Oltersdorf said. “Nobody can even remember having orchards damaged like that in the past.”


Mike Kroupa, owner of the Grand Traverse County orchard, said there is still a $10,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible.

Kroupa said he’s ordered new trees and he plans to replant the orchard in the spring.

What remained of the trees that were vandalized have been removed.

It was a difficult experience for Kroupa. “It was pretty devastating, that’s six years worth of work, gone,” Kroupa said. “But we kind of got over it. We’re moving on.”

Dr. Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, said the number of trees and vines cut, although devastating to the farmers involved, was not enough to affect the cherry or grape markets.

“That’s always been the question, why would someone do this?” Rothwell said.

She said there was no pattern to who was struck or when. The case of 15 cherry trees cut in Leelanau County, which happened at an orchard near Maple City, were cut before cherry harvest, she said.

“There was no rhyme or reason, the growers didn’t really know each other or hang out that much,” she said.

She said growers are worried that whoever is responsible will return with the new season.

“I think that people have been worried about it and there’s been people that have put up quite a bit of money to help catch whoever did this,” Rothwell said.

Whoever is responsible for the vandalism might be a very angry, obsessed and meticulous person, said Mike Hayes, a licensed psychologist who is the director of Old Town Psychological Services.

Hayes is not a criminal profiler and he said he can only speculate about what kind of person would commit such an act.

But he said given the number of trees involved, someone had to have had a lot of anger to do something like this. He also said didn’t think it sounded like a random act, given how much work was involved.

“I feel bad for the owner” of the orchard, Hayes said.

Know something about the orchard vandalism? Call the Grand Traverse County Sheriff at (231) 995-5000 or the Silent Observer at (231) 947-8477.

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