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 · Lighting it Up on Torch
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Lighting it Up on Torch

For summer fun, nothing quite holds a candle to Torch.

Patrick Sullivan - July 7th, 2014  

As Michigan’s second-largest inland lake, its 41 miles of sandy shoreline have hosted countless bonfires, sing-a-longs, midnight swims, and family gatherings. And most summer weekends, its giant southside sandbar draws thousands of boaters, families, and partiers. The sandbar scene is like nothing else, continuing to generate controversy, memories, debate, and wild times.

On hot July weekends, Dave Berghoff anchors his pontoon on the sandbar early, ready to sling burgers to hundreds of knee-deep revelers.

“If I’ve got all my ducks in a row, I try to get on the water between eight and nine,” the Burger Barge owner says.

He stays late — 12 hours or more, until he runs out of food or a gap opens in the rows of boats that surround the sandbar party throughout the day.

For people like Berghoff, who serve the partygoers, or the police, who try to keep them in line, the Torch Lake sandbar means a lot of work.

For young people and families, the sandbar is a fun place to spend hot summer days. For many who own lakefront homes near the sandbar, the party is an irritation or worse.


The party doesn’t rage like it once did. A 2007 Northern Express story highlighted drunkenness, fights, and topless women.

Today, while the party isn’t sedate, there is less underage drinking, fewer fights, and those who are rowdy enough to come to the attention of the police wind up in a mobile jail parked in a fire station parking lot.

Twenty-five-year-old Christopher Hutchens has been coming to the sandbar since he was a kid from his family’s Elk Lake cottage and he said he’s never seen a woman bare her breasts at the sandbar.

For the Columbus, Mo. resident, the sandbar is just a fun place to spend weekends with friends. Hutchens is so enamored he started a Facebook fan page which has garnered nearly 1,400 likes in a year.

Hutchens said there is no doubt the sandbar has become a destination for young people who want to party, but he believes it’s still a safe place for children.

Given what the sandbar offers — Caribbean blue water, soft sand, a stunning drop-off — he sees the popularity as inevitable.

“It’s just awesome to swim and hang out with friends,” he said. “I think [the popularity is] a good thing, but it’s kind of a curse too, because there is limited land and space available.”


Rowdy behavior began to drop off in 2009, when the sheriffs of Antrim and Kalkaska counties agreed to disregard the county line that dissects the sandbar.

Sheriffs Daniel Bean and David Israel cross-deputized officers to work the sand bar. Scores of state troopers and Department of Natural Resources officers joined the patrol.

Recent events demonstrate how much the police are needed.

Last summer a man was paralyzed in a dive from his boat at the drop off, where the water can be deep at one end of a speedboat and shallow at the other, Antrim County Undersheriff Dean Pratt said.

With thousands of people gathered around, it’s a challenge for emergency workers to reach people who are in trouble. Folks came to this man’s aid almost right away, but he succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

Drownings in recent years also demonstrate the danger when alcohol, water and sun mix.

“We’ve had some drownings there, just off of the tip of the sandbar, a couple of years in a row,” Israel said. “That’s why we’re there. We’re not trying to stop anybody’s good time. We’re trying to protect them from themselves.”


The patrols are planned to keep the sandbar safe and to minimize the disruption to lakefront property owners, Israel said. They’ve focused on underage drinking and they’ve targeted drunk drivers.

“It was never our intent to stop people from enjoying themselves,” Israel said. “We’re definitely not there to run anybody out.”

Pratt agrees the sandbar is far less rowdy in recent years.

He said police begin to plan in March and they are out on the lake throughout the season.

New approaches have led to new problems, though. For instance, Pratt said they discovered sending officers on foot patrol onto the sandbar was a great way to catch minors in possession of alcohol.

It also caused young people to stick beerbottles into the sand, posing a danger for people later on.

“Each year we kept developing and developing, and now we’ve seen a reduction in MIPs, we’ve seen a reduction in assaults,” he said. “I don’t think the crowd has shrunk at all. I think there’s still a need for us to be there.”


A property owners association that formed in the 1990s to stop a large marina development at the north end of the lake nowadays focuses much of its time on the sandbar at the south end.

Greg Payne, president of the Torch Lake Protection Alliance, said his house looks directly onto the sandbar.

TLPA raises money to pay for extra police patrols and additional porta-potties. Payne said the group isn’t against the sandbar gathering; they want to make sure it’s peaceful and civilized.

“We’ve taken the position that it’s going to be there anyway, so we’re really trying to help the situation,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to represent ourselves as an organization that wants to shut this down.”

Payne believes most problems come from people who park and walk into the lake. “The boat traffic generally isn’t the issue. It’s the walk-ons,” Payne said. “The walkers are really what brings the most problems. … The people in the boats, they stay on their boats for the most part and observe the masses.”


Payne has lived on Torch Lake full-time for five years and seasonally long before that.

The sandbar became an attraction for young drinkers around 20 years ago, Payne said. Before that, the place attracted families in boats.

Payne agrees the rowdiness seemed to peak seven or eight years ago.

“I’m encouraged as long as this commitment to public safety is maintained,” Payne said.

TLPA considers its mission to keep pressure on police and government to maintain strict patrols.

“I will tell you, nobody who lives on the south end of the lake likes it. If you’re a homeowner, you don’t like it,” Payne said.


Paul Fabiano owns a convenience store that bears his name and serves the sandbar throughout summer, even delivering pizzas out to boaters.

“Ninety-five percent of our customers arrive here by boat,” Fabiano said. “We’re like a Speedway gas station on the water.”

He said normal weekends bring several hundred boats to the sandbar; the Fourth of July brings thousands.

Fabiano is from Lansing originally and didn’t know about the sandbar before he moved to Northern Michigan.

“I never even heard of the sandbar,” he said. “It was my wife – she’s originally from Charlevoix.”

Fabiano believes the sandbar has only gotten more popular every year, with more traffic meaning the family-run business pretty much takes up the family’s summer.

“We went out [to the sandbar] yesterday and that will probably be the only time we’ll go out until September,” he said. “Once July Fourth gets here, we never leave.”


Berghoff took over the Burger Barge when the young couple that started it were expecting a child and they decided a floating restaurant was too much for them.

Berghoff said the couple, who were friends of his daughter, planned the business well.

“They looked out at the sandbar and they said, ‘There’s all these people and they don’t have anything to eat,” Berghoff said. “They did tons of research and found out what they had to go through to open the business.”

When Berghoff took over the Burger Barge in 2007, the menu included burgers, chicken sandwiches and hot dogs served from a 16-foot pontoon boat.

He expanded the menu to include brats, veggie burgers and fish, which he serves from a 28-foot pontoon.

Berghoff is glad the police have made inroads stanching the bad behavior.

He believes he provides a service that helps calm things down.

“The way I looked at it when I got there was, you know what? We provide food where people are drinking. We provide nonalcoholic drinks where people are getting dried out and they need to keep liquid in their bodies,” he said. “We try to keep these people from only having alcohol.”

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