August 2, 2017, marked the second anniversary of the Glen Arbor Storm of 2015. In a way, it’s hard to believe it’s been two years. Yet when I consider how far we’ve come since that fateful day, my heart is full of pride for our community. I think it’s important to look back, though, and revisit the raw emotions of that time.
The Storm of 2015 was a sudden and devastating event that rocked our idyllic village to its core that steamy summer afternoon. Crushing winds reached 100 mph and left an unimaginable wake of destruction. Tens of thousands of mature trees lay across roads, power lines, trails, and driveways. They leaned against homes and crumpled cars. The north and east shores of Big Glen and Little Glen lakes were a mess of overturned boats and scattered docks. During the week that is typically the busiest of summer in our thriving resort town, we had no traffic for two days and zero power for five.
The Long Road Ahead
Following the flurry of destruction, the residents of Glen Arbor were understandably in shock. But true to our hearty nature, we weren’t paralyzed for long and within hours of the storm our community went to work. The Glen Arbor Township Hall had its generator running and was opened to serve all the people who could not leave town because every road in and out was impassable. The chain saws started immediately, and our tourists went home. What else could they do?
I had this sinking feeling those first couple of post-storm weeks that this town and our woods might never be the same. Then one person of the thousands who read my blog, Sara Harding, who managed the Utopia Foundation for my brother Paul, reached out in an email offering to help Cherry Republic and the town raise money. I put the word out in our Orchard Report and within a week our Re-Arbor Glen Arbor campaign raised over $50,000.
I thought that most of the money would go toward planting trees, but the need was not as much in the planting as in the removal of all the fallen trees. They were everywhere, in overwhelming obstruction. So significant Re-Arbor donations went to clearing trees off of access roads, the Heritage Trail and other National Park trails.
After the roads and trails were cleared, monies went to clean up people’s driveways and yards, and then a second round of monies went to see if we could make strategic areas entering town look better.
Finally, about a third of the money raised has gone to purchasing and planting trees and the support needed to water them those first several years. This money has been dispersed both in the form of individual grants to homeowners asking for help to replant trees to a final grant to the Glen Arbor Township Park for tree planting as part of the park enhancement project currently underway.
Along the way, we also supported several groups of volunteers like the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and also the Glen Lake Community Reformed Church’s ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors’ volunteer group that provided 500 hours of service time. That’s the stuff that Glen Arborans are made of!
To me, the most meaningful grant was to a local homeowner who was just devastated by the storm. She lost her garage, her roof, and nearly every tree on her property. She had just getting by before the storm, but this storm sent her into a tail spin. Our donations made a big difference in getting her, her home and her yard back to a decent, livable place. For two winters I watched her house covered in blue tarps, and I teared up this spring when I saw her house with a new roof.
To quote from my original post two years ago, beauty always wins in the end.