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West End News: May 1

WEN_20140501.mp35.03 MB

As of today, Sawbill Lake is still sporting 27 inches of ice.  This is only a few inches less than I reported two weeks ago, news which could just aggravate the chronic late winter depression that is epidemic in Cook County these days.  However, the ice is quite a bit more degraded that it was two weeks ago and there is some hope that open water will arrive eventually.  Based on recent weather trends, I would guess that it will be at least two more weeks until the lakes clear, taking us well past the opening day of fishing season for the second year in a row.  I can only imagine the joy we will all feel when the next warm sunny day arrives.
The Birch Grove Foundation and Tofte Township invite you to the second community conversation at the Birch Grove Community Center on May 7.  The event starts with a wood hearth pizza bake at 5:30 p.m. and the conversation starts at 6:30.  The goal is to prioritize the ideas and goals that were identified at the first community conversation last month.  Once the priorities are set, strategies will be discussed for practical steps for attaining the goals.  Everyone who cares about the future of the West End should attend. 
If you plan to participate in the pizza bake, you should RSVP so they know how much dough and sauce to prepare.  As always, bring your own toppings.  Email or call 663-7977 to let them know.
While on the topic of Birch Grove, don’t forget to buy your tickets for Gala for the Grove scheduled for May 17 at Surfside Resort in Tofte.  This is the social event of the year and an important fundraiser for the Birch Grove Community School, which is the heartbeat of the West End. 
It’s not too late to donate an item to be sold at the exciting live auction that is a big part of the gala.  Contact info is and 663-0170.
The Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center in Schroeder is offering an interesting free program comparing our ecosystem with the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.  The Osa Peninsula has been called the most biologically intense place on Earth by National Geographic magazine.  It contains more than 700 species of trees alone.  The program is free and open to all on Saturday, May 10 at 10 a.m.  I suggest that it might be very pleasant to watch a slide show of lush, green, sun-dappled forest at this particular point in time.  I’m just saying…  
The cell tower that has been standing on the hill above the power plant in Schroeder is finally fully operational.  This is only good news if you are an AT&T customer because that is the only service it supplies at the moment.  The plan is for Verizon Wireless, which is the carrier most of us have, to also provide service in Schroeder in the near future.
Meanwhile, the cell tower in Tofte, which was supposed to provide Verizon Wireless service last fall, is still just a tower with no service available.  Hopefully, that will come online as soon as possible.  I have heard reports that the AT&T signal from Schroeder is pretty reliable in Tofte.  The plan is for the Tofte tower to offer AT&T service sometime in the future.
The best news of all though, is the report that Arrowhead Cooperative is actually hooking up broadband Internet customers in Schroeder.  A couple of homes have had high-speed connections for a few weeks as a test and regular customers are being hooked up as I speak.  The connections are starting at the county line and moving east.  Only a couple of crews are working now, but more crews will be added as summer gets under way.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!
Finally, it’s my privilege to report the end of an era at the Forest Service District Office in Tofte.  As of May 1, Meg Tofte, who has been the den mother of the Tofte office for 25 years, has retired.  I’m personally shocked that Meg can be retired at such a young age, because she and I are the same age. 
All kidding aside, Meg’s ability, intelligence and caring personality will be deeply missed by Forest Service crew and all of us who have cause to spend time at the district office.  Fortunately, she will be hanging around Tofte with time on her hands, so we can all continue to enjoy her friendship and wisdom.  Now, if she can just get Greg to retire…