Press Release, Mackinaw Fest Award, April 2016

Emmet County awarded for ‘unflagging support’ in helping in Mackinaw Raptor Fest, public raptor migration count take flight.

At the Mackinaw Raptor Fest closing ceremony April 2, Emmet County was awarded the first-ever Wind Under Wings Award, in recognition of the assistance by numerous county staff who helped launch the inaugural event, and for supporting a public raptor migration watch in Mackinaw City.

In front of 110 people, Gary Appold, Assistant County Administrator and Human Resources Director, accepted the award of a framed adult bald eagle from Ed Pike, chair of the non-profit group, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.  The photograph was donated by professional photographer, Lynn Walters-Fraze of J-A-M Productions International, Alanson.

“When I first broached the idea of a hawk watch in the Straits area in 2004, people were daunted by the amount of work and funding that it would entail,” said Pike. “Thanks to help from many colleagues and the proof from three years of preliminary counts that this is a vital hawk migration corridor, we launched the full research and public outreach work in 2014. This weekend, birders came to Emmet and Cheboygan Counties from throughout Michigan as well as Indiana, Maryland, and Wisconsin. Along with contributors of funds, topping the list that made it possible is the unflagging support and encouragement of Emmet County, which has been there at every turn.”

That support from the county began back in 2010 with owl research demonstrations at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, combined with an educational night sky experience.  In July of 2013 when Pike and others began meeting about a new public festival during the spring shoulder season, Emmet County sent representatives who provided “wise guidance and advice,” Pike noted.

“Emmet County and its commissioners exemplify what it means to be forward-thinking and community-caring. Through our formative years and even after MSRW started, Emmet County has helped in so many ways behind the scenes, it’s hard to enumerate them.

From owls, Emmet County’s help spread to hawks.  “The professionalism of their staff and encouragement of their commissioners has figuratively given us wings. Emmet County has helped with housing and computer service for some of the biologists. They have assisted with audiovisual equipment setup, publication design, media outreach, and publicity on their website. I am delighted to present them with the first Wind Under Wings Award.”

Emmet County’s Appold said the county is pleased to partner with such an important group as the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and to support their work in raising awareness about protecting sensitive regional environments and habitats.

“It’s vital to Emmet County’s future to understand the environmental assets in our region. The raptor count has been an amazing example of educating the public about what an important area this is for birds of prey on an international level,” Appold said. “As a secondary benefit, Emmet County receives exposure about our unique amenities and experiences and we attract tens of thousands of visitors to our communities and parks, in turn supporting our economy and encouraging families and individuals to relocate here and invest in our area. We will continue to support excellent efforts such as the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch and we’re glad we could help MSRW launch a very successful first year festival.”