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The Fontana Frog, long the most recognized but neglected community symbol in Fontana, Wisconsin, at the west end of Geneva Lake, has been newly replastered and painted, restoring the original luster of this roadside wonder that once graced a now-abandoned miniature golf course on the road into the village. “Ribbit, Ribbit!”
Following is a letter I sent to our local paper in Lake Geneva, WI., yesterday:
Letter to the Editor
Lake Geneva Regional News
Everyone hates parking meters, except maybe city government, because they give the city another way to tax drivers who patronize local businesses, doctors and services. Of course, the merchants hate meters, because they give shoppers another last minute reason to drive by their stores and head out to the big box merchants, who know the value of free and plentiful parking.
And cities love giving out parking tickets, because tickets add another gigantic tax on top of the regular taxes charged by meters, and usually make people feel too guilty to complain.
The last time I wrote a letter to the editor about the inconvenience of parking in Lake Geneva, several years ago, I was daunted to see in the same issue a front page story and photo of a retiring parking supervisor receiving, of all things, a gold-plated meter head as a going away present from the city.
Yes, parking fees and tickets are golden to the city. They don’t have to raise other taxes that citizens might notice, and influence their decisions at the voting booth. I recall hearing that Lake Geneva’s meters were first installed to raise money for a parking deck, to relieve the parking shortage downtown and help the merchants. It was never built. The city got used to the extra parking income, now close to a million a year.
The new electronic meters will be great, requiring a walk down the street and back, rain or shine, tired or not, just to pay more for parking, often buying time we won’t even need. While the electronic meters will cost the taxpayers a million or so to install, not to mention the cost of service, with no decrease in city-paid parking meter checkers (to issue all those tickets), the city says the pay back from the new system could, maybe, happen within several years. Start holding your breath.
Meanwhile, we just returned from our second trip this summer over by ferry to the little Michigan lakeside resort town of Saugatuck. Over there, where they have lots of nice shops, galleries and restaurants downtown, parking on city streets is free for 3 hours, to anyone (they appreciate out-of-town shoppers over there). They’ve even been known to put thank you notes on windshields of violators, pointing out that there are large free lots at each end of town, with convenient shuttle busses.
I tend to associate free parking with a friendly, small town atmosphere. Amen.
A visit to Black Point Estate is a high point of any visit to historic Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. The well-preserved house, standing high on a wooded bluff on the south shore of the 21-mile circumference lake was built by a Chicago beer baron in 1888 as a summer home for his family. Original furnishings and decor make the house feel like it should be in the Smithsonian museum. For information on how to visit Black Point by water or land, go to their website: http://www.blackpointpreserve.org/ The lakefront grounds of Black Point are permanently protected by a conservation easement jointly held by the Geneva Lake Conservancy and the house association.
Fresh from the director of Yerkes Observatory at Williams Bay, Wisconsin…
DECEMBER ASTRONOMICAL EVENTS
…….you can watch without a telescope.
First, the Geminid meteor shower will peak on Monday night and Tuesday morning December 13-14, though there should be a reasonable number of meteors visible for a few nights before and after that. Meteors, often called shooting stars, are seen as streaks of light moving rapidly across the sky. They are actually small particles burning up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Earth encounters streams of these particles at specific times each year, resulting in predictable meteor showers. The August Perseid meteor shower is probably best known, but the December Geminids are often equally good (though December weather is more often cloudy and temperatures are less pleasant for spending night hours outdoors). To watch these meteors, dress very warmly, find a reasonably dark location, and look up. You should see at least several meteors in a half hour of watching, depending on how clear and dark the sky is. Geminids will appear to streak away from the constellation of Gemini, north of the well-known figure of Orion, but can be seen in any part of the sky, so watch the darkest part of your sky. Gemini will have risen in the eastern sky by 8 pm, though the best meteor viewing will be when it is much higher around and after midnight. The Moon will brighten the western sky somewhat during the first half of the night on Dec. 13-14.
The second event is a total eclipse of the Moon on Monday night and Tuesday morning December 20-21. Lunar eclipses occur when the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow. The partial phase of this eclipse will begin at 12:33 am, though there should be some shadowing visible for perhaps half an hour before that. The Moon will be totally eclipsed from 1:41 to 2:17 am, with another partial phase following totality. The Moon will move from very high in the southeast to moderately high in the west during these hours. During totality the Moon is sometimes so dim as to be almost invisible, but more often is easily visible with a reddish color. Unlike a meteor shower, where one should plan to spend quite awhile outdoors in a reasonably dark location, a lunar eclipse can be viewed by simply going outdoors a few minutes at a time anywhere, and even with a partly cloudy sky. The next total lunar eclipse visible from here will occur in mid-April 2014, an unusually long gap between such eclipses, so try to catch this one if weather permits.