OUR IMPASSABLE POLLUTED GRAND RIVER
We say all the right things about wanting to protect, preserve, and improve access to our state’s waterways for the benefit of all and for the enjoyment of generations to come. We celebrate the Clean Water Act of 1972, enact the Michigan Clean Water Plan in October 2020, and proclaim the year, beginning October 18, 2022, as the Year of Clean Water.
It sounds good and we applaud the messaging. But, when you look at our practice of protecting, preserving, and improving access to our waterways a short distance from our state capital, you see that we are miserably failing.
I am a long distance paddler. Over the past seven years I have logged well over 6,000 miles on many of the most scenic rivers and lakes across the country. Now a resident of Lansing, I spend considerable time paddling the Grand River. A favorite entry point of mine is Burchard Park, at the boardwalk just north of the Brenke Fish Ladder.
One and a half miles further downriver from Burchard Park, and less than two miles from our state’s capital, you will discover an example of polluted water rarely seen these days. Here, at the Grand River Railroad Bridge, you will find an impassable debris field consisting of fallen trees, large limbs, and layers of unsightly trash.
I have yet to paddle a stretch of river so filthy anywhere, so unsightly, and so polluted.
Here, near the heart of Lansing and on one of our state’s most prized rivers, you will find a large collection of plastic, aluminum, and glass bottles and cans, discarded buckets, plastics and styrofoam containers, foam noodles, rubber balls, plastic bags, and nearly anything else that floats. Just prior to, or on the other side not much further down river, you will discover abandoned and partially submerged grocery carts, barbecue grills, tires, orange and white striped roadway cones, and more. Who knows what else lies just below our river’s surface or buried in our river’s muddy banks and bottom.
This collection of waste would not be tolerated in Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Ludington, Traverse City, Charlevoix, Petoskey, or anywhere in Michigan. MSU wouldn’t allow this on the Red Cedar passing through the center of its campus. So why do we allow it here, on the Grand River in Lansing, not far from our capital building?
If it were any other municipality, reckless business or private party, I am certain our DNR would be quick to write a citation and fine the party responsible for either creating, or for not removing, such an ugly, dangerous, and polluted condition. But here, we appear to turn our head and pretend this problem does not exist.
This debris field is not new to this year. It is well known to those who paddle this stretch of the Grand River, our state’s longest at 270 miles. I was first made aware of this often impassable debris field in 2020, when I paddled 150 miles one weekend, beginning at Kruger’s Landing (across from Potter Park Zoo) and finishing in Grand Haven.
It made my stomach turn then. It sickens me now.
I can’t imagine it is possible, but let’s give our elected city, county, and state officials, and DNR representatives, the benefit of doubt. Let’s assume they are unaware of this unsightly, dangerous, and now impassable debris field with its large collection of trash. So via this letter, and separate emails and letters being sent to their respective offices, today I am making them aware of the lack of oversight and possible gross negligence, of our treasured Grand River.
I ask that we acknowledge, accept responsibility, and immediately remove this unsightly debris field, an example of waterway pollution that simply should not exist, today or ever. It is incumbent upon us, as a matter of personal, civic, and community pride that we do this.
I suspect there are laws on our books that such pollution should be managed. This clean-up should be made a high priority, possibly put at the top of the Governor’s Whitmer’s list of priorities, in support of her proclaimed, “The Year of Clean Water,” which begins next Tuesday, October 18.
Here, in our state’s capital, we should act as a model of excellence, not as a model of hypocrisy. It saddens me that I feel compelled to write this letter, in 2022, and on the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
Paddling our Major Tributaries
• Rum River 2017
• Rum River 2019
• Cannon River
• Superior Bay
• Upper St. Croix
• Headwaters of the Mississippi
• Namekagon River
• Kalamazoo River
Top Stops and Events
• Lower St. Croix - Taylors Falls, MN
• Lake Pepin and Lake City, MN
• Lake Hamlin, MI
• St. Paul, MN and Raspberry Island
• Stillwater, MN
• Tall Ships Duluth Festival
Subjects of Interest
• The Joy of the Journey
• Overhanging Branches
• Best of All It's Fall
• Get Off the River!
• Michigan's Prized Grand River
• Crossing Lake Huron
• Straits of Mackinac
• Crossing Lake Michigan #1 - 2016
• Crossing Lake Michigan #2 - 7.24.20
• Crossing Lake Michigan #3 - 6.11.21
• Crossing Lake Michigan #4 - 6.27.21
• Crossing Lake Michigan #5 - 7.13.21
• Crossing Lake Superior - 2017
• Campus to Coast - A 150 Mile Race
• Paddling the Pere Marquette
• ABC NEWS: Avid Kayaker Brushes Death
• The Whole Story
• A Narrow Escape
• A Wonderful Journey
• More about Mike Stout
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