Local Surfrider chapter aims to preserve Macomb County’s lakes

By: Robin Ruehlen | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 22, 2013

 Members of the new Southeastern Michigan chapter of the  Surfrider Foundation pose at a membership drive in Orchard Lake this summer.

Members of the new Southeastern Michigan chapter of the Surfrider Foundation pose at a membership drive in Orchard Lake this summer.

Photo courtesy of Dan Chester

ORCHARD LAKE — With more than 300 lakes in Oakland County, clean water, unrestricted access and preservation of natural resources are issues close to the hearts of many residents.

Some, such as Orchard Lake resident Ingo Griessmann, wanted to go a step further to bring awareness to the plight of inland lakes — and so began the  Southeastern Michigan chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

“If you look at the core values and mission statement, much of it applies to us in terms of having coastal access, preservation and clean water,” Griessmann said of nonprofit organization, which originated in California in 1984.

“Everyone in the world deserves clean water, and Surfrider does quite a bit in terms of keeping plastics, trash and invasive species out of our waterways.”

Griessmann said that while his chapter was initially focused on lakes within Oakland County, it has already begun some initiatives regarding Lake St. Clair. As membership grows, he hopes to come up with a plan to extend these to the Detroit River and lower Lake Erie.

“Right now, we’re trying to bring a general awareness of the issues. Invasive weeds are quite a problem, and clean water is always a problem,” he said.

“I know that on Saturday mornings, I’m out on my lake, picking up bottles and cans from the previous night’s activities. These are things we need to be aware of — that our lakes need care. We need to be more conscious of what we bring out on our boats, how we use them and how we dispose of them.”

The Surfrider Foundation began in Malibu, brought about by three residents who learned their favorite wave was about to be destroyed. The three organized and worked with local municipalities to preserve the wave, and the grassroots movement of “protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches” is now 250,000 members strong, with chapters in 18 countries throughout the world.

Orchard Lake resident and board member Dan Chester grew up in Southern California and devoted much of his time to water sports at Zuma Beach in Malibu.

“Snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, surfing and hanging on the beach with my friends has been a way of life for me now for 40 years. When I was asked to be on the board of the local chapter, it resonated with my soul,” he said.

“Surfrider is a brand I have a lot of respect for. Clean water, beach access and inclusion attitude is something I feel very strongly about. We also have water issues both locally here in Oakland County, as well as on Lake St. Clair.”

Chester said invasive weeds such as Euroasian and Northern Milfoil, and invasive species like the zebra mussel are now present in Orchard Lake, as well as other inland lakes throughout the county.

“We would like to come up with a grass-roots template for eradication without having to use chemicals,” he said.

“As a nonprofit, versus most lake associations, we offer the tax advantage for monetary gifts and a great feeling of achievement and true community to those who participate in our events.”

Griessmann said the Surfrider movement is gaining momentum in the Great Lakes area, especially along the Lake Michigan shoreline. A Southeastern Michigan chapter website and Facebook page are coming soon, he added.

“I believe this is an extremely important region we possess here, with 23 percent of the world’s fresh water,” he said.

For more information, or to register with the Surfrider Foundation, visit www.surfrider.org.