Brothers look to raise money, awareness for health of Lake St. Clair

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 8, 2018

 Daniel Couvreur, left, and his brother, Anthony, stand on the Appalachian Trail after making camp for the night May 2.

Daniel Couvreur, left, and his brother, Anthony, stand on the Appalachian Trail after making camp for the night May 2.

Photo provided by Daniel Couvreur

 Pictured is a marker along the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. The Couvreur brothers are hiking the trail to raise money and awareness for the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee and Save Lake St. Clair.

Pictured is a marker along the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. The Couvreur brothers are hiking the trail to raise money and awareness for the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee and Save Lake St. Clair.

Photo provided by Daniel Couvreur

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Lake St. Clair and the Appalachian Mountains don’t touch anywhere on a map, but two brothers are making the connection with a landmark hike this summer.

Daniel and Anthony Couvreur set off May 1 from the southern terminus of the trail in Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, with the goal of raising awareness and funds to support the health of Lake St. Clair along the way. Traveling 16-25 miles a day, the two brothers from St. Clair Shores estimate that it will take them about four months to hike the approximately 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail.

Daniel Couvreur has a passion for the outdoors honed over years of hunting, hiking and staying in the outdoors growing up, as well as learning about outdoor education when he attended college in Colorado and at Northern Michigan University.

Recently, the 29-year-old, who served three years in the Air Force, has become involved with the Save Lake St. Clair group and decided that he wanted to help others become more engaged in water quality issues in St. Clair Shores and around Lake St. Clair. So when he decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, he wanted to tie the hike to a charity to help make a difference.

“It’s important for future generations to have a clean lake,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone’s getting safe drinking water. We have a $34 million boater’s economy out there. If all the shoreline’s being polluted with raw sewage, it raises concern for our economy.”

With combined sewer systems still in place in portions of St. Clair Shores and other surrounding communities, storm drains in the roads are connected to sanitary sewers in homes and businesses, which can lead to gallons of sewage entering the lake from combined and sanitary sewer overflows when there are heavy rainfalls. The overflows can carry chemicals from lawns and roads into the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair.

Daniel Couvreur and his brother, Anthony, 25, have been on weekend camping trips before and even spent a few months living in a cabin in the middle of a desert in Utah, and both are concerned with the health of local waterways. When Anthony found out Daniel was planning to hike the trail, he decided to go along as well.

While hiking the trail, Daniel Couvreur said they hope that their message continues to spread so that more people become aware of the challenges facing Lake St. Clair and what they can do about it, and that maybe some people will be moved to donate to the cause. Donations raised by the brothers on their Facebook fundraiser page, Walk for Water Quality (which can be found at https://bit.ly/2FDQzPL), will go to Save Lake St. Clair and also to the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee’s scholarship program. 

“What we’re hoping for is that the funds we raise for this can go toward future cleanups and events that our donors can attend so we can thank them personally,” Daniel Couvreur said. “The only way we’re going to be able to accomplish our goals is with community involvement.”

When deciding to hike the trail, Anthony Couvreur said that since they had always been interested in discovering what pollutes the lake and how to prevent it, they might as well promote the cause during the trip.

“Everyone wants to change the world, but no one realizes that the first part is to start in your own community,” he said. 

The trip has involved a lot of planning and preparation. The brothers are each carrying one-quarter of their body weight while hiking the trail. That includes dehydrated food and hammocks that double as tents for sleeping. They purchased a half-year supply of dehydrated food and vacuum-sealed it, then boxed it up so that their mother can send it to post office boxes along the way for them to retrieve as they need.

“To prepare for the trail, we went to REI and Cabela’s and got the stuff that we needed. Grabbed the Appalachian Trail guide and started planning our trip through the GPS, and here we are,” Daniel Couvreur said via cellphone while standing on Springer Mountain, where the trail begins in Georgia. 

“In the back of my mind, I’m thinking that eating the same dried food over and over again might be the scariest part of the adventure,” Anthony Couvreur said. “The rest doesn’t seem too daunting, but that part does.”

The pair will stay connected through cellphones, posting regular updates to social media so that donors, friends, family and anyone else that’s interested can keep up with their journey. They have solar panels to charge the phones and a GoPro camera, along with another piece of equipment that will generate electricity from their campfire, as well. 

Mike Gutow, founder of Save Lake St. Clair, said that he appreciates the brothers’ efforts and hopes that they inspire others to work toward a cleaner Lake St. Clair.

Money raised for the group will be put toward educational tools and also toward spreading awareness by boosting posts on Facebook.

“The more boosted posts we can do, the more people will learn about our cause,” Gutow said. 

The group aims to foster a working relationship between citizens and government entities to help stop sewage overflows from being released into the lake. Gutow said he’d also love to be able to purchase a machine to clean the lake, picking up debris, seaweed and trash. 

The brothers both graduated from Lakeview High School. Daniel Couvreur said that his long-term goal is to bring more outdoor education to the students of St. Clair Shores. 

“There’s so many great lessons I learned in outdoor education,” he said. 

Joe St. John, of the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee, said that he appreciates the donations being raised for the group. Having more money will make more scholarships available to students in St. Clair Shores who volunteer with the committee. 

“Any awareness to the environment is a help,” he said. “The environment is a created thing and we need to protect it, and if we can raise that awareness, anything would help.

“It gives them a reason to walk that Appalachian Trail.”

To donate to the cause or follow the brothers’ hike along the trail, visit https://bit.ly/2FDQzPL.