Macomb County celebrates its ‘great’ lake

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published June 10, 2019

 Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel talks about the accomplishments of the county’s Blue Economy Initiative during the annual State of the Lake address at MacRay Harbor Marina in Harrison Township June 5.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel talks about the accomplishments of the county’s Blue Economy Initiative during the annual State of the Lake address at MacRay Harbor Marina in Harrison Township June 5.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller called the work being done to improve the health of Lake St. Clair for future generations “unbelievable.”

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller called the work being done to improve the health of Lake St. Clair for future generations “unbelievable.”

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Macomb County has close to 32 miles of coastline along Lake St. Clair.

“This is an economic advantage to us,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “And we need to take advantage of that.”

Hackel voiced his pride for the county’s biggest recreational and economic asset during the annual State of the Lake address at MacRay Harbor Marina in Harrison Township June 5. He was joined by community leaders to celebrate the accomplishments of Macomb County’s Blue Economy Initiative and announce the 2019 Celebrate the Lake, a public event slated for June 8, after press time.

The Blue Economy Initiative was created 10 years ago as an effort to enhance and protect Lake St. Clair and its tributaries through economic development, environmental stewardship, and quality of life enhancements to benefit residents and visitors.

Hackel said the health of the lake, which is better than ever, is vital in maintaining the area’s booming recreational life.

“You don’t do better with water recreation than you do here on Lake St. Clair,” he said, adding that the water quality “is better than it’s ever been before.”

Blue Economy activities are coordinated by Macomb County Planning and Economic Development in collaboration with numerous public and private partners.

Hackel and Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller addressed some of the many accomplishments made in the past year due to the initiative and its partners.

Miller told stories of her childhood in Harrison Township, when the lakefront view at MacRay Harbor was muck-filled and a place ducks couldn’t visit because of the abundance of snapping turtles. She said the lake was suffering due to frequent disposal of trash and other pollutants into its waters.

Today is a different story.

“The changes we have seen on this lake have been unbelievable,” she said. Miller added that ongoing projects to reduce or end combined sewer overflows in the county are strengthening.

“Lake St. Clair is the heart of the Great Lakes and is at the very heart of what makes Macomb County such a great place to live, work and raise a family,” she said. “The Macomb County Public Works Office is working on numerous projects, large and small, to improve and protect water quality in Lake St. Clair. The centerpiece is our major expansion and upgrade of the Chapaton Pump Station in St. Clair Shores, which will result in a major reduction in the number and volume of combined sewer overflows that enter our lake.”

In addition, the Sterling Relief Greenway Project, which is now underway, will ultimately see about 2.5 miles of the 5.5-mile greenway transformed with improvements to stormwater discharges and thousands of trees, shrubs and wildflowers planted.

Miller spoke of the accomplishments made through the Green Macomb Urban Forest Program, which was created three years ago to benefit the watershed by increasing the overall tree canopy, especially in areas south of the Clinton River. Through a partnership with the Blue Water Soil Conservation District, the 2019 Green Macomb Tree and Plant Sale resulted in more than 20,000 trees and shrubs being purchased by landowners from targeted areas.

Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is pledging to restore an additional 10 linear miles of shoreline between Saginaw Bay and Port Clinton, Ohio, and Macomb County is partnering with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Great Lakes Commission to make Lake St. Clair a key programming area with this multi-year project. Both Brandenburg Park in New Baltimore and Fords Cove are being considered for first-round funding as work is done to naturalize locations along the county’s 31.5 miles of shoreline for fish habitat and storm resiliency.

The Anchor Bay Woods along County Line Road in New Baltimore was identified as one of the last remaining large areas with a Flat Mesic Woodland in the state of Michigan. MCPED partnered with Six Rivers Land Conservancy to seek acquisition and conservation of this asset. With the assistance of the Carls Foundation, several large parcels were sold to the conservancy for conservation in perpetuity.

On the topic of quality of life, MCPED updated the Macomb County Parks and Natural Resources Master Plan with a goal to create more parks in accessible locations. It also highlights ecological conservation and restoration throughout the region. The Clinton River Watershed Council is updating the coastal paddle trail with new boat launch locations at Webber Paddle Park and Brandenburg Park in Chesterfield Township, and a new universally accessible paddle launch pad will be dedicated later this month in downtown Mount Clemens along the Clinton River.

Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association, said Michigan has the third-largest marine market in the country, third only to Florida and Texas.

“That’s very impressive for a four-season state,” she said, adding that there are currently 1 million registered boats in Michigan.

The Michigan Port Collaborative, an industry partner of the MBIA, recently released a report highlighting the $19.7 billion economic impact produced by Michigan’s ports and harbors, $15.4 billion of which was produced by water-based tourism and recreation. The study also found that port/harbor water-based tourism economic activity supports approximately 124,892 full-time equivalent jobs around the state.

Hackel said that as part of the overall goal to increase tourism related to the lake, Macomb County has successfully brought world-class fishing events to the area. For 2019, Bassmaster will host its Angler of the Year competition at Lake St. Clair Metropark Sept. 26-28, the same weekend of the Bass, Brews and BBQ Festival, hosted by the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Harrison Township park.

For more information on Lake St. Clair projects and events, visit macombgov.org.

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