Waterfront committee works to protect lake through the year

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 8, 2017

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — “To keep it clean for future generations, for your children’s children, is what we’re trying to do.”

That’s why Peter McGinnes is a member of the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee, which discussed a plethora of projects that it tackles throughout the year at its annual meeting Jan. 31, all with the express purpose of cleaning and protecting Lake St. Clair for beauty and recreation.

Committee Chairman Mark Balon said the group has been working to increase knowledge about the lake and keeping it healthy, and what the committee does through social media. 

“We’re trying to keep up with the (21st) century, and our followers continue to increase,” he said. “We really think this is a big thing we have to do more and more with in the future.”

The committee also works to increase awareness of how residents can protect the lake, by cleaning out storm drains to prevent muck from developing because of decomposing leaves and going out into the lake, and also to try and reduce water use during large rain events in order to prevent sewer overflows, which could end up in Lake St. Clair as well.

“We’re trying to be good stewards of our community,” he said. “We just want to make the community aware.”

Balon said the committee wouldn’t be able to do half the work it does in promoting awareness through storm drain stenciling, cleaning up the beaches through the annual Nautical Coast Cleanup and more without the help of young people, which is why the group gives away kayaks and scholarships, with the help of state Reps. Kevin Hertel and Steve Marino, to high school students each year. 

This year’s scholarship winners were Kate Kelly, of South Lake High School, and Katey Vanscoy, of Lakeview High School.

With revenues of $13,970 and expenses of $10,467, committee Treasurer Erin Stahl said that the biggest source of the committee’s revenue comes from grants. 

In addition, she said, the city’s contribution of about $3,000 annually and proceeds from the sale of rain barrels help to sustain the group’s efforts.

“A lot of what we do in the Waterfront Environmental Committee, we can only do what we do because of these people (contributors),” Stahl said. 

The Waterfront Environmental Committee hosts six freeway ramp cleanups each year that prevent trash from getting into storm drains that flow to the lake. Last year, the group collected 122 bags of trash. 

“There’s a drain right there (at the top of the ramp), and those drains drain directly to the lake,” Stahl said. “We prevent a lot of that trash from going into the drains.”

And what trash does make it to the beach is removed during the annual Nautical Coast Cleanup, scheduled this year for May 21. 

Committee member Dave Rubello said that they have removed 686 tons of debris after 21 years of cleaning.

This year, the committee also installed an educational kiosk to teach the public about the Lake St. Clair watershed, which extends through Michigan and Canada. Plans are underway to install another educational kiosk at Blossom Heath Park, on the fishing pier, in the spring.

“We probably have the most lakefront of anybody,” Balon said. “We want to make the lake better. We’ve all got to do our part. This is a great way to educate our kids.”