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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dave Alexander Guest Column - Celebrate the Water and the People of Muskegon

MUSKEGON – As we end another year of celebrating America on the Fourth of July, I keep being reminded this summer of our need to celebrate Muskegon Lake.
Simply being on the waters of Muskegon Lake on July Fourth brought to mind all those I have met who have made a difference on the lake that we all love.

As I have told it so often lately, I came to Muskegon 35 years ago right out of Central Michigan University with the idea of working for The Chronicle three years before heading on to Lansing and eventually Washington for a political reporting career.
Obviously, something kept my wife and me in Muskegon. The latest Community Foundation for Muskegon County Patricia B. Johnson Award winner Dr. Alan Steinman -- head of Grand Valley State University’s water research center in Muskegon -- summed up what kept me in Muskegon: the water and the people.

Photo Courtesy 
To begin with it was the water, especially Muskegon Lake which is so unique for sailors, anglers or those who just love to gaze upon its shimmering surface.  And then, no doubt, the people of Muskegon embrace you and you really never want to leave. Let me celebrate several of those people who have been so instrumental in the continual improvement of Muskegon Lake since the ending of the industrial use of the shoreline generations back.

The main reason that we are cleaning and improving Muskegon Lake to the point that it is on the verge of being removed from the federal list of environmental “Areas of Concern” is the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System.  I was not in Muskegon when the land-based wastewater treatment system was conceived and built in the early 1970s but removing industrial and domestic sewage from the lake changed the course of the community’s history. I am told no one showed more leadership than F. Charles “Curly” Raap, then on the county board of commissioners but who also was a state legislator and longtime head of the Muskegon County Road Commission. 

The combination of Muskegon Lake and sailing kept me in this town. No one created the sailing destination we have today like Gordon Torresen, longtime sailor and founder of Torresen Marine, which continues to support sailing not only in Muskegon but around the Lake Michigan basin.
I do not know the recreational fishing history of Muskegon as well so local anglers will have to identify who was at the forefront of creating our current recreational fishing destination.
The environmental cleanup of Muskegon Lake has been championed by environmental planner Kathy Evans of the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission and her leadership of the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership, a private citizen’s advocate for an improved Muskegon Lake.

What Evans and others have been able to bring to Muskegon in terms of state and federal resources to clean up the lake and restore its habitat, Steinman and the scientists at the GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute on the downtown Muskegon lakeshore have been able to provide the technical support to accomplish so much.

Finally, I would point to Muskegon Lake Effect Boating’s Roger Zuidema, a one-man marketing tornado of support for all things Muskegon Lake. As Muskegon Lake quality improves, Zuidema is there to tell West Michigan and the world about it.

As we take our fresh water for granted, I’ve found that about 90 percent of the 200 passengers on each Muskegon visit of the cruise ship Pearl Seas this summer have never been on the Great Lakes before. They marvel at the beauty and magnificence of waters such as Muskegon Lake. So should we.

Zuidema, Evans, Torresen, Raap and Steinman are just a few of the hundreds of people who have made our water – especially Muskegon Lake – the asset that makes living in Muskegon such a joy.

Dave Alexander is the head of Downtown Muskegon and retired writer from the Muskegon Chronicle.
We appreciate Dave taking a few minutes to share his thoughts on Positively Muskegon

1 comment:

  1. The Lake Effect is strong. Thanks Dave for your words of encouragement. The Michigan Maritime Celebration in MKG is gaining momentum, as we celebrate what we along the Shores of Muskegon have. What can you bring to the celebration? Join in - create on event - put more invite all our friends. See more at