From State of the State to State of the Lakes:  Southeast Michigan is re-connecting with water for economic development and lifestyle. 

From State of the State to State of the Lakes:  Southeast Michigan is re-connecting with water for economic development and lifestyle. 
July 7, 2016 Martina Guzman

by Martina Guzman 

Every January, the president of the United States gives the much anticipated state of the union address, in Michigan, the governor gives the state of the state address, and in Detroit the mayor addresses the state of the city.  But as of late, a new address has been anointed in Michigan… The State of the Lakes Address.  

Yes, you read correctly. Last month, Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel celebrated the Lake Weekend Kick Off with a state of the lake address at MacRay Harbor in Macomb County. Macomb County had its first State of the Lakes Address six years ago in 2011. The event was created to bring about greater awareness of Lake St. Clair and its rivers and streams in order to protect and preserve natural assets and stimulate economic investment.

The now annual occasion highlights Macomb County as a region rich with natural assets— including 32 miles of coastline along Lake St. Clair. Years of effort from local officials has transitioned South East Michigan from a manufacturing mindset to a diversified economy. Macomb County still has a traditional manufacturing economy, but millions of dollars have been invested in the high tech industry and water technology.

Top on the list is recreational tourism such as swimming, boating, fishing and kayaking. 

“Macomb County is Detroit’s gateway to the Great Lakes,” said Gerard Santoro, Macomb’s Land and Water Resources Manager.  

Not since the 1980’s when South Haven in West Michigan morphed from manufacturing steamers in its shipyards, to a now booming tourist a destination, have we seen such a transition. South Haven and the surrounding Van Buren county now generate roughly $231-million a year in water tourism related activity.  

“It’s the Blue Economy at work says John Austin, co-author of Michigan Blue Economy Report. Water and water innovation creates jobs and drives economic activity.”

The term “Blue Economy” is used as a phrase to intentionally re-connect with water for economic development and enjoyment

Next on Macomb County’s redevelopment list is Schmid Marina. The  county has big plans for the property. The marina’s proximity to downtown, the waterfront and its large land area can be turned into a recreation area for the surrounding community and a destination spot for metro Detroiter’s. 

But as it stands, the marina lacks compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Modern electrical safety standards are needed as well as upgrading its aging infrastructure and sheet pile.  Macomb County was recently awarded a $2.85 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to help purchase the marina, which is currently privately owned. The grant requires a roughly $900,000 match from the city.

“There’s 1,200 linear feet of shoreline [Schmid Marina] there,” said New Baltimore Mayor John Dupray in the Macomb Daily. “Once it’s gone out of the public domain, it’s gone forever. Personally, I’d like to see that the residents of New Baltimore have access to their shoreline.”  

Photography by Cybelle Codish


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