MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — As high water levels cause problems along the lakeshore, one Muskegon park that has been troubled by flooding for years is largely dry, allowing restoration efforts to move forward this summer.
A temporary dam is keeping the Muskegon River from inundating Veteran’s Memorial Park, though there is still some flooding at the north end.
Once dubbed “Michigan’s Most Beautiful Mile,” the park had been in rough shape for some time.
“As a veteran, this is a special place and it should be beautiful,” said Paul DeLong, a U.S. Navy veteran who, along with his father, is named on plaques at the park. “When this was flooded, I was angry. … It should be kept up.”
At the core of the problems, according to Matthew Farrar of Muskegon County Public Works, were “poor water quality, invasive plants that blocked views and many dead and declining tees.”
Improvement efforts that began in the spring of 2017 were delayed by high water levels. Farrar told 24 Hour News 8 in an email that the dam will remain in place until the fall so restoration work can continue.
Funded by a $2.6 million grant from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, one goal of the project is to make the park less prone to flooding. That’s being done, largely, by opening a pond on the south side of the park into the river. Doing so will restore fish and wildlife habitats and improve water quality.
Farrar said that adding native trees and wetland plants back into the park should also help. At the same time, invasive plants have been removed, which should allow native plants to flourish and ease upkeep.
There is also talk of either raising some low-lying parts of the park or adding a fish-passage friendly structure to help with extreme flooding, but a final decision on that has not yet been made.
When all is said and done, the park should get off the federal government’s list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern — places where there has been “severe environmental degradation.”