NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — Record high water levels on Lake Michigan are threatening communities along the lakeshore and moving inward to places like Mona Lake, a popular recreational lake with a channel that leads to the big lake.

Sea walls on both the north and south side of the channel are at risk and Norton Shores has lost sidewalks and beachfront to rising waters and erosion.

“The current erosion situation occurred with two storms in October and it’s gotten worse,” Norton Shores City Administrator Mark Meyers said.

On Tuesday, he traveled with News 8 to Lake Harbor Park, a 189-acre park with a beach, scenic walkways and wooded trails overlooking the channel. He pointed out a massive chunk of dune that was simply washed away by a pair of storms in October — a dune habitat that will never return.

The waters also knocked down and washed over walls along the channel.

“The wall was failing. It was going to completely fail, which would have meant maybe losing this dune and so we lost our sidewalk,” Meyers said.

Crews dug the retaining wall in deeper for stability. They are also putting rocks and boulders along the shore to stop the erosion and remove a massive influx of sand clogging the channel passage, making it almost impassable for boats.

“This sand will be removed and then the channel will be dredged,” Meyers said.

The city is teaming up with Mona Lake homeowners and Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference, which owns about 84 acres of lakefront for its retreat center.

“As the water levels came up in Lake Michigan, our beach went away,” Maranatha Executive Director Gary Feenstra said.

“It probably comes all along here now, the water level. It’s not up to the pool, the rocks are keeping it all back,” Feenstra continued, pointing to a photo from 16 years ago that shows a beachfront now all but gone. “Every storm we had, maybe 10 feet or more we would lose, so it was aggressively moving toward our cottages and we have a road down there.”

He said this summer will be different from years’ past.

“We had activities on the beach, we would have bonfires in the pit there — all that won’t happen down there,” Feenstra said.

The organization has had to shift funds and reach out to those who support the ministry, but Feenstra said Maranatha’s mission will not be detoured.

“It doesn’t change what we’re all about. That’s a small portion,” he said.


Rising Waters