Tackling trash: Boy Scouts clean the Pere Marquette

BALDWIN — The summer heat was just right as dozens of Boy Scouts spent a day on the refreshing waters of the acclaimed Pere Marquette River to help keep its waters and riverbed pristine during the annual cleanup on Thursday, Aug. 5.

The Boy Scout river cleanup, which has been going on for nearly six decades, is a long-standing summer tradition where Boy Scouts of West Michigan have teamed up with the Lake County Riverside Property Owners Association (who sponsors the event) to help maintain the river's natural beauty, keeping it a haven for wildlife and a continued attraction for tourists and locals alike who enjoy the recreation it offers.

Last year, the event didn't take place due to COVID-19, and property owners were just asked to help with the cleanup. This year,a couple of troops didn't take part due to COVID precautions, but three troops were able to come and participate.

The generosity of local organizations and businesses alike helped make the event a success and an enjoyable experience. Baldwin Canoe Rental provided a place to meet and canoes, in addition to providing launching and car-spotting.

"This event is good for the community and good for everyone who comes to the river and who live along the river," said Troy Harrison, owner of Baldwin Canoe Rental.

The Boy Scouts were treated to a breakfast through the generosity of Whirlpool's Dunrovin Lodge, providing energy needed for the job ahead of them.

Kim Gary, president of the LCRPOA, thanked the troops for participating, and for all the community who pull together to make this event happen.

"We've done this event for about 57 to 58 years now," he said. "The association (LCRPOA) is here to protect the river and make it available for people to enjoy, and a clean river is what we strive for."

Before the eager youth set out on their adventure along the P.M., Steve Sawyer, of the U.S. Forest Service, gave instructions, and commended the Boy Scouts for their efforts,

"For half a century, you've been doing this. It is really exciting to have you here," Sawyer said. The Forest Service also provided bags to collect trash, and gathered them up when the Boy Scouts were through.

The scouts were divided into teams to tackle different sections along a 20-mile stretch of river.

Mason Schlafer, of Boy Scout Troop No. 1053 from Norton Shores, has returned for his fourth year of participating in the cleanup.

"We mostly find lots of cans and other small trash. We've found a tire, camping chairs, a tank of oil, and some gear we've been able to return to Baldwin Canoe that was lost," Schlafer said, recalling previous cleanup events.

Concluding a day's work, the scouts were treated to a hot dog lunch, furnished by Houseman's Foods as a thank you for another job well done.