My Great Lakes Story — past, present, and future

Growing up in Grand Rapids and living less than an hour from Lake Michigan, my youthful memories have always been filled with my family piling in the car and heading out to the beaches in Saugatuck or Grand Haven. I couldn’t wait. My mom would make amazing sub sandwiches (which seemed like 6 feet in length), and the days weren’t long enough. The sand was warm and the water was cool. But it was clean and refreshing. Those are the memories that I remember most vividly.

Fast forward 30 years… I now have two children, young men, both with their own priorities. They don’t eat sub sandwiches. They’re choosing their own path, which I fully embrace. But life throws curveballs, and my boys and I were both thrown a large one when they lost their mom very suddenly to a brain aneurysm seven years ago. We all lost someone very special, but have learned to adjust. There’s no expiration date on life. Live it fully. Breathe.

This past Saturday, I needed a lift and did what I did 30 years ago. I went to the beach and headed to the Saugatuck Dunes. But I wasn’t alone. I remarried, and my amazing wife and I walked the beach. Talked. Breathed fresh air. Felt cool water between our toes. Stared in awe at the amazing dunes. But we were also reminded of so much plastic on the beach. Awareness. What’s wrong with the picture below? Plastic trash, right? I want my children and their children to enjoy the beaches like I did. But it takes everyone to pick up the junk and toss it away. Use less plastic.  Awareness. Let’s all think about the future generations. (See next section below) 

Plastic Trash.jpg

Sunday was an equally amazing day, and I am fortunate to have a son who can fly a plane. He’s a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy and has tremendous skill. His birthday wish for me was to fly me to Mackinac Island and have lunch. So we rented a plane and took off. The air was bumpy but he was so calm. Wow… How do boys turn into men? In the blink of an eye. Days slow, years fast. During the flight we flew over Boyne Highlands, Bay Harbor, Grand Hotel and of course the Mackinac Bridge. This amazing feat of engineering connecting the Lower and Upper Peninsula of Michigan is better known as the Mighty Mac. But what sits below the Mighty Mac is an aging oil pipeline that’s outlived its useful life. A break in the line would be catastrophic. Natural resources would be destroyed and Mackinac Island would cease to exist. Profits and doing what’s right aren’t mutually exclusive.  That is a core belief of mine and eightyfive miles.

So I’ll end this blog with let’s be aware. If you see trash on the beach, pick it up. If you believe that an aging oil pipeline shouldn’t be under the Straits of Mackinac, do something. Voice your opinion with your elected officials. Some top advocates include our partners: Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Alliance for the Great Lakes and Great Lakes Business Network. We are all working toward the same goal – to make sure that future generations can enjoy Michigan’s amazing natural resources for years to come.

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Brian SchwartzComment