June 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Macomb County leaders, businesses to promote Lake St. Clair

Sean Conway of Royal Oak kite boarding on Lake St. Clair at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township in April. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Harrison Township— As summer takes hold, Macomb County leaders and businesses touted Tuesday the impact of Lake St. Clair and upcoming water events.

The boating and recreational opportunities on and along the lake are a major cog in the state’s blue economy, County Executive Mark Hackel said, calling for better branding of the lake and what it offers county and state residents.

And significantly higher lake levels for the first time in recent history is buoying optimism among those connected to the lake.

“Another foot of water makes things a lot better,” said Terry Dunn, vice commodore of Anchor Bay Yachting Association, which represents 25 boat clubs in the area. He was at MacRay Harbor Marina to hear the State of Lake St. Clair address along with association commodore Matt Barrells.

This year the water level is up one foot which means a great boating season, he said.

“Boating, it’s a lifestyle in Anchor Bay,” added Barrells. “Either you are in it or not.

Gerard Santoro, Macomb County’s program manager for land and water resources in the Department of Planning and Economic Development, detailed the importance of the lake.

“The recreational boating industry on Lake St. Clair is one of the most significant in North America,” Santoro said. “Nearly half of the recreational fishing that takes place on the entire Great Lakes systems, takes place on Lake St. Clair and its environs.”

Santoro talked about Macomb’s walkable downtowns connected by either waterways or trailways and paddling along the Clinton River. He lauded such attractions as the Nautical Mile on Jefferson Avenue between 9 and 10 Mile in St. Clair Shores.

Harrison Township, nicknamed BoatTown USA, has a successful business corridor on North and South River roads along Jefferson, but planners recognize it has one of the most under-utilized areas of coastal waterfront on Lake St. Clair, Santoro said.

The county is working with township officials to explore ways of redeveloping a part of its waterfront near Jefferson and Crocker Boulevard, such as building a hotel, a convention center and recreational pier.

According to the governor’s office, Michigan is home to nearly 1 million registered boats and an estimated 300,000 non-registered canoes and kayaks. There are an estimated 4 million boating enthusiasts in the state, ranking it third in the nation for boating registration.

Michigan also is the third largest boating market in the country, according to a proclamation from Gov. Rick Snyder. The industry has an annual $7.4 billion economic impact on the state and creates more than 58,000 jobs.

Steve Remias, president of MacRay Harbor and chairman of the of Lake St. Clair Tourism Initiative, touted the sixth annual “Celebrate the Lake” event Saturday, part of Michigan Boating Week.

“We have experienced incredibly good weather early on and we are looking forward to a second-to-none year out on and around the water,” said Remias, who is also immediate past chairman of the Michigan Boating Industries Association.

Hosted by MacRay’s, “Celebrate the Lake” will include free boat rides, boating educational displays and a nautical yard sale.

Other event sponsors include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Clinton River Watershed Council and the Anchor Bay Chamber of Commerce. More than 148 businesses from around the country will participate — 11 of which are Michigan-based.

Another upcoming event is what organizers call the biggest party on the lake, the annual AquaPalooza, July 26 and 27 in front of Belle Maer Marina.

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