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“CATCH ME IF YOU CAN” DRAWS VOLUNTEERS, LAUGHS, AND INSIGHT




On a cool blustery day, at eight in the morning, people began gathering at Haithco Park in Saginaw County. Some brought their own fishing equipment, while others gratefully accepted free fishing poles, reels, basic tackle, and some crawlers. Several volunteers from our chapter helped set up new rods for the novice fisher people, most of whom were young children. We strung lines, tied hooks, and clipped bobbers. We offered casting instructions as well. Then, some of us circulated around the lake giving encouragement and unhooking fish. Special thanks to all the volunteers from our chapter including: Laurie Seibert, Jack Seibert, Duanne Essenmacher, Rob Tunney, Lisa Tunney, Scott Woodbury, and myself. Hope to see everyone attend this event again next year. 

Yet, how does a beautiful lakeside park like this come into existence?

Haithco Lake began as a man-made borrow- pit whose excavated soil was used in the construction of the nearby expressway. The hole was forty acres in size, forty feet deep, and dug well into the underlying claypan. After the excavation filled with rainwater,it was gifted to the Saginaw County Water Dept as a reserve water supply. For years the pond was surrounded by a high fence and posted for “no trespassing”. Interlopers commonly pulled up the fence and scurried underneath to go fishing. Perhaps due to the well intentioned efforts of ”bucket biologists”, the pond quickly acquired a reputation for large fish, including large-mouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, and crappie. Goldfish were also common there.

Once Saginaw County Parks and Recreation acquired the 76 acre property, they began development to allow multiple uses by all county residents. They constructed a swimming beach, a playground, picnic area, two fishing piers, a perimeter access path, and paved parking. Canoes were made available for rent. Trash fish were removed. Native panfish and pike were stocked for fishing. The water was crystal clear and brimming with life. Good accessible recreation was now available for everyone. County residents showed up in droves attracted by the pristine setting, that was on the water and close to home.

But it does not always work out that way. The locals in my area tell of the great pike fishing once found in an abandoned clay mine pit along Miller Rd. in Thomas Township, South of Gratiot Rd. The water was deep, natural food sources were abundant, and the fish grew large. But the county needed landfill space. Proper landfills require a large bowl shaped excavation, preferably lined with clay to retard leakage. The property was purchased by a waste mangement Corporation. They pumped the lake dry, built a landfill, and soon began accepting semi-loads of solid waste. When the landfill was full, they capped it with clay and installed methane vent pipes. What was once a beautiful lake is now a low grassy hill surrounded by a high fence festooned with  “no trespass” signs. Today it  is also a drop-off spot for household toxic waste, through the Mid Michigan Waste Authority. I recently dropped a load of  waste there myself.

While recently volunteering at Haithco Park, a curious young girl asked, “Who owns this place anyway?” I carefully replied, “You own it  along with everyone else who lives here.  Your choice is to enjoy it. Your job is to take care of it. Don’t let anyone ever take it away.” She broadly smiled and walked down to the lake shore.    

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