Basin, beach restoration a success story

The area took another major step this week in putting the long-lasting damages left by the Dead River flood of 2003 behind it with the opening of the Tourist Park swimming beach.

Officials from the Marquette Board of Light and Power and the city held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the beach Tuesday, and the lifeguards quickly took their posts.

The beach is nestled on the shore of the Tourist Park Basin, which drained down the lower Dead River into Marquette’s Upper Harbor when the flood washed out the dam in May 2003.

In addition to the beach being recreated, the BLP completed construction of a new dam last year and recently finished renovations to the hydroelectric power facility fed by the basin.

Many Marquette residents – both young and old – have fond memories of taking a dip in the basin off the beach, especially early in the swimming season when Lake Superior is still too cold for swimming.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the recreated swimming area, though, will be realized by the campers who enjoy pitching their tent or parking their RV in the adjacent campground, which is the only one in the city.

The rebuilding of the dam and opening the beach didn’t come easy, though, as their were both supporters and opponents of the plans.

Many homeowners upstream from the old basin lobbied hard for its re-creation so they could have their waterway back as it was. In addition, the BLP wanted to restore its hydroelectric facility, which needs the basin to produce power.

Those against the project included many who had become accustoming to walking – often with their dogs – through the old basin, which was supporting a wide variety of new flora and fauna.

Fisheries advocates were involved, too, with some pushing for leaving the river free flowing so trout and salmon could ascend the river for spawning.

In working to reach a compromise, the BLP has created some walking trails and a parking lot off the side of the basin, and state fisheries managers are working to rebuild warm-water fish species for anglers to pursue.

We think those efforts were successful in creating a good compromise for everyone involved.