Grand Haven: a boater's paradise

Alex Doty • Jun 11, 2016 at 7:00 AM

As any resident of Michigan can attest, one is never more than 6 miles from a natural water source or more than 85 miles from a Great Lakes shoreline.

With all this water around us, it should come as no surprise that Michigan is a boater’s paradise. 

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, our state is home to an estimated 4 million boating enthusiasts, including approximately 1 million registered boats and 300,000 non-registered canoes and kayaks.

Officials at Grand Haven Municipal Marina say they see firsthand the popularity of boating in the area.

“Memorial Day is the first big weekend, especially when it’s nice,” Christie Suchecki said. “During the week, from July 4 to the Coast Guard Festival, we’re pretty full during the week.”

Grand Haven’s harbor provides easy access to the Grand River and Spring Lake from Lake Michigan. The marina itself has 57 slips that are available for reservation during the boating season.

“At this marina, it’s rare if we have a spot for the weekend after (the boating season) starts,” Municipal Marina Manager Mike Thoma said. “On holiday weekends, that place is busy — it’s hot.”

Marina workers say there are a variety of people who take advantage of the city’s marina, from West Michigan residents to boaters from out of the area.

“The aura of the town is a draw,” Thoma said. “There is always something going on.”

Suchecki said some of the boaters who use the Grand Haven marina for a stop are called “Loopers.” She explained that Loopers live on their boats and travel throughout the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi River and toward Florida, and then back up the Atlantic Coast to the Great Lakes again.

All of Michigan’s boaters — from the ones who dock in Grand Haven or otherwise — are able to traverse almost 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes, and 36,350 miles of rivers and streams.

"Michigan is one of the best freshwater destinations in the world," said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks & Recreation Division. “Michigan is home to unparalleled boating experiences and we want to highlight those opportunities.”

Access to 154 species of fish enhances the incredible range of freshwater boating experiences. In addition, recreational boating has an annual $7.4 billion impact and the boating industry provides nearly 59,000 jobs across the state.

Michigan Boating Week, June 4-11, is designated to highlight the Great Lakes as a boater’s paradise.

“Michigan Boating Week is an opportunity to highlight the importance of the boating industry to our state’s economy as well as its importance to the quality of life for nearly 4 million recreational boaters," said Nicki Polan, executive director for the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “Michigan's freshwater resources help build lakeside communities and boating industries such as tourism, commercial fishing, boat manufacturing and related industries.”

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