Muck at Grand Haven State Park turning beachgoers away


GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — With the current hot, sticky weather, perhaps nothing sounds better that a trip to the beach to cool off in Lake Michigan at Grand Haven State Park.

But the disgusting goo washing up on shore has a lot of people choosing to stay on dry ground.

Kickki Hurlburt and her 7-year-old granddaughter Aubrey came to Grand Haven for fun in the sun. Instead they found the shore lined for a quarter-mile with a smelly, brown-green mass of sticky, rotting vegetation. It has been washing up on the most popular part of the beech for more than two weeks.

“It’s kinda gross,” said Aubrey, who is in second grade.

The weeds are on the shore and far out into the water, making it unpleasant to swim and clouding up the normally clear water. Visitors are saying it looks bad, feels bad and smells bad.

“It stinks like dead fish. There’s bottles in it and people are walking over it, and there could be glass in it, so it’s kind of a hazard,” Nickki Hurlbut said.

Normally, it is hard to find a spot to put a towel down on a hot Friday afternoon. But on this day, beachgoers were few and far between.

“We’ve seen people come and not want to stay, because it’s so bad,” Hurlbut said. “It’s very much ruined our day.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been working to keep up for the better part of a month when this stuff started coming on shore en masse.

“We got everything off it yesterday and what came in, came all last night,” said Paul Vargo, a park ranger at Grand Haven.

The smelly matter isn’t showing up on the entire beach though.

“There must be something peculiar with our location, the proximity to the pier, the currents on Lake Michigan and it seems to be collecting in a small area on the beach,” Vargo said.

Vargo said what is washing up is a wetlands grass called pharagmite, more commonly known as common reed. It grows in wetlands, it’s not an aquatic plant.

DNR authorities believe flooding in wetlands has killed and dislodged the grass. That grass washes into rivers that feed into Lake Michigan, and this is the result.

Vargo has been working on the lake since 1974.

“This is the worst I’ve seen,” he said.

The dilemma for officials is that they aren’t sure if it will stop. Officials said that all that can be done is to keep cleaning it up and hope it stops soon.