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Clean Waterways – Macomb County ?

Leaders boast about Macomb County waterways

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

By Gordon Wilczynski
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Macomb County politicians and community leaders were the guests of the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce on Monday and had the opportunity to take a tour of Lake St. Clair and listen to Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel’s words of wisdom on promoting the fresh water lake as a destination point for tourists visiting Michigan.

Besides Macomb County’s first-ever executive, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Macomb Community College President Jim Jacobs were along for the tour that started at Brownie’s lounge and restaurant and Colony Marine in St. Clair Shores.

Members of Hackel’s executive staff attended the tour to promote the economic value of the fresh water lake. The tour that started on Nine Mile Road and Jefferson Avenue ended at the new $22 million Port Authority Facility at the foot of Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. It is expected to attract vessels from Florida cruise lines for cruises on the Great Lakes including Cleveland, Detroit, Mackinac Island, Chicago and possibly Toronto and Montreal.

The event was sponsored by Health Alliance Plan, Huntington National Bank, Macomb County and Omega Solutions.

“This is our urban center of the Great Lakes Water system,” Hackel said. “Like Detroit is to this region this (Lake St. Clair) is the urban center.

“It can’t be replicated anywhere else in Wayne or Oakland county.”

Hackel said Lake St. Clair is the busiest fresh water lake in the entire country during the summer months. He said it has eateries, marinas, Gull Island, Jobbie Nooner and other features that attract boaters from all over.

“Jobbie Nooner is exciting; it’s our Arts, Beats and Eats,” Hackel said. “It’s a Stars and Stripes Festival on the water. So much goes on here but so many people don’t realize it.”

Hackel told the audience that economic development along Macomb County’s waterways is very important. He said the Clinton River is another waterway that is tremendous for the county because it offers kayaking, canoeing and other methods of boating.

“The experiences people have on the Rifle or Au Sable rivers up north pale to the Clinton River,” Hackel said.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing agreed. He said the Lake St. Clair-Detroit River region has its waterways, the greatest resources in the area. He said the new Port Authority Building will attract a lot of people.

He said these people will visit Detroit and Macomb County.

“We will support you in any way we can,” Bing told Hackel.

John Jamian is the director of the Detroit Port Authority. He spearheaded the drive to get federal funding for the construction of the building which is located directly next to the old Ford Auditorium that currently is being demolished. Jamian was the former port authority director in 1990-2002 and then ran the U.S. Maritime Administration in Washington until 2007.

Jamian said he has been trying for some time to get cruise ships to come to the Great Lakes and now he has succeeded. He said if you build it (facility) they (vacationers) will come.

“We needed a major cruise line and we have it,” he said. “I believe a lot of people would like to tour the Great Lakes.”

Jamian said the port authority building is the first step in the success of attracting cruisers to Detroit and the surrounding area. He said it acts as a hub to process cruisers, just like in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He also said there is a lot of interest to establish ferry boats to back and forth across the Detroit River to Windsor. He said three major hospitals in the downtown have many employees who live in Windsor.

“We are looking for grants for a ferry service between Detroit and Windsor,” Jamian said. “The casinos could benefit on weekends.”

MCC’s Jacobs said Lake St. Clair could be an ideal tourist destination for people from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. He said everyone in the Lake St. Clair Region is going to work together to do what they can for economic development.

Macomb County state representatives Tony Forlini and Harold Haugh said Lansing is on Macomb’s side. They both said preserving the fresh water along Macomb County’s waterways is of utmost importance.

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