Current Projects

Lake Marion, (Marion, Michigan)

Lake Marion (Marion, Michigan)

Irish millwright Christopher Clark and his Canadian wife, Marion Hixon Clark, settled here in 1875 after purchasing 240 acres of virgin forest from the Ryerson, Hills and Company lumbering firm. They opened a general store and in 1878 began operating the sawmill that gave the settlement its original name, "Clark's Mill".

The Ann Arbor Railroad built through Marion in 1887 to carry lumber products from the mills to outside markets also brought more people to the area. As the land was cleared of trees, it was purchased by farmers. Other businesses came to serve the steadily growing population and in 1889 the one-time lumber camp became the Village of Marion, named for Mrs. Clark.

Original DamLake Marion (aka the Mill Pond) formed in 1878 when Christopher Clark built a dam across the Middle Branch River to power a saw, planning and lathe mill. Clark was drawn to the area by old-growth stands of pine and hardwood. His business transformed the wilderness settlement into a prosperous community.

1930 DamFor more than thirty years Clark's mill produced siding, shingles, flooring, moldings and barrels. Fire destroyed the mill in 1909 as the lumbering era was drawing to a close.

In 1911, Marion Clark donated the land surrounding the dam to the village for use as a park. The property has long served as a recreation center and wildlife habitat. The dam was replaced in 1930.

Some of village's elder residents can remember a time when the Mill Pond was drained and local farmers would come in and remove the accumulated biomass from the bottom to spread as nutrient rich fertilizer on their fields. With the advent of chemical fertilizers and other methods, this method of keeping the lake cleaned out to maintain a useful depth went by the wayside.

Dam Swimming HoleUp until the late 1970's, people from the surrounding area and from other parts of the state would come to Marion to water ski, swim, fish and enjoy other recreational activities provided by the lake. This helped the village to thrive economically and supported a Main Street full of small businesses providing jobs for people in the area.

By the early 1980's, the depth of the lake became insufficient for motorized boats and much of the recreation it once provided.   

For many years Marion had a bustling downtown with many local businesses.  Main street was alive with activity.  With the development of big box stores in neighboring cities and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, Marion has struggled.  This struggle is evident in the pictures of Main Street below through time.


Marion DamIn the late 1990's, it was determined though a study of the dam, the lake and the Middle Branch River that the pond was creating thermal pollution that was affecting certain species of fish and their spawning. At that time, the Village of Marion in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers and others developed a plan to fix the lake. According to Marion Village officials, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources stated that they would acquire the funding needed and that the Army Corps of Engineers would do the majority of the work.

Shortly after this, the Iraq War began and Hurricane Katrina hit causing the Army Corps of Engineers to have more urgent priorities. Since that time, the Army Corps of Engineers has done a study proposed a project recommending the removal of the dam. This study did not include any analysis of the effects of this on the community, the local economy or the residents. The plan would leave a large swamp in the middle of the village, ultimately resulting in the death of this small town.  In addition, the expectation is that the residents of Marion will contribute over 1/2 million dollars for the privilege.  It is this non-sensical proposal that has created urgency to come up with an alternative solution before government agencies can destroy this village.

MarionMichiganWater.org has selected this project as it meets the criteria of needing a solution that will improve the lake, the river and the local economy.

MichiganWater.org had an initial meeting with Marion Village Council members and their State Representative (Joel Johnson) to discuss options on July 24th, 2015. At this meeting, MichiganWater.org shared a dam design that will address the issue of thermal pollution and showed proposed locations for the addition of recreational areas such as a handicap accessible public beach and boat launch with parking utilizing unused land owned by the village. Funding for this project may be available through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and MichiganWater.org will work with the Village of Marion to obtain additional funding through fundraising activities and grant research if necessary.

In addition to working with state legislators, the Marion Village Council has engaged in meetings with the Osceola Community Foundation, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to discuss the proposal developed by the Village of Marion.

 

Projects under consideration

(Coming Soon)