Volunteers clean Houghton beach

HOUGHTON – The Ray Kestner Waterfront Park beach is cleaner than it’s been in years thanks to a recent batch of volunteers.

About a month ago, Dan Kemp, manager of the adjacent Houghton RV park, was looking at the beach. There was seagrass, and tiny versions of what looked to be pine trees. And they were everywhere.

“It looked terrible,” he said. “And this is a fabulous resource.”

He enlisted friends Kristina Coon, Judy and Mike Usitalo and Ogden Munroe to help out.

Even Munroe, a retired oral surgeon in his 80s, was “down there raking like a son of a gun,” Kemp said.

They dug out vegetation and raked the beach off and on for two weeks. The weeds were hauled out by the Department of Public Works, which was already on hand for work at the Chutes & Ladders park. Eric Daniels and Dave Mattila donated additional sand for the beach.

The volunteers were able to get most of the beach cleaned up manually. The exception was on the shoreline, where the roots can go down a foot. That took the front-end loader.

“That guy can pick blueberries with that big backhoe,” Kemp said of DPW employee Dale Belanger. “He’s very good with it.”

Before-and-after photos were circulated to the Houghton City Council at its meeting Wednesday night. Council members were impressed by the contrast.

“It’s amazing how clean they made that,” Mayor Pro Tem Robert Megowen said.

Kemp said the project is proof people can make a difference.

“Instead of just sitting around and saying ‘isn’t this terrible,’ guess what?,” he said. “Houghton is resurfacing their roads, they’re redoing their water main and stretching their budget for everything. It doesn’t take a lot to say, ‘Instead of sitting around, why don’t we grab a rake and rake this stuff off to have a nice beach for everyone to sit on?’ That’s what we did.”