NEWAYGO COUNTY, Mich. (May 20, 2014)– After years of complaints, law enforcement in Newaygo County are putting a task force into place to keep people from trashing the Muskegon River.
Newaygo County Undersherrif Brian Boyd said the multi-agency effort is asking the community to help, too. He said they’re looking for volunteer “spotters” who will monitor the river by reporting what they see back to police.
“It’s got to the point where I think people are just ready for change on the river and we’ve realized that we don’t have the resources to do it ourself,” Boyd said. “I would expect that we’ll be making more arrests and writing more tickets this year.”
It’s a new attempt at fixing an old problem. Over the years, Boyd said the department’s received several complaints about river riders littering, trespassing and having disorderly conduct.
In addition to having volunteers monitor the river there will also be added patrol craft. Boyd said blue tape will also be given to homeowners who live along the river, to place around a tree to remind the people on the water that they’re being watched.
It’s an initiative that homeowners in the area have waited decades to see.
For 22 years, Bill Kail has lived along the river, near the Thornapple access point. He said when he and his wife first moved in things were peaceful. Then, as time passed on and people began partying on the river, that serenity slowly went away.
“They’re drunk, to make a long story short, and they’re obnoxious,” Kail said. “The problem we run into with those folks is a lot of very rough language.”
Kail said he has young grandchildren who can only enjoy being outside until about 4 p.m.
“We have to bring our grandchildren up, they’re eight and five years old and they don’t need to hear that kind of language.”
Kail said his boat was stolen and vandalized three times. At one point, he said he even had to pull his gun on a group of tubers, who came up to his house in the middle of the night.
“They heard me rack the round, ‘He’s got a gun, he’s got a gun,’ and I immediately unloaded the weapon ’cause they went tumbling down the hill.”
But, the group didn’t leave. Kail said they grabbed a gas can from his boat and started a fire on his lawn.
“It’s time that we got some law enforcement on what is essentially a lawless river,” Kail said.
Boyd said the problems won’t be a quick fix but that it’s a step in the right direction.
“It took years to get to this point and truly if we’re going to change the image and the expectations on the Muskegon River it’s got to be a sustained effort over several years,” Boyd said.
The task force will be holding a training session for volunteers in June.