Woman seeks action after finding dozens of golf balls in Lake Michigan

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — An woman who snorkels often says she keeps finding dozens of golf balls off the beach on Lake Michigan in Berrien County.

Jenny Mehlenbeck regularly goes swimming at Silver Beach, and says she’s collected about 20 pounds of golf balls so far this year.

“The water is clear, you could see far. And there were balls in every direction, collections of them when you push them all together. It’s just sickening,” Mehlenbeck said.

She says she has taken the issue up with several government officials but hasn’t seen anything happen.

“Lately, I can’t collect them all. I have a laundry bag I take with me. And I can’t get them all,” Mehlenbeck said.

When she brings the balls back to land, most people are surprised to see them.

Jeff Mikkelsen said he has been coming to this beach all his life and never imagine what it looks like at the bottom.

“People putting golf balls out there, that’s pretty sad. Have some respect for our world, our environment,” he said.

Until it’s taken care of, Mehlenbeck said she plans to continue collecting them.

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16 comments

  • C

    Instead of whining about the problem, she ought to take the good ones to the first tee of a local golf course and sell them. Give the rest to a driving range. No more problem and she comes out a couple of bucks richer.

    • Jenny Mehlenbeck

      Hey, I’m the one in that video. What action I’d like is first stop doing it. GO to a driving range. GO where they can be collected and maybe used more than once. Or… Use biodegradable balls.
      But I did try contacting the local sheriff, AND local cops, both after for the first time ever I actually saw the guy batting these directly into the lake from his back porch. I only asked if this is legal or not. If not, go talk to the guy. A sheriff on the water said it IS illegal it’s considered littering but because he’s on the water he only deals with boats. The cops had no clue if they could do anything and simply suggested I talk to the guy. And the county never answered me.
      So MY congressman is Fred Upton. And he keeps bragging about how he’s supporting lake health. So I wrote to him and asked “is this legal or not, and if it is legal that needs to change.” I got a letter, a form letter, with some hand written stuff in blue marker I can’t even read. Basically he doesn’t care and will not answer me now at all.
      SO we go to the media.
      Another station, wwmt just met me tonight. There are several more media outlets I’m trying. If enough people realize what is out of sight should NOT be out of mind, maybe this can be stopped.

      The problem here, is not that I’m some kind of nut complaining about golfers. These plastic, chemical filled things WILL break down. The shells degrade and bust into bits that wildlife can eat. Then the core, well wow. TOXIC. Nothing about this is good for any environment. They do not just lay there like rocks forever. If they did I wouldn’t care.

      Think about this. Ever find beach glass? Glass is pretty hard. And the action of sand and waves can grind it smooth. What do you suppose that does with a much softer plastic?
      And all for ONE selfish person to smack ONE ball ONE time and poof gone.
      But not gone. Forever to slowly decompose into a toxic soup for our grand children to deal with.

      BTW I have sold some early on but now? NO. I’d rather see them all head to a land fill than put them back in the hands of careless people to hit back into the lake. (Or rivers, or the ocean, this is a world wide problem.)

      • JJ

        Wow! I understand what you are saying about them breaking down and wildlife eating them but using the toxic contaminating the water card in one sentence and then saying you would rather see them put into the ground rather than sell them kind of makes you sound like a hypocrite. You are saying you would rather put them in a landfill, where they can break down over time, spilling those same toxins you are talking about into the ground and years down the road possibly causing ground or worse ground water contamination. Seems like if you care as much about the enviroment as you are trying to make people believe you do, you wouldn’t want to chance contaminating the ground the same way they contaminate the water. I commend you for trying to do your part to help the enviroment but if you want to help one area of the enviroment you cant add to another enviromental problem to do so.

        • Jenny

          Well I’m open to suggestions. Landfills DO take all manner of garbage and most I believe are lined so nothing leaches out. For right now they are sitting in assorted containers in my garage. So how would one dispose of these? If you have an idea post it. (BTW reusing them only works so long, eventually they crack and become unusable as golf balls. So sooner or later the same problem exists, what to do with the toxic orbs.)

          • JJ

            I am not trying to fight with or badger you by any means, and i appolizes if it seems like I am. I do not disagree with you that something should be done to stop them from being in the water and I admire you for standing up. I just think if there is a problem, shifting it so it might be a problem somewhere else isnt the way to go. Yes they do take all manner of garbage but look at the history of landfills. Yes the government regulates them but can they say 100% that over time they won’t contaminate the ground or ground water for that matter. I personally think there is no way they can. No Landfill is 100% guaranteed not to put toxic shit into the ground. Like GRANDMAWITHACAMERS said donate them to an artist to make something that makes a statement. Something that explains the problem with them being in the water. Heck find someone to do a piece for Artprize then it would get even more attention. Even if it doesn’t win it gets the word out. I know i am not the only person in this world that actually reads the meaning behind artprize pieces. Or even like previous people have said sell them to the golf courses. If you don’t want the money, donate it to a non profit group that works to protect the waterways. Then you are doing your part to clean up the waterways and you are helping the nonprofit keep their fight going. You might not get a lot of money for them but every little bit counts. Bottom line taking the chance of polluting the ground to save the water doesn’t solve the problem, it shifts it elsewhere.

        • Steve Barker

          How is she a hypocrite? Landfills are built to contain contaminants. They are monitored to make sure they aren’t leaking anything into the ground water. The landfill is exactly where they belong.

  • JohnQPrivate

    I second the post re: collecting them to sell them. I spent most of my childhood doing that and was a nice way to get some extra pocket change. If you don’t want to do it, find someone who will take them off your hands and sell them. If the money for yourself isn’t enough of a motivator – then donate the money to Great Lakes/Michigan conservation groups or something similar. That way you are immediately affecting the specific issue of ‘golf ball pollution *and* impacting the fight against pollution that isn’t related to golf balls. I have a feeling that “golf ball reefs” or “golf ball… anything” would not be found on a list of the top 1,000 environmental concerns for Lake Michigan; nor do I expect it has any impact on the local or out of state tourist activities. In fact, golf ball snorkeling could be a positive for the local area for anyone wanting to get exercise and collect balls to sell for a profit. Many people collect them from farm fields, swamps, tree lines, and I’ve even known a few who scuba dive or snorkel in disgusting ponds on golf courses to collect balls – you have the benefit of being someone who is finding them while you are doing something you want to do anyways. If it is profitable enough for countless people to collect them from nasty golf ball ponds, perimeter swamps, and fields full of cow dung – then seems like re-sale it is worth it for you to investigate. Best easiest option for you to multiply the good you’re doing if you don’t want to have to truly ‘do’ anything extra or reach out to different places – just donate them to salvation army or someone similar and let them do the selling. Oh and Steve, go away. It isn’t funny, original, or appropriate – go do something more valuable with your time, like snorkel for golf balls to sell – you can make ‘ball jokes’ to yourself the whole time you do it.

    • steve

      Hey, jerk You’re the one with a word problem. I simply wondered if she was going to bring a lawsuit. If so, against who? How can she file an action against anyone? Does she see a crime here? Nope. Does she see negligence? I don’t see how.. She can’t sue anybody for anything. I’d rather not see the problem myself, either, and as for a solution…. She’s informed the state with no luck. Why not ask them what kind of action they’ll take, but I’ll bet they’ll waste less of their time with you than I have.

  • Troy B

    My brand new set of clubs was stolen from our clubhouse before a tournament a couple years back. I had just bought two full boxes of brand new balls. The kid that stole my set of clubs through them off the pier into Lake Michigan. I got all my club back, but the dive team from the sheriff’s department said they weren’t picking up the golf balls hahaha. No worries, glad to have my club back. Just some perspective.

  • Jenny

    You folks DO realize this is a world wide problem don’t you?
    Lookie.
    https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/search-for-loch-ness-monster-nets-100000-golf-balls

    I had a thought (don’t laugh, it happens.)
    They DO make floating golf balls. Lets everyone write to your congressmen/women and ask that ALL golf balls be floating. Ban the sinking ones completely. Floating would be easier to clean up, certainly more visible so if they pile up on your personal beach people would complain about inconsiderate neighbors. Automated machines could fish them out of golf course pools. Like that.
    Sure they might not play quite the same but so what. Make ALL players use the same balls and no one would have an advantage just because of the ball.

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