Visitors to Grand Marais - whether arriving by land or water - are greeted by a wonderful harbor that features wide stretches of pristine sand beaches, a marina and plenty of open water for recreation.
However, the harbor has been less than inviting for many years, ever since a breakwater that protected the harbor from the ravages of Lake Superior deteriorated to the point of being useless.
Compounding this dilemma was the fact that shifting currents filled the harbor with a tremendous sand load, making it difficult for boats large enough to safely ply Superior's water to navigate through the harbor and access the marina.
This all changed recently, though, through the unrelenting efforts of the small community of Grand Marais, which has a tourism-based economy that centers around the harbor and Lake Superior.
Residents have been pushing for a replacement breakwater to keep the waves and sand of Lake Superior out of the harbor for several decades, and that effort paid off last fall.
Through a cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other federal, state and local officials, the funding was secured to build a 1,400-foot breakwater across the mouth of the harbor.
The $7-million project - which included more than a 1,000 semi tractor-trailer truckloads of rocks and armor stones each weighing 7 tons to 9 tons - was funded by $1.8 million secured by federal lawmakers, a one-time $4 million appropriation in the state's 2012 budget, $1 million from the Michigan Waterways Commission and $200,000 raised by the community.
One of the champions of the breakwater effort was Jack Hubbard, Grand Marais resident and longtime Supervisor of Burt Township, which the village is situated in. He commended the community for never giving up on its mission to protect its harbor, as well as politicians who also worked hard to make the project a reality.
Not all the work is done, though, with a major dredging project needed to make the marina once again serviceable for the boating community.
Thankfully, the marina is one of 12 in the Upper Peninsula scheduled to be dredged this year with emergency dredging funds the state appropriated.
The Grand Marais Harbor success story is one the community can be proud of.
- Marquette Mining Journal