Short Stories

A Better Outcome for Eagles

In May of 2018, a team of graduate students from the University of Maryland visited Mecosta County as part of the statewide Bald Eagle census. They targeted an active eagle nest at the top of a Hemlock tree overlooking the Muskegon River. Unfortunately, the day did not have a happy conclusion. When the team climber reached the nest, she found one eaglet carcass that had apparently died during the night. To make things worse, the team expected that this would be their last year of funding and their last visit to this site.

So, it was a pleasant surprise when a team arrived this year ready to explore the nest. Team member Austin Katzer explained that federal funding did indeed expire last year but Professor William Bowerman from the University of Maryland who has led the program from the beginning was able to gain a two year extension to continue the project.

According to Austin, you never know what to expect after you have climbed to the top of a very tall tree and take your first look inside a bald eagle’s nest. Even so he was a bit surprised to find three healthy eaglets and the remains of a small fawn. “Finding more than one eaglet is unusual and finding three in the same nest is rare in my experience. It’s a good indication of the thriving population in Michigan and proof that the Muskegon River watershed provides a healthy environment for Bald Eagles”

As of this date the landowner who keeps a watchful eye on the nest reports that all three eaglets have fledged and are on their own, returning occasionally to his property.



MRWA volunteers gathered on May 12that Ed Henning Park in Newaygo to complete the next phase of the MiCorps stream-monitoring program. Under the leadership of MRWA’s Pat Jarrett, this program runs like a well-oiled machine. It wasn’t always so. Marty Holtgren sums it up very well in a recent letter to the board.

Dear Board Members,

Too often we let our successes slip by without enjoying them, so I wanted to share with you a proud moment for me.  This morning I reviewed the final MiCorps quarterly report that Pat will be filing later today.  We are planning to have a top-notch final report that I will share with you when it is completed. 

The success I wanted to share is how we finished the last MiCorps monitoring events with a strong and excited volunteer base, additional sites monitored, and having Paul Steen, our grant project officer, excited about the progress.  I stood at the last event thinking how this program IS MRWA; board members and their families, volunteers, and staff rallying to do something good for the watershed. 

With that said, I wanted to thank Pat.  When she was handed the program over a year ago it was not in good shape.  There was a lack of funding, and we had lost volunteers, monitoring sites, and excitement about the program.  Then Pat did what she does…through hours of hard work, training, and educating herself she made the MiCorps program shine; volunteer numbers increased, monitoring sites were added, excitement returned, and we met our grant obligations.  Pat, thank you so much for the hours of hard work that this took.  I know it has been difficult but your persistence paid off.  I know the board would agree that we are fortunate to have you helping guide the “new” MRWA.   

Also, I wanted to thank all of you for your support; many of you have spent years sustaining this program.  A special shout out to Cindy, Nancy, Jean, and Don for your help at the monitoring events.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

Have a great weekend,


The next MiCorps volunteer stream monitoring event will be held on September 21, 2019, 11:00 a.m. at Ed Henning Park in Newaygo.  If you would like to volunteer (no experience necessary) please email Pat Jarrett at


Snorkel Event

The latest production of the Newaygo County Conservation Collaborative rolled out on July 22 at Diamond Lake County Park. It was a great experience for a group of kids who spent the day learning about fresh water and the life it supports.

In an event sponsored by the Fremont Area Community Foundation and Newaygo County Parks, young people from the At Risk program at Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect joined MRWA’s office manager Pat Jarrett, board member Nancy Burmeister and Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator, Mary Hansen at the park for an immersive experience.  The day was made  possible by great partners which included Erick Elgin from Michigan State University Extension, Nick Smith from Newaygo County Parks and Recreation, and Doug Harmon a certified Scuba Diver and board member of the County Road Commissioners.

After Doug and Nick fitted the kids with snorkels and masks, they all waded in to explore the cool backwaters of the lake to learn about water safety, aquatic ecology and ecosystems. For most of the kids, it was the first time they had looked below the surface of the water and observed fish and aquatic plants in their natural environments.

With the help of Nancy and Mary Hansen the kids also learned to collect and identify the aquatic plants and insect life found in the shoreline habitat and to understand how you can judge water quality by the types and quantity of insects found.  Pat Jarrett completed their education with a fishing lesson using rods and reels donated by Chris Riley and the US Forest Service.


Water Fair

Nancy Burmeister, MRWA Education Committee Chair

Every spring I look forward to the opportunity to work with the children who live within the boundaries of the Muskegon River Watershed.  On May 29, MRWA representatives and volunteers came together at Twin Lake County Park for an annual event, which is becoming one of our most valuable traditions.

Our guests for the day were third grade students from Twin Lake Elementary school in the Reeths-Puffer School District. As always, they were eager to learn why it’s important to be kind to the environment and how they can do their part. The agenda was packed with opportunities for the kids to get their feet wet and their hands dirty as volunteer facilitators helped them understand that fresh water is a precious resource that must be protected.

Over the course of the day, they learned about aquatic insects and their role in the ecosystem and about the threat of invasive species and how to prevent their spread. They learned that a simple act like planting a tree could have a positive impact on the environment and that careless handling of motor oil and other pollutants can be disastrous.

In what was surely the highlight of the day, Dr. Lorrie Murray and Dr. Jim Gillingham brought a variety

of turtles that live in the Muskegon River Watershed, including a very large snapper who came with a stern warning to keep hands away. The kids were delighted to learn about them and understand that they can only thrive in an environment where fresh water is clean and abundant.

Our sincerest thanks to all the people who made the day possible:

  • From the MRWA board of directors: Wayne Groesbeck, Jean Lalonde, Nancy Burmeister
  • MRWA Staff: Patricia Jarrett
  • Muskegon Conservation District: Emily Grasch
  • MRWA Education Committee: Lorrie Murray and Dr. Jim Gilligan
  • Volunteer Facilitator: Bill Burmeister

Kevin Richards and Barb Miller, third grade teachers at Twin Lake work so well with us and at the end of the day they teach another important lesson. They ask the children to thank us for coming to work with them They are told that they have four choices. They can shake hands, give high fives, offer fist bumps, or share hugs. When we leave the park, we feel truly thanked! They also write thank you notes, but I will quote Wayne as I think we all agree with him when he says, “I don’t need a note, I really prefer the hugs!”