The year is 1994 and Bill Clinton is President, gasoline is $1.09/gallon, and the cost of a new car is $12,350.00. OJ Simpson fled police in his white Bronco, and the popular films include The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, and the Lion King.
This is also the year when the Glen Lake Boat Wash program began. That’s right, the year of our 75th anniversary as an association we also celebrate 26 years providing an essential service to boats and other water craft vehicles.
In 1994, the board was approached by a member, Scott Gravelie, to look into the feasibility of operating a boat wash program after he read about some of the invasive threats in Lake Michigan and attended some state meetings on invasive species. Dick Budinger was President of the association at the time and put it before the board. The board determined it would be beneficial and approached the DNR asking for use of their launch site for the program, receiving permission.
A well and electricity were installed on the site for use during the first year of the program and a portable power washer was purchased and kept at a member’s house who lived a few doors down from the launch. Boat wash staff would get to work shortly before 6 am, walk to the member’s garage and wheel back the portable washer to start their day’s work. Our original interview form was very similar to the one we still use today. When the shift ended at 7 pm, the washer was taken back to the member’s garage.
In May of 2006, Mike Litch received a permit to build the current shed. He wrote and received a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ ) Aquatic Invasive Species grant from the Office of the Great Lakes for the purchase of the shed. GLA members built it along with some help from the DNR. Mike and Sarah Litch donated a computer once the shed was built and GLA went digital with our information gathering.
In 2011, the threat of the fish disease, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) was confirmed in Lake Michigan and the boat wash changed to a hot water system with the guidance of Denny Becker. Sarah Litch received a grant for a Hotsy machine and signs for the road end. The Hotsy was similar to one used by the National Park on South Manitou Island but it did not meet our needs; GLA switched to using propane to heat the water for washing the boats, which killed the VHS before it could enter our lake. Our electrical system was updated at the same time as this addition. Our highly successful boat wash truly would not have been possible with out the many contributions of both Mike and Sarah Litch.
In 2012 we installed a self-wash system along with instructions for use aimed to handle boats launching when no staff was present. That system is still currently in use.
Today our boat wash program runs from Memorial Day through the end of September, 6 am to 7 pm, seven days a week. We work the same hours on weekends in October. In 2019 we had 3,508 boats come through our program. An additional 716 kayak owners were interviewed for the M22 Challenge, with over 300 of those being washed for the event.