My body of water is Lake Michigan.
So I don’t really have a single story about Lake Michigan but I grew up around southern Lake Michigan. My home was in Hyde Park in Chicago so we were right on the lake. [I] got down to the lake a lot as a child and this was during the 1960s so it’s a while back. I remember a number of things where the lake is really vibrant, things that maybe you don’t see so much any more. For example when my grandfather came to town, we went out at night and right on the shore of Chicago they were dipping for smelt. So there were a lot of people, a whole community of fisherman with nets and hoists to pull the nets out and they were hauling out a very large quantity of smelt. It was kind of like a festival, there were lanterns and people telling stories and it was just a really good time.
I also remember some of the devastation that luckily we don’t see so much of anymore and that included the alewife die offs. Sometimes on the beach they would just be blanketed with dead fish and it would take truck loads and truck loads to haul them away, so that made a very big impression. Thankfully there’s been some balance restored to the fishery so we don’t see that.
As I got older, I’d be home from college, working in Chicago in the Summer. My get away was always over to the dunes on the eastern shore of the lake. We have the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore [and] I spent time there and the Warren Dunes [State Park] in Michigan, among others. I just remember what an incredible landscape it was, you have these huge towers of sand. As you hike back from the water, they were forested so you have tree life and wild flowers, it was just an incredible getaway. Sort of a power spot and [a] lot to discover. The lake was just so amazing, it’s vast, it really looked like the sea. We had huge storms but it was always so inviting. It was fresh waters so it was just incredible, it was really pleasant to swim in and you could open your eyes and you wouldn’t get stung, so that just really connected me to water.
I was very fortunate for my career to work of the International Joint Commission and to still be very much involved in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes and other bodies of water that the US and Canada share.
My name is Frank Bevacqua and I am on the communications staff of the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada.