Huuki wants kids to be able to fish

State Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, this week took Department of Environmental Quality staff to visit Swedetown Recreation Area in Calumet .  It was part of his effort to turn an on-site pond into a fishing venue for children and families.

Huuki’s efforts were spurred by conversations between his office and local resident Gerald Lampaa. For years, Lampaa has acted as head of the Swedetown Pond Project, an effort to remove dirt from the pond and allow young anglers to fish in the pond. He previously applied for a permit to do so through the DEQ, but was denied due to the presence of an insect species that could potentially be disturbed.

“It’s not for my kids, who are grown, but for the young kids in town,” Lampaa said. “We have about 25 or 30 rods to loan out, and we want to provide them with a first-class fishing operation.”

Though it’s not clear yet how Lampaa and local officials will move forward with their efforts, he is glad that Huuki persuaded state officials to visit the site. He thanked Huuki and DEQ Director Dan Wyant for taking an interest.

“When you get them to the site, they see the situation,” Lampaa said. “That’s the problem with regulations coming from Lansing — a visit to these places can make all the difference.”

Lampaa said that ideally, the pond area would be turned into a location for family gatherings, with outdoor grills, benches and handicap access.

Paul Lehto, Calumet Township supervisor, said he hopes local and state officials would find a suitable grant to fund the project, perhaps through the Department of Natural Resources. He was grateful Huuki and the DEQ leadership for taking interest.

“It was nice of them to come,” Lehto said. “It was a great gesture, and I’m very thankful.”

Huuki said that the on-site visit renewed hopes in the project and may have provided the department a better understanding of the area’s needs.

“This is about appreciation of the natural environment,” Huuki said. “We are raising generations to respect our natural resources, and I believe that catch-and-release fishing is a great, fun way to introduce youngsters to the concept of stewardship.”

Huuki plans to work with the stakeholders to further their permitting and funding goals.

“I’m optimistic that there are grants that will apply,” Huuki said. “The important thing for now is that we’ve had this visitation and increased understanding among department officials.”