BRIDGMAN — December 7th will be a day that lives in anything but infamy when the history of Bridgman is ultimately written.
More than 200 people showed up at the city's public beach in front of the Weko Beach House on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, to pitch in on a massive effort that yielded a protective barrier of sandbags ringing the Lake Michigan side of the foundation's structure.
A recent fall storm washed debris up beyond the southwest edge of the Beach House, and Bridgman Parks and Recreation Director Milo Root said city officials are "trying to be proactive and get out ahead of the rising water levels."
Behind volunteers stacking up sandbags at the very base of the building were the remnants of a similar effort mounted in the 198s — the last time Lake Michigan levels were so high.
Volunteer Clint Essig said he worked at the beach in the 1980s, and remembers having to clean out sand that had washed up around the Beach House almost every day.
The throng of people that showed up on Dec. 7, filled sandbags, transported them to the "construction site" via a human chain and stacked them up ultimately well above knee level were thanked by Bridgman Mayor Vince Rose, who said "The City of Bridgman is overwhelmed! Thank you volunteers for all your help. We did not know there would be this big of a turnout."
"This is good for the community," said volunteer Caleb Kroeze. "The last thing Bridgman wants is their Beach House that's been here for decades to get washed out."
After Bridgman High School sophomore Zachery Teed heard the City of Bridgman needed help to protect the Beach House, he called on his football teammates to volunteer, and many did.
Teed and Justin Kunde (another sophomore on the football team) experienced their first jobs working at Weko Beach and Campground this past summer and look forward to doing so this coming summer too.
Many of those pitching in were from areas outside of Bridgman. Debbie McKinley of Lansing, Ill., said she and her friend Kim Yercine of Homewood, Ill., spend a lot of time in the Weko Beach campground during the summer.
Root said McDonald's donated coffee and breakfast burritos for volunteers. The city also received 1,000 sandbags from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although as the work went on Saturday morning it seemed that the number was even more than that.
He said city workers collected sand that had been blown into the parking lot into a large pile that was sued to fill the sandbags.
"It's just great that the community comes together when we need them," Rose said. "Everyone loves the beach and the Beach House."