Park may be hatchery site
Written by Holland Sentinel   
Sunday, 10 February 2008 14:13

Group considering park at New Richmond as place to breed, protect sturgeon

The Kalamazoo River's sturgeon population could get a boost if a' dream to build a fish-rearing facility becomes real.

Residents have been talking with Allegan County about using New Richmond Bridge County Park as a site for the facility that would protect baby sturgeon. The group will meet at The New Richmond House, 3131 57th St. at 7 p.m. Feb. 18.

"I think it has real potential to be a tourist attraction as well as an educational experience," said Al Weener, a member of the Allegan County Tourism Council who has been involved in promoting the idea.

Sturgeon live in shallow lakes, rivers and along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The fish can live to be 100 years old, weigh 800 pounds and be 8 feet long, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Web site.

Although the sturgeon's population appears to be steady, and it is legal to fish for them, they are vulnerable to poaching in the spawning season, according to the DNR. A sturgeon takes 15 to 25 years to reach maturity and are vulnerable while young.

"There's just a very small reproductive population going back into the river," said Kevin Ricco, Allegan County Parks Commission director. Protecting young, vulnerable sturgeon in a stream-side facility would allow more of the fish to reach maturity, Ricco said.

New Richmond Bridge County Park is in Manlius Township at 3160 Old Allegan Road, and is one of the county's newest projects. The county park commission and the county road commission recently completed renovating a historic bridge in the park and have money allocated for boardwalks and a fishing pier that will be constructed this year, Ricco said.

Ricco said he hoped that there would be an educational facility at the fish-rearing facility, where visitors could see small sturgeon swimming in a tank and read about the fish. The educational aspect of a fish-rearing facility would fit in well with the historic bridge, Ricco said.
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