Midland County adopts new rules allowing, prohibiting activities on overgrown Sanford Lake bottom

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:17 PM EDT
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SANFORD, Mich. (WJRT) (7/20/2021)--Hidden hazards, prompting a shift in thinking in several formerly lakefront communities left bone dry in the wake of that 2020 dam breach.

Concerned about safety, Midland County voted Tuesday to adopt new rules regarding what visitors can and can’t do at the bottom of Sanford Lake.

“We’re facing a situation that no one has faced on these lakes in 95 years,” Dave Rothman related.

A lake that isn’t a lake anymore. When the dams failed, the water left, turning Sanford Lake into a minefield of sprouting trees and vegetation.

“You run into one of those… the risk of equipment damage and personal injury is pretty high,” Rothman said.

Dave Rothman is the vice-president of the Four Lakes Task Force.

Those concerns prompted Midland County to adopt a set of new regulations Tuesday morning, including:


-Hiking or fishing


-Waterfowl hunting and trapping

-Kayaking and canoeing

-Mowing and weed whacking by property owners near shoreline


-Deer or upland game hunting


-Open fires

-Bike riding

-Horseback riding

-ORV or snowmobile riding

-Disturbing ground

-Stump removal

-Building or placing structures on lake bottom The new rules were originally proposed by the Four Lakes Task Force. They moved forward after more than a year of watching first-hand the impact of the now accessible lake-beds: “We had a few people who managed to get into the lake bottom and mud so deep, they had to be pulled out by rescuers,” Rothman related. “The bottom can be absolutely firm, solid and feel safe and in one or two steps, you can be in quicksand up to your waist.”

Anyone caught engaging in any activity on the restricted list may receive a visit from the DNR, which is empowered to issue tickets. Some violations may be considered trespassing.

As far as locals cleaning or clearing the area adjacent to their own properties, that’s in compliance with the new rules. The task force urges visitors not to venture out alone.

The Four Lakes Task Force told ABC12 it was currently engaged in talks with Gladwin County to adopt the same set of guidelines.

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