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Working the river: Department of Natural Resources and Environment specialists Scott Hanshue, left, and Jay Wesley explain to members of the Grand River Expedition 2010 how the crews shock fish, net them and collect data. At far right, a small piece of dorsal fin is snipped from a smallmouth bass to calculate its age.



s the Grand River Expedition surveyed the Grand River from above the water this week, a Department of Natural Resources and Environment crew took a look at what was going on below the surface.

The DNRE crew used two boats. One was equipped with booms and submersible electrodes that deliver a 200-volt, 6-amp current beneath the water to attract fish and temporarily stun them. A chase boat picked up the fish with soft nets; the fish then were put into holding tanks for data gathering before being released to the river a short time later. A two-mile stretch of the river near the Portland State Game Area was randomly selected for testing. Scott Hanshue, a fisheries management biologist from the DNRE’s Plainwell office, said it has been five years since similar comprehensive research has been done. Hanshue’s team counted the species, measured their length and, for the game fish, snipped a tiny piece of dorsal fin to test growth rates. “We will take our data and compare it to other sites on the Grand River and around the state,” he said. “We want to see if the results meet our expectations. Growth rates tell us how well the fish community is doing,” he said. “All the species we saw are very sensitive to pollution. This stretch of the river is clean and some of the nicest parts on the river.”

Fish (temporarily) out of water: DNRE staffer Mike Wilson, above, tosses a greater redhorse sucker into the holding tank as he, research biologist Todd Wills, and other DNRE staffers conducted research on the Grand River in the Portland State Game Area. At right, from left, Wills Wilson and Olin Gannon follow the edges of the Grand River using a boom boat with underwater electrodes putting out 200 volts and 6 amps to attract and stun fish for easy netting.

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Where two rivers and lots of neighbors meet BY TED ROELOFS THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

ADA — For a tiny, unincorporated village, Ada has some story to tell. Two rivers — the Grand and Thornapple — converge here. Native Americans and fur traders found obvious advantages in the rivers’ confluence. Its famed covered bridge over the Thornapple stands as a reminder of a span completed just after the Civil War. Across M-21 from the cozy downtown, a corporation saw benefits to the location as well. Founded by high school pals Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, Amway Corp. now reports annual worldwide sales exceeding $8 billion. Their philanthropy has left an indelible imprint on Grand Rapids, from its downtown hotels, public museum, arena and convention center to medical and research facilities like Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and the Van Andel Institute. It is fitting that the Van Andel Museum Center and DeVos Place convention center sit on opposite banks of the river that shaped the very community that nurtured their early years. And so it is also fitting that this village retains its hey-neighbor charm,

and daughter of a French-Canadian fur trader. By the 1860s, the community supported general stores, a flour mill, a sawmill, hotels, a blacksmith, a carriage maker, a boot and shoe store, two churches, a doctor, three justices of the peace and an attorney. No single feature says Ada like its covered wooden bridge over the Thornapple, originally completed in 1867 In 1979, the roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. The bridge was restored using funds raised by private donations. Not long after, the bridge was destroyed by fire. Local residents PRESS PHOTO/EMILY ZOLADZ would not give up. With their help On the waterfront: Betsy Ratzsch holds a bowl from her “Grand River and donations from Amway, a replica bridge was completed. Vista” pottery line. Her pottery store has been open just down the road Nestled inside one of Kent County’s from the river for 15 years. wealthiest townships, the community a quality that Godwin’s Ada Village happening.” has flourished in its own quiet way. Long before Amway and its direct- Each May, Arts in Ada brings thouHardware manager Bob Weiland appreciates just about every day. marketing vision took flight, a fur sands of visitors drawn by the works “The community is pretty active, trader named Rix Robinson in 1821 of dozens of local artists. Its farmers’ and we like to support each other in acquired a trading post on the Grand market and array of local produce are most things. We do see a lot of famil- near where it meets the Thornapple. a foodie destination each Tuesday iar faces that come in here. In 1832, Robinson made his home in from June through September. In sum“We always joke that Saturday Ada and thus became the first white mer, music lovers gather on the lawn morning almost feels like a little man to live in the village. of the Averill Historic Museum for a community day. They will come Robinson bought the post from free concert series. in here, standing in the aisles, and Magdelaine LaFramboise, grandResident Betsy Ratzsch, 65, finds chit-chatting about what has been daughter of an Ottawa Indian chief just about what she needs here.

FACT SHEET Ada Some fast facts:  Farmers once drove wagons loaded with stones to hold the covered bridge over the Thornapple River to its foundation during high water.  Chief Hazy Cloud Park, a 120-acre park on the Grand River near M-21, is a popular fishing spot. On the opposite side, Roselle Park is habitat for abundant bird life and bird watchers.  At 480 feet long, 58 feet wide, and crumbling from 53 years of traffic, the M-21 bridge over the Grand at Ada will be rebuilt in 2011. Motorists will cross on a two-lane temporary span until the project is finished. “I have lived in a village in England, and it’s very much like a village in England,” said Ratzsch, owner of a pottery store kitty-corner from the hardware store. The store is situated in one of the village’s historic homes, its creaking floors dating back to 1834. It has been a private residence, a hair salon, restaurant and narrowly escaped a house fire next door nearly a century ago. “I appreciate history. It has a lovely feel to it,” Ratzsch said. E-mail:

Grand Journey 16  

On the waterfront: Betsy Ratzsch holds a bowl from her “Grand River Vista” pottery line. Her pottery store has been open just down the road...

Grand Journey 16  

On the waterfront: Betsy Ratzsch holds a bowl from her “Grand River Vista” pottery line. Her pottery store has been open just down the road...