“I have memories of playing on that dam as a child,” says Gloria Steinem. The Dam Strong project has focused more attention on the dam. Though details of its history remain scant, detective work has uncovered some clues. Flip Reynolds reached out to Gloria Steinem to query what she knew about the dam. “During the time that my parents, Ruth and Leo Steinem, owned 40 ares or so of lakefront property there, I remember that the dam was said to be the only one in the state of Michigan that was on private property.” In her email to Flip, she adds “our family was also responsible for its repair as well as for dredging the creek on the other side of Ocean Beach Road.”
A mysterious name inscribed on the dam’s spillway has fascinated Clark Lakers for years. Who is “Palmer?” Gloria Steinem couldn’t help on that one, nor has any definitive information surfaced elsewhere that would identify “Palmer.”
In a previous story on this website, Dr. Philip Riley, who lives on North Shore, said his father told him dam construction took place about 1934 (the Riley’s came to Clark Lake in 1937). Presumably the 1934 construction was a rebuild. Indeed circumstantial evidence suggests rebuilds occurred. Several pieces of large concrete lay around the dam, perhaps discards of previous incarnations.
Nancy Ewing Ashton’s photo c.1943 below raises the question–did the dam pictured have the “Palmer” inscription on it? And this–examining the photo, John Deming noticed the dead trees in the water. These trees may have once been on dry land, but water later covered them, causing their demise. Did the level of the lake rise, and if so, what caused it?
The next photo shows the 2012 north shoulder rebuild of the dam, funded by the Clark Lake Spirit Foundation. Similar to what is now occurring on the south side, leaks had threatened the integrity of the dam. A sobering possibility was recognized–should the dam fail, the level of the lake could be reduced 2 1/2 feet or more. Click here for a video that shows current points of weakness.
Flip Reynold’s other research revealed no written records that would contradict the dam is on private property. The property’s current owner has given permission for the Dam Strong project to proceed so the south shoulder of the dam is also structurally sound. With funds now secure, it’s expected the construction project will commence in October. The Dam Strong Honor Roll recognizes those who have contributed. Click here to review it.