Taking the local history into present day
GVSU professor works to restore, maintain Michigan historic sites
About 150 gallons of stain, 20 hammers, 200 dust masks and 600 water bottles are just a few things
on Patty Janes’ shopping list. After months of preparation, she is almost ready for the big event.
In April, Janes, a hospitality and tourism management professor at Grand Valley State University, won
the Pure Michigan Jumpstart competition, receiving $5,000 for her idea, Michigan Cares for Tourism.
The volunteer partnership will work to restore and maintain historic sites in Michigan.
“It’s 100 percent volunteer and 100 percent give back,” Janes said. “I’ve never found another tourism
group that so profoundly impacts your feeling of team spirit and service.”
On Oct. 6 and 7, Janes, along with 75 tourism professionals and 10 GVSU students, will be
volunteering at Waterloo Recreation Area’s Historic Mill Lake Outdoor Center in Chelsea, Mich.
“I’m excited about people coming from lots of different pockets in the tourism industry and from all
around Michigan,” Janes said. “Our industry is so vast, and so this is an unbelievable opportunity to
The group is partnered with Travel Michigan, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Parks
and Recreation Division, Tourism Cares and GVSU.
“We are bringing students, faculty and tourism professionals together in service and helping to make
the site economically viable to use,” said Paul Stansbie, associate professor at GVSU and department
chair of hospitality and tourism management.
The cabin community at Historic Mill Lake was built in 1936 as a WPA (Works Progress Administration)
project. Later, it was a spot for urban youth to stay the night and participate in outdoor recreation
activities such as canoeing and archery. The camp was forced to close in 2000 due to disrepair.
Today, 18 of the 21 original buildings still stand. Volunteers with Michigan Cares for Tourism will
remove all furnishings and damaged walls, ceilings and windows. They will also stain exterior boards
and clear debris in the surrounding landscape. The DNR then plans to fully restore the cabins and
infrastructure so that individuals and groups can rent them in the future.
The DNR has listed 240 historic sites in Michigan that are in need of attention. However, restoration
would cost around $350 million, and there is no money available for these projects.
“We have statewide historic treasures in disrepair,” Janes said. “Michigan Cares for Tourism is a way to
make a meaningful impact. These sites may not get fixed if we don’t address it.”
Besides doing volunteer clean-up projects, Michigan Cares for Tourism is also working to raise funds
to provide grants for tourism sites and scholarships for tourism professionals and students.
“We want to encourage learning about travel at an early age,” Janes said. “There are lots of little gems
in Michigan. The more we can reopen historic sites the more we can help facilitate groups of people to
have the opportunity to visit them.”