‘Trashed’ Tubers Trashing the River

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jul 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-25 08:42:50-04

WEST MICHIGAN – Several complaints poured into the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department last weekend, after thousands of drunk tubers hit the Muskegon River for “Boobs & Tubes” weekend.

It’s a three day event where people can camp, drink and ride the river.

“It’s a lot like Mardi Gras on the river,” Electa Wilson, who lives by the Muskegon River, said.

Newaygo County Sheriff Mike Mercer said the amount of people crowding the river, combined with the amount of alcohol being consumed, has caused a wide range of problems.

“Whether it be fighting, whether it be exposing their private parts, whether it be extremely vulgar language,” Mercer said.

Mercer said he and his staff noticed at least five fights along the river on Saturday. That was just in the matter of three hours. He also said the department has received a growing number of complaints throughout the summer from people who live in the area.

However, Wilson said the large party crowds are something she’s learned to live with.

“We live right on the river,” she said. “We have people who just get off in our yard and they’re, like, throwing up in our yard and [throwing] their beer cans in the yard.”

Chuck Fialek said he’s lived in the area for 30 years. Since the time he first began living there, he said the crowds that come through during those summer months have tripled in size.

“We usually don’t come down on the weekends because there’s so many people here,” Fialek said. “I take the grandkids down during the middle of the week. It’s usually a little safer.”

The portion of the Muskegon River that runs through Newaygo County isn’t the only one seeing problems. The Mecosta County Sheriff`s Department said they have received three medical calls to the river just this weekend. All of them, they said, were alcohol related.

On Saturday, 31-year-old Christopher O’Connor was reported missing by his family after they lost contact with him while tubing down the river in Newaygo County. On Monday, his body was pulled from an area in the water not too far from where he was last seen. Authorities are still trying to figure out what happened.

“Quite frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more frequently,” Mercer said.

Safety isn’t the only thing Mercer said he’s concerned about when it comes to the water. Tubers littering the area, he said, is a major problem. On Saturday, clean up crews took to the river. They found more than 4,400 beverage containers and 10 gallons of broken glass.

Mercer said the problem is out of control.

“That’s what’s left after everybody’s gone,” he said. “We’ve got the bottom of the river…it’s just trashed.”