After being mothballed in 1964, Mecosta County may once again have an active fish hatchery in the near future. County Park Superintendent Jeff Abel is working with the Department of Natural Resources to reactivate the hatchery in Paris and plans are moving forward.
“What we're going to do is do a test run in conjunction with the DNR fisheries division and we're going to test to see if some of the ponds will accommodate being able to raise walleye.”
He says the DNR is excited about utilizing the Paris facility because they don't have as many hatcheries as they would like, especially for walleye.
Opened in 1881, the Paris Fish Hatchery was the state's second fish-rearing agency. The area was selected because of its abundant sources of water and excellent railroad connections. The Paris hatchery was a major supplier of fish which was shipped in milk cans painted a distinctive red throughout the state in railroad baggage cars. The most famous of those was the "Wolverine," which was used from 1913 to 1938, when motorized vehicles began to dominate shipments. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) renovated and expanded the facility in the mid 1930s. It continued to operate until 1964, when it was closed by the Department of Natural Resources. The site was acquired by the Mecosta County Park Commission in 1973, refurbished as a park and reopened in July 1976.
Although the test run with the DNR is nowhere near the scale of production in the past, Abel says he's optimistic about the facility's future.
“In the past they used to do trout, rainbow trout or brown trout, at the hatcheries here. We're looking into the possibility of starting with doing some walleye and hopefully building from there.”
He says raising sturgeon and muskie is being considered, but he also would like to see the Paris hatchery once again become a “destination” with educational programs for visitors.