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Hess Lake: Where there’s a will, there’s a website

Hess Lake, just south of Newaygo in Brooks and Grant Townships in West Michigan, is nowhere close to being one of the biggest or most popular lakes in Michigan. But one seasonal resident is doing his part to give it as much care as our Great Lakes. That resident is Bob Ripstra.

Bob Ripstra sitting at a table with Hess Lake and Shoreland Stewards information.

Hess Lake seasonal resident Bob Ripstra spreads a table with informational printouts from his Hess Lake website and other environmentally friendly organizations. Photo courtesy of Bob Ripstra.


Ripstra is a retired automotive engineer who created a Hess Lake website to “provide updated information on what is happening to our lake,” he explained. His site focuses on all aspects of Hess Lake, including ecological information, history, and community engagement. 

Ripstra got the idea in 2018, with the goal of supplying lake residents with easy access to important information. With his website, he keeps residents informed on matters such as water quality data, lake studies, and meeting minutes from the Hess Lake Improvement Board. 

He also covers ongoing environmental challenges and what the community is doing to solve them. For example, Hess Lake struggles with issues such as overabundance of carp, excess amounts of nutrients from two tributaries, and too many seawalls and manicured lawns without buffer strips to filter nutrients, all of which impact the health of the lake. 

Another issue is loss of aquatic plant life, and on the Hess Lake website, concerned residents can learn about different types of freshwater plant life – including which are desirable and which are not – under the tab “Lake Foam/Algae/Weeds.” Other tabs include “Shoreline Guidelines,” “Lake News,” and “Commentary.”

Although Ripstra is from Troy, Michigan, he has been committed to learning about the ecology of Hess Lake for many years. During the 1920s and ’30s, his grandparents built two cottages on the lake, and now Ripstra is a third-generation owner. The 755-acre lake also features a public boat launch and about six miles of shoreline along with a brand-new restaurant set to open this year.

“I learned to swim, water ski, and fish on Hess Lake,” Ripstra said, adding that he has many wonderful memories of those times. Nowadays, Ripstra spends his time on the shore, researching for his site. He often wonders whether he’s posting too much content but hopes others will use the available information to help the lake, as he does.

Ripstra considers improving the lake a group effort: “We all need to work together to improve our lake with friendly conversations among our neighbors and local representatives.”

Researched and written by EGLE communications intern Mia Sikkema.