by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
Harry H. Whiteley’s lifetime commitment to Michigan’s natural resources will be recognized next Thursday (May 9) with the dedication of a new building at the Ralph MacMullen Conference (RAM) Center in Roscommon.
Whiteley served more than 25 years on the Natural Resources Commission, including six terms as chairman, which is more than any other person in the 92-year history of the commission.
The former Presque Isle County Advance publisher was the youngest person to ever serve on the then Michigan Conservation Commission. He was 41 when Gov. John Swainson made the appointment.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) director Keith Creagh, in a November letter to Whiteley stated “for some time, several influential individuals have been advocating for a public, lasting recognition of your many years of service to the state of Michigan.”
In his honor, the new conservation education building with a new classroom addition will be known as the Harry H. Whiteley Conservation Education Building.
“(Whiteley) was involved in a lot of activities involving natural resources that affected hunting and fishing, and outdoor recreation in the state of Michigan,” said Ron Olson, DNR chief of parks and recreation.
“It is an honor of a lifetime, I can’t believe it,” said Whiteley Tuesday. “It’s overwhelming. I do not think anything nicer could happen to me.”
That says a lot, considering the plaques and various other honors that decorate nearly every inch of the walls of his basement office, including a framed proclamation from Rogers City mayor Beach Hall, who along with the City Council, honored Nov. 5, 2011 as Harry Whiteley Day in the Nautical City. He was further honored at the Rogers City Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet the same day, for his many civic and tourism-related contributions to the city.
Several contributions have come from his connections with the DNR, where he had a voice in saving the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center buildings and securing grants for the Rogers City Marina and nonmotorized trail through the city to 40-Mile Point Lighthouse.
He is a past president of the Michigan Press Association, the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association, and the East Michigan Tourist Association. Additionally, he served on the board of directors of both the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
The new building addition at the RAM Center opened last fall.
“It is a large room that can seat just under 300 people,” said Olson. “It enables us to have bigger conferences that we were unable to have in the past. It is a nice addition to the facility.”
The RAM Center is utilized by more than 10,000 people year-round from educational institutions, governmental agencies, community service and nonprofit organizations for training, team building, retreats and work sessions.
When Whiteley’s term expired in 1984, Michigan Out-Of-Doors magazine wrote, “Harry Whiteley could always be counted on to defend the interests of the state’s hunters and anglers on any issue to come before the commission.
“Mr. Whiteley’s many contributions to conservation during his quarter century as a commissioner will be long remembered by Michigan’s citizenry.”
Now, a more lasting tribute has become reality, with the dedication taking place May 9 from 2 to 2:30 p.m.