Congressmen stop in Chase Twp. during snowmobile tour

CHASE — It's not unusual to see people racing up and down the off-road paths of Lake County on snowmobiles come the winter months; but it might be a bit unusual to see two congressmen doing it.

This past week Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, of the second district (which includes Lake County) and Congressman Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, of Michigan's first district took to the trails on their yearly snowmobile tour of northern and western Michigan. This included a stop at the Chase Creek Smokehouse in Chase Township.

The trip which lasted from Jan. 29 through Jan. 30, brought the congressmen and their party from Muskegon down to Chase Twp., and back up to Beulah. Huizenga has been a longtime snowmobile enthusiast. While holding office has largely kept him off the trails, this trip allows him get back out there at least once a year.

"We started a few years ago," explained Huizenga. "It's an important way to get out there and meet the voters of your district in an unusual setting. You can pull up to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere and talk to people who have never met a congressman, much less two."

The two congressmen coordinate with the Michigan Snowmobile Association each year to plan out new routes to get a comprehensive look at the many areas of their districts. This is the second time their path has taken them through Lake County.

In addition to meeting voters, it allows Huizenga and Benishek to take a closer look at tourism, particularly winter tourism, which plays such an important role in western Michigan. Huizenga said he recognized the importance of these issues to the people he represents.

"There's always more that could be done," said Huizenga. "The Pure Michigan campaign has done a lot at the state level to show people a different side of Michigan. Right now, a lot of our work is focusing on the economy. With a strong economy, people have the security to go out and put more money into tourism."

Huizenga said this is one of his favorite activities as a member of Congress, but he also explained how this trip is a great reminder of how important tourism and winter sport money can be in this part of the state.

"It's always neat getting out and having people riding with us," remarked Huizenga. "You get to meet new people and visit the bars and restaurants throughout the district. Plus, I get to talk to the small business owners who really rely on tourism dollars and hear what they have to say."

Huizenga said he and his office are not actively pursuing any bills or direct action, but are focusing on the country's fiscal matters as well as several of the ongoing debates within the House.

"We're doing a lot of work with the budget and we're having a lot of conversations about immigration and healthcare," said Huizenga. "People still have a lot of concerns over those issues and how they're affecting the country.

This was the fourth year Huizenga has made the trip, and the third in which he has coordinated with Benishek. Weather permitting, both plan on doing it again next year.

"I wouldn't miss this," remarked Huizenga. "It's one of my few chances where I really get to mix business with pleasure."