ST. JOSEPH — A bit of St. Joseph’s history has been uncovered by Lake Michigan’s record-breaking high water levels and accelerated erosion – a car graveyard at the bottom of the bluff near the end of Hilltop Road.
Stevensville native Nathan Voytovick said some people were talking about the pile of cars on a Facebook post recently, which caught his attention.
“It’s unsafe to walk down there because the erosion just made the cliff steep in parts,” he said. “So I decided to put my drone up and see what I can see.”
On May 26, he posted the video and some still shots from the video on his personal Facebook page and on Nate’s Dronography page.
“The high waves have uncovered a lot more of the cars,” he said. “I thought it was interesting.”
A Herald-Press article from Aug. 3, 1967, was written at a time when erosion concerns were also in the news. It’s also clear from the reporting at that time that environmental damage was not a big concern then – a contrast to the current era.
According to the article, “Motorless fugitives from auto graveyards are finding a new home – one that Carl Luyat hopes will stem the onslaught of Lake Michigan and preserve the severely-eroded back yard of his Lakeshore Drive house in south St. Joseph.”
Kuyat told the newspaper that he sent about two dozen junked autos “careening toward the water’s edge in hopes of building a barrier between the waves and his back door.”
He said that his brother, who lives near Shoreham used a similar technique to build a 4-foot high wall of broken concrete in an attempt to stop erosion.
Kuyat said that eventually, the cars would be covered by sand. He said St. Joseph officials told him that using the cars to slow erosion was fine as long as the water wasn’t polluted and they would be covered.
Voytovick said he was told that particular area off Lake Michigan started to erode after the two piers were built in the 1930s to protect the St. Joseph River channel.
“This caused major erosion issues and caused a neighborhood to fall into the lake,” he posted on his Facebook page. “Some 20 homes and nearly 100 feet of bluff were washed away. Erosion projects were started but were unsuccessful. In a last ditch effort to save more homes, people chucked over 150 wrecked vehicles and other debris over the edge in an attempt to stop the water, however the state forced them to stop!”