Big Rapids native releases second book in his ‘Watershed’ series

THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATERSHED: Big Rapids native Bill Burch shows the two books he has published thus far that make up his "Watershed" series. (Pioneer photos/ Mary Mattingly)

THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATERSHED: Big Rapids native Bill Burch shows the two books he has published thus far that make up his “Watershed” series. (Pioneer photos/ Mary Mattingly)

BIG RAPIDS – The Rocky Mountains hosts plenty of natural beauty and outdoor activities, but also is the setting of several environmental issues. Bill Burch, a Big Rapids native and author of the Watershed series, sought to explore several sides of some of these conflicts in his books.

“There is a lot of the outdoors and a lot of human interaction in the books,” Burch said. “It’s set in small-town America in one of those towns where everybody knows everybody. You’ve got your crooks, your good guys and bad guys like anywhere else.”

Bill Burch, a retired owner of a Grand Rapids sporting goods store, grew up in Big Rapids. Since retiring, he has discovered a new passion: writing. The first book he wrote, titled “The Rocky Mountain Watershed: Its River, Its People” was self-published in 2010 and in 2014, he released the sequel, “Return to Rocky Mountain Watershed: Its River, Its People.”

“It’s been so exciting to see the process,” Burch’s wife, Sharon, said. “I wouldn’t have the knack for it at all. He’s spent a lot of time writing those books.”

Burch grew up in Big Rapids on the northeast corner of Linden Street and Winter Avenue. He graduated from Big Rapids High School in 1957 and remembers attending elementary school in the building which is currently the Big Rapids Community library. He recalls watching the old Ferris buildings burn with his father while in sixth grade, when the Old Main and old pharmacy buildings were destroyed in 1950. Burch now lives in Rockford with his wife, Sharon.

The town has changed a lot since he moved away, Burch said. When he lived in Big Rapids, 131 North had not been built yet and Perry Street was not home to the many businesses it is today.

“There were probably about 5,000 people when I lived here,” Burch said.

After graduating from high school, Burch served in the U.S. Army before attending Ferris State University. He graduated from Ferris in 1964 when the university went from being named Ferris Institute to Ferris State College.

Burch held several different jobs before opening West River Sports with his wife in Grand Rapids.

RETURN TO THE ROCKIES: Bill Burch and his wife, Sharon, look through his latest endeavor, "Return to Rocky Mountain Watershed: Its River, Its People." (Pioneer photos/ Mary Mattingly)

RETURN TO THE ROCKIES: Bill Burch and his wife, Sharon, look through his latest endeavor, “Return to Rocky Mountain Watershed: Its River, Its People.” (Pioneer photos/ Mary Mattingly)

An avid trout fisherman, Burch and his wife often take trips to Colorado to visit their daughter and grandchildren, who have lived there for 20 years. Over the years, Burch’s interests in the mountains and the outdoors began to surface in short stories he would write.

 “Being an author is something that is new to me,” Burch said. “These were just characters in my head. At first, I wrote little stories for my own interest. Someone suggested I write a book, so I strung a plot line through all the chapters.”

The series is set in a fictional Rocky Mountain community called Towne. The heroine of the series, Laura Menard, deals with conflicts such as a forest fire and a bear bile poaching operation, which is a controversial method of harvesting bile from a bear’s gallbladder.

Burch gets a lot of his ideas through issues he learns about from the news, such as the fires that happened during the summer in Colorado last year.

 After publishing the first book through the self-publishing company, iUniverse, Burch got to work on the second book, setting it ten years after the first book.

 “It’s not necessary to read the first book in order to understand the second book,” Burch said. “The first book is a lot more of a back story.”

The books are currently available through Outskirts Press, Amazon and can be ordered at bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. There also are Kindle editions available.

Burch has donated several copies to libraries on the west side of Michigan, including the Kent District Library and a library in Lake County. He has also donated a copy to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, where he and his wife volunteer.  He plans on donating a few copies to the Big Rapids Community Library when it opens later this June.

Burch has already started the third and final book in the series.

“The characters often say what I would say, but saying it though them makes it much more subtle,” Burch said. “There are enough good ideas in the books, and I hope people start thinking about them. I’m excited for my grandchildren to read them and think, ‘that was my grandpa.'”

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