DNR names patrol boat for former deputy director Frank Opolka
Published: Friday, August 29, 2014 9:30 am
The Frank Opolka, a 27-foot SAFE boat, was named by the Department of Natural Resources in a ceremony Wednesday in Marquette. The boat, acquired by federal Port Security Grant Program funding, was named for Frank P. Opolka, a former DNR deputy director who was responsible for the agency’s operations in the Upper Peninsula. The Opolka is one of three boats the DNR recently purchased with federal Port Security funding.
The boat is docked at the Presque Isle Marina in Marquette and conducts patrols on Lake Superior from Marquette County west. These patrols include fishing and marine safety checks, boating while under the influence patrols, search and rescue operations, patrols of the Marquette and Keweenaw underwater shipwreck preserves, commercial fishing checks and assisting other agencies with assorted special details.
Opolka started working for the DNR in 1964 as a conservation officer, after serving with the U.S. Marines and earning a bachelor’s degree at Northern Michigan University. While serving as a conservation officer, he worked in Crystal Falls and Escanaba for seven years before transferring to Lansing, where he served as administrative assistant to the chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. While working full-time and raising a family with his wife, Barbara, Opolka earned a master’s degree in resource development from Michigan State University.
In 1978, Opolka was promoted to chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division, a capacity in which he served until 1985, when he returned to the U.P. as the DNR’s deputy director. He retired from the DNR in 1995. Opolka would later serve one more year in this position at the request of former DNR Director K.L. Cool. He also went on to serve for six years on the Michigan Waterways Commission, including one year as chair in 2004.
As deputy director, Opolka garnered a reputation as a respectful leader who would solicit input from DNR staff working at the field level managing natural resources. He made himself available to the public and regularly met with county leaders in all 15 U.P. counties to keep them abreast of DNR issues in their counties.
Among Opolka’s accomplishments were:
Developing the legislation that created and implemented the Report All Poaching (RAP) program;
Implementing the current ranking system for the DNR's Law Enforcement Division;
Leading negotiations with tribal representatives for off-reservation hunting and fishing treaty rights.
The boat was manufactured by SAFE Boats International in Washington. Founded in 1997, SAFE Boats designs and builds vessels that help keep military, law enforcement and fire professionals safe as they carry out their duties, protect citizens and work to save lives.
The boat is a 27-foot, center-console, full-cabin boat with an overall length of 29 feet and 4 inches. It has a 10-foot beam and a dry weight of just over 5 tons. It is powered by twin 300 horsepower Evinrude E-Tec outboard motors. The hull is pressure tested and airtight, making the deck self-draining.
The boat has state-of-the-art electronics including the latest in radar, sonar, a chart-plotter and forward-looking infrared. The cabin is both heated and air-conditioned so that the boat can remain in the lake from ice out to ice in. A davit and on-board power have been installed to facilitate the use of side scan sonar. Side scan sonar paints a high-resolution picture of the lake bottom and will be a helpful tool in locating drowning victims, lost gill nets, shipwrecks and other property.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.