New initiative will improve recreational opportunities along the Huron River
A plan for a Huron River renaissance that aims to turn the waterway’s 100-mile path into a premier destination for Michigan residents is moving forward this month.
The effort includes initiatives to incorporate two sites in Washtenaw County that border the river: the vacant MichCon property near Ann Arbor's Amtrak station and a portion of a parking lot at Ypsilanti's former Visteon Plant.
AnnArbor.com file photo
The RiverUp! initiative officially launches Aug. 16, the Huron River Watershed Council announced this week. Its goals are improving access for recreational activities, cleaning up pollution hotspots and focusing the river's host communities on its attributes.
“We have this river we can be proud of and that’s worth protecting, and that makes our communities stronger and better places to live,” said Elizabeth Riggs a watershed planner and project manager for the HRWC’s involvement in RiverUp!.
About $75,000 in seed money for the project stems from private donations from the Wolfpack - a National Wildlife Federation-affiliated group of conservation-minded local leaders - and a grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, Riggs said. The League of Conservation Voters is also contributing to the effort, Riggs said.
Fundraising goals and a total project cost hasn't yet been set, Riggs said.
Through 2011, the money will fund an awareness and fundraising campaign, a few specific projects and more planning for the future, Riggs said.
The HRWC kicked off a big piece of the effort in May, announcing plans for a 100-mile river trail to boost river tourism.
The trail will help guide paddlers to river access by improving portages and installing signage to clearly indicate the locations of launches, portages and trouble areas.
Improvements have already begun. Construction is expected to start this summer to improve a portage at Superior Dam near St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, Riggs said. The Superior Dam portage project is being paid for with private donations of about $27,000, Riggs said. Its funding is separate from RiverUp! start-up costs.
The water trail is just one piece of RiverUp!
The first year of the effort entails improvements to two locations along the Huron River within the next year: Ann Arbor’s vacant MichCon site, a brownfield that backs the river and is owned by DTE, and Angstrom USA, a precision tubing manufacturer that now owns the former Visteon plant in Ypsilanti.
The groups will help move along efforts to improve the polluted MichCon site.
Angstrom has agreed to help RiverUp! by providing a 100-foot easement along the Huron River. The move will allow RiverUp! to transform a portion of the parking lot that backs up to the Huron River into green space and a section of the Border-to-Border Trail.
The Border-to-Border Trail is a county initiative to create a shared-use path along 35 miles of the Huron River that stretches through Washtenaw County. Riggs said the work will be accomplished through public-private partnerships.
On Aug. 16, RiverUp! will begin with fan event that includes a 1:30 p.m. gathering hosted by Congressman John Dingell, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber at Island Park in Ann Arbor.