RiverUp! initiative to improve recreation, health of Huron River
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Bruce Gibb has kayaked over 100 miles along the Huron - from Lake Erie through Washtenaw County to the river’s headwaters in Oakland County, he said at a community event aimed at launching RiverUp! at Island Park in Ann Arbor Tuesday.
Gibbs patched together over 20 five-mile kayak trips in two years to complete his 100-plus mile Huron River journey.
Access to the river was the biggest problem he encountered along the way, he said.
“How can you get in and out of the river?” he said. “There are real obstacles along the way.”
Those include poorly maintained of portages - spots where paddlers can traverse obstacles like dams - and limited places to put in and take out his kayak.
RiverUp! has already started to address the concerns of paddlers like Gibb.
Work on a 100-mile Huron River Water Trail is under way, as is planning to improve the portage around Superior Dam portage, officials said Tuesday.
The Huron River Watershed Council, National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Office and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters are coordinating the effort. The Wolf Pack, a small group of community leaders affiliated with the NWF, are working behind the scenes to push forward projects.
Now, at Superior Dam near St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, the portage entrance is overgrown and hard to spot. A privately funded project that includes a dock, improved signage and a gravel pathway will improve it, said Elizabeth Riggs, the project planner for HRWC's involvement in RiverUp! Construction is set to begin this summer.
Shoreline improvements, a new pathway and a bridge under I-94 that would connect Ypsilanti’s non-motorized paths to Ford Lake and Ypsilanti Township are on the horizon for land in and around an Angstrom-owned parking lot along the Huron River in Ypsilanti at the site of the former Ford Visteon plant.
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 B2B Trail is a county initiative to create a shared-use path along 35 miles of the Huron River that stretches through Washtenaw County.
More clean-up and recreation-oriented projects like those at Superior Dam and Angstrom will be undertaken in the future, organizers of the project said at a launch event in Island Park attended by Congressman John Dingell, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, other local officials and community members.
What’s the end game?
Andy Buschbaum, the executive director of the NWF’s Great Lakes regional office, said the effort will help more than the Huron River. Tributaries to the Great Lakes are key to the “health of the entire Great Lakes ecosystem,” he said.
Dingell complimented organizers of RiverUp! for working together to protect water and the Great Lakes, “one of the greatest treasures in the world.”