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Posted on Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

RiverUp! initiative to improve recreation, health of Huron River

By Juliana Keeping


Gallup Park River Camp students load back into their canoes after attending the River Up! event at Island Park on Tuesday. The children attended a special event at Island Park to launch RiverUp!, an initiative to improve health and recreational opportunities on a 100-mile-plus stretch of the Huron River.

Melanie Maxwell |

Ann Arbor residents Bruce and Sara Gibb are among those looking forward to the fruits of RiverUp! - a new long-term effort to improve recreational access and the health of the Huron River.

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.”

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 5:10 a.m.

...and as some move forward to improve the Huron and access to this resource, the Ypsilanti City Council moves backwards by denying support to obtain State of Michigan funds for the proposed pedestrian bridge under Michigan Ave.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 1:53 a.m.

cool stuff... =)

David Briegel

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

Hey bragg, don't be so negative. Remember when the river was a sewer? When we would refer to it as the urine river? Well guess what, it isn't that anymore and it is because of the public-private partnership that we have come this far and it is the efforts of these groups that will improve the Huron even more. And I heard no mention of dams. I went to see what the music was (Jay Stielstra trio) and to see what else was happenin' and I was pleasantly surprised. A whole lot of good people doing a lot of good work on behalf of all of us! I like the proposed improvements to the portage areas and making the Huron more accessible, user friendly and preserving it for the kids. I lalso ike the improvements at Ford Lake! Come join the efforts!


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

Broken record. Tear down dams where possible. (sorry rowers you are being selfish) soft landings for storm run-off restoration of river banks--planting trees finally-get the pot smoking drunks off the river.... too many darn beer cans on the river bottom.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

DO NOT conflate the pot smokers with the drunks!


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

I'd say keep the drunks off. Keep the pot smokers on.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 12:15 p.m.

Complete sentences would help the rest of us understand what your point(s) is (are). Aside from that, the article mentions nothing about tearing down dams, so why bring it up again? We've been down that devisive road long enough. Besides, almost everyone who showed enough interest to show up at public meetings and council sessions to provide input want the dams to remain. Also, your comment on rowers is WAY off base. They're no more selfish than any other constituent group who would like to enjoy the use of the river. And they help in clean up efforts of the river each year.