with gallery: Ypsilanti's historic Peninsular Paper Company dam area may receive $30K in upgrades
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The city of Ypsilanti is partnering with River Up! to potentially do nearly $30,000 worth of repairs and improvements to the Peninsular Park area near the former Peninsular Paper Company building.
Organizers are hoping to create a safer, well-marked portage for paddlers and to prevent additional bank erosion. The cost includes engineering drawings, contractor costs, permit work and site supervision.
The dock, which is available for taking out boats for the portage around the dam, is in disrepair, as well as the launch on the downstream side of the dam.
The area has been neglected for years and metal rods protrude from the cement dock and the stairs are crumbling. The site is not marked well for paddlers and has no signage about the river, the community or the heritage of the area.
Elizabeth Riggs, Huron River Watershed Council deputy director, said the project is part of a much larger "Huron River Renaissance," encompassing a 104-mile paddling trail from just east of Milford in Oakland County up to where the Huron River empties into Lake Erie.
"River Up! is envisioning a Huron River Renaissance and we're working in compilation with water communities to turn the face of communites toward the river, that have been built up with their backs aginst the river," Riggs said. "We have a river flowing through communities that we can and should celebrate."
The organization is looking at three ways to turn the face of the communities around, Riggs said. The first is by investing in river recreation, restoring and protecting the ecological health of the river, and cleaning up problems along the river.
"If they were turned around, the river could be an asset," Riggs said. "We know there are ways to make it much more enjoyable and safer and provide an economic boost to river towns."
The project at Peninsular Park is one of the areas where several improvements have been identified, Riggs said. River Up! began working with the city two years ago, along with the Watershed Council and the Wolfpack -- a group of 60 community and business leaders in the area.
"The landing was serving its purpose and was new and a jewel, but over time it's been used a lot and it’s a very important portage," Riggs said. "Our focus team walked that site with staff to talk about what needs to be done there and identified things that need to happen."
Riggs said the floating dock needs to be replaced because it has deteriorated over time and moved away from the shore. Another step, Riggs said, is to regrade the walking path and put down more wood chips and signage that would help navigate canoeists, kayakers or paddlers along the river.
"Those are the main things and the things we're focusing on first," Riggs said. "We're partnering with the city and working on raising on funds and that’s where we're at now."
Riggs said the city is looking for private and public donors to fund the project. The city and the organization has met with the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, the Eastern Leaders Group, and the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Department to further the project.
"We have some potential funders and we’re pusuing those and looking for federal funds as well," Riggs said. "These groups are all very excited about capitalizing upon having the Huron River flow through Ypsilanti and how to tie into that more."
Riggs said the repairs would create easier exit points onto and from the river, spurring more economic development.
"(Users) can store their boats so they can get a bite to eat, get any supplies they need and ultimately, we’re trying to make Washtenaw County a destination for recreation and show off these communites that we’re calling our trail towns," Riggs said.
The targeted completion date for the project is fall of this year. Once funding is secured, the necessary permits would have to be obtained from the county and state, Riggs said.
This project won't have a direct impact on the former Peninsular Paper Mill, but Riggs acknowledged the building is an "interesting structure" that would be a good spot for a potential riverfront restaurant.
Riggs said this project is important for not only Ypsilanti, but the entire county because it further utilizes the city's most prominent natural resource, while improving recreation along the river.
"We know that river- and water-based recreation are seeing really popular growth in the Great Lakes region," she said. "This is a growing part of the economy and is also an investment. It's really trying to enhance that experience for them (residents) and to also at the same time show it is a gem in Michigan that people from outside the area should try."