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Elegant and innovative solution at a tricky portage

There’s more good news for kayakers and canoeists on the Huron! In late November, we installed a one-of-a-kind canoe and kayak slide on the steep portage route at Barton Dam in Ann Arbor. The unique design allows a paddler to guide a boat up or down depending on the direction of the trip and eliminates the need for trudging on the hill with a boat overhead. This project is just the latest to come out of the public/private placemaking initiative led by HRWC called RiverUp!.  RiverUp! Construction Manager, Andrea Kline, guest blogs on the most recent Huron River Water Trail project:

I confess, at first I was skeptical. I’ve slogged hundreds of pounds of gear across dozens of portages from Ontario to Maine but I have never seen, much less used, a canoe slide. But here I was at the Barton Dam, canoe slide plans in hand, ready to start a new adventure on the Huron River Water Trail.

The design of the slide was somewhat challenging since the rails would have to bend both horizontally and vertically to match the curves of the dam face and the trail next to the slide. All of the steel pieces had to be manufactured off-site. Hopefully, it would all fit together once the pieces arrived on-site.

Step 1: Install the bases. Since we were not allowed to dig deep foundations into the embankment and the bases had to line up exactly to accommodate the curves of the slide, our crew laid stone pads, about three feet square, at the locations that the surveyors had staked the week before. Once the stone pads were in place, the 13 concrete bases, each weighing over 300 pounds, were set carefully in place.

Our contractor getting it right on-site.

Our contractor getting it right on-site.

Step 2: Secure the steel slide rails to each of the bases. The moment of truth had arrived. Would the rails fit together like we had envisioned when putting the design on paper? The rails were fabricated in 14 pieces, each labeled to be installed in a particular location. Piece by piece, the railing was installed. The slide was taking shape, and I was getting excited about how it was looking. The dog walkers and joggers who looked at us skeptically at the beginning of the project now nodded in recognition when we explained what we were building and how it would work.

Jeffrey takes it out for a spin.

Jeffrey Post takes it out for a spin.

Step 3: Test the slide. We carried the canoe up the hill and placed it on the slide. It slid easily down the rails with a little prompting. Cameras and phones at the ready, we all took turns sliding the canoe down and back up the slide. High fives all around – it works!

The slide is now ready for paddlers to use in navigating around Barton Dam. Give it a try and let us know what you think! We are eager to share the design with other water trail organizations and are hopeful that this might be a prototype for other portages in our watershed and around the country.

Thank you to the Jeffrey and Joanna Post Family for their financial support and to our talented and dedicated project team: SmithGroupJJR for the design and Future Fence Company of Warren for the fabrication and installation.

The finished boat slide awaits Huron River paddlers.

The finished boat slide awaits Huron River paddlers.

Reviving Peninsular Park

Andrea Kline, RiverUp! Construction Manager, is the author of today’s post about Ypsilanti’s Peninsular Park and the recent investments in its amenities for paddlers and residents in the neighborhood.

Fall is shaping up to be a busy time on the Huron River Water Trail! After lots of

Great Lakes Docks & Decks installs the new floating dock

collaborating with our partners, planning, permitting and paperwork, we finally celebrated the opening of the new floating dock at Peninsular Park in Ypsilanti. The new dock replaces an older dock on the upstream side of the portage around the Peninsular Dam that had seen better days. Huron River Water Trail signage was installed, as well.

The ribbon cutting was attended by 40 people, including many representatives of the five Huron River Trail Towns who attended a meeting earlier in the day to share their efforts to promote the exciting experiences that await river users who visit Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Flat Rock. Several participants shared their memories of college rituals from their days at EMU that included jumping into the river from the original dock, usually under the cover of darkness!

The Peninsular Paper Mill and Dam were originally built in the 1860s, reportedly

The former powerhouse and sign as they look today.

to produce newsprint for the Chicago Tribune and the dam to power it. In 1986, the dam and 6.5 acres on the north side of the river were sold to Ypsilanti for $1. This area is now managed by the City of Ypsilanti as Peninsular Park.

If you have ever driven on North Huron River Drive near the campus of EMU, you may remember seeing the landmark Peninsular Paper Co. sign that still stands at the top of the old power house. Although it has been abandoned for some time, the powerhouse still retains some of the beautiful classical architectural features that made it a city landmark in its heyday.

Local residents and neighbors have formed The Friends of Peninsular Park to lead efforts to restore the park to its former glory. Updates and news are shared on the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PeninsularPark. We’re glad that the new floating dock can bring back old memories and will contribute to memories of more “good old days” in the future!

Thank you to our RiverUp! funders, especially the Austin Memorial Foundation, for investing in this section of the Huron River.

Gathering for the Great Lakes

A crowd will be gathering in Grand Rapids this week to share the latest efforts focused on restoring the Great Lakes, and HRWC will be there!

The 10th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference hosted by the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition begins on Tuesday, September 9th. The three-day conference brings together a diverse group of more than 400 people from throughout the region who learn about important Great Lakes restoration issues, network at the largest annual gathering of Great Lakes supporters and activists, and develop strategies to advance federal, regional and local restoration goals. 

The Huron River renaissance RiverUp! and the Grand River rapids restoration will be featured on Day 1 at the Transforming Your River into Main Street session. HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs will share the story of the revitalization and restoration efforts on the Huron through diverse partnerships, creative financing, and a compelling vision for what the river corridor can be to residents and visitors. #BlueEconomy

With dozens of great sessions covering topics such as toxic algal blooms, petroleum product shipping, microbeads, climate resiliency measures, and diversified energy, you’ll want to join the conference in Grand Rapids or follow the Live Stream provided by GreatLakesNow. Follow HRWC’s Twitter feed (#hrwc) for updates from the conference.

Huron River Trail Towns Celebrate Summer

Milford Farmers Market and Concert in the ParkTrail Towns Coordinator, Anita Twardesky, shares her own version of “What I Did Over My Summer Vacation” in today’s blog:

Michigan summers do a great job of bringing people out-of-doors. Schools starts soon and so I’m thinking back about all the fun that I had. I truly hope that you were busy having as much fun as I did. Our Trails Towns of Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Flat Rock were filled with wonderful events all summer long.

I had planned to golf more, ride my bike daily, and plant some new flower beds, but instead I . . .

* Paddled my kayak and pedaled my bike from Flat Rock to Oakwoods Nature Center on National Trails Day in June.

* Visited every fun display and enjoyed watching kids play in the sand area at Huron River Days in Ann Arbor’s Gallup Park. There were plenty of kayakers and handmade kayaks to see. What a busy day on the River!

* Bought kettle corn, set up a lawn chair, and enjoyed outside dining in Milford as part of their Farmers Market and Concert Series. I had such a good time, I went twice!  How exciting their Amphitheater at Central Park along the River is under construction!

* Enjoyed a great BBQ dinner and root beer float at Dexter Daze. I had a great time visiting with all kinds of people to share fun facts about the Huron River Water Trail and promoting our Super Moon Paddle.

* Walked across the “tridge” and marveled how pretty the Huron is in Ypsilanti during Heritage Days in Riverside Park. A hidden gem. I had great fun selling kayak raffle tickets and seeing the happy winner! It is a wonderful community event that brings together all of Ypsilanti with festivities.

hrwt_tablerunnerThe fun isn’t over yet! Flat Rock Riverfest is coming up from September 19 to 21 at HuRoc Park.

With fall on its way, you’ll find me with a cup of hot apple cider, relaxing, and watching the leaves fall. Our Trail Towns on the 104-mile will put on a spectacular display. I’m sure that we won’t be disappointed.

Michigan trails get a boost with new legislation

A few weeks ago I promised to share an update on the status of the bills package being considered in Lansing to expand the definition of ‘trails’ to include water trails and provide funding to support trails across the state.

Today, Governor Rick Snyder signed the bills, now Public Acts 210-215 of 2014 that redefines the designation process of special trails in the state and supports the development of a statewide network of multiple use trails and water trails.

The bills give the director of the Department of Natural Resources the authority to name trailways as “Pure Michigan Trails,” water trails as “Pure Michigan Water Trails” and towns as “Pure Michigan Trail Towns,” pending approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. They also allow statewide volunteer activities to include trail enhancement programs in support of trail upkeep and maintenance.

More from the State’s press release here.

Our RiverUp! work includes establishing the Huron River Water Trail and developing Trail Towns in each of 5 largest towns on the river. We’ll all pretty excited here about this new investment that can benefit these efforts. Anita Twardesky, our Trail Towns Coordinator, shares, “What an exciting time for trails in our State! Southeast Michigan is home to many water trails, Trail Town programs and bike paths. Our trail systems are poised to become a great addition to the statewide system.”

We applaud this legislation and look forward to working with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that Southeast Michigan is well-represented to help showcase our unlimited outdoor recreation activities.

Delhi Rapids on the Huron River Water Trail. Photo courtesy of T. Janiuk

Delhi Rapids on the Huron River Water Trail. Photo courtesy of T. Janiuk

Andrea Kline joins RiverUp!

Huron River Watershed Council A KlineThe Huron River Watershed Council is pleased to announce that Andrea Kline has joined the RiverUp! initiative as Construction Manager. Andrea is responsible for the planning and construction of projects to make river recreation safer and easier at new and rehabilitated trail-heads and portages. The Huron River Water Trail is a project of RiverUp!, the initiative to make the Huron River a new “Main Street” for the river towns where residents and tourists recreate, live, commute, do business, and treasure their riverfronts.

Andrea is a respected figure in landscape architecture and natural resource conservation throughout Michigan with extensive experience in the Southeastern part of the state. In addition to senior positions with The Nature Conservancy-Michigan Chapter, ECT, Inc., and Merit Network, Inc., Andrea has volunteered her time with The Stewardship Network and the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, serving as a founding member of both groups. Andrea works with RiverUp! Manager Elizabeth Riggs and Trail Towns Coordinator Anita Twardesky to implement priority projects of RiverUp! from Milford to Lake Erie.

The Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the river’s natural environment, its history, and the communities it touches in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The Huron River Water Trail is a consortium of interested groups and communities, and is a project of the Huron River Watershed Council and RiverUp!.

Investment in Trails Promises Big Payoff

Huron River Watershed CouncilMichigan’s reputation as the #1 Trails State, and Water Trail development, have the potential to grow significantly with increased funding and broader programming through proposed updates to the Michigan Trailways Act.

I have been following these proposed updates of the state’s valuable Trailways Act to a broader statewide network of multi-use trails, including water trails. In March, I testified before the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee in support of the bills package citing the benefits to the Huron River communities located along the Huron River Water Trail. You can read my testimony here.

The updates to the Michigan Trailways Act enjoy broad support from trail users and organizations around the state. However, the $2.5 million appropriations for trails is in jeopardy. The House of Representatives version of the budget removed nearly $11 million from this bill, including the trails funds, from the Executive and Senate versions of the DNR budget for FY 2015. The Conference Committee needs to reconcile the differences. Now is the time to contact the Conference Committee legislators by phone or email to urge restoration of these dollars into the budget. The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance has compiled the contact information and sample comments.

I will share updates and a final outcome here as they become available. 

NOW AVAILABLE: SOHC 2014 Presentations

The State of the Huron Conference 2014 is now history, but you can re-live the excitement by checking out the presentations from the day’s speakers.

Look for a summary of the Conference in the Summer 2014 Huron River Report available June 1st.

Widget SOHC 2014

2014 State of the Huron Conference is this Thursday! Register now!

We are putting together a fantastic conference for you and couldn’t be more excited for the 2014 State of the Huron Conference!

Learn about the focus of the April 24th event including keynote speakers, conference theme, and registration details at www.hrwc.org/sohc2014.

Join us for the only conference dedicated solely to the Huron River where community leaders, planners, scientists, educators, engineers, residents, and business owners engage in a conversation and celebration of this irreplaceable river.

Amy and Dave Freeman will share their enthusiasm for river adventure. credit: D. Freeman

 

Study asks: Is there an easier way to locate at-risk septic systems?

Huron River Watershed Council failing septics MDEQ research

Collapse of a residential septic system tank

Septic systems are essential to rural living.

Communities have standards for their design, construction, and, increasingly, maintenance. Yet, even with those standards, septic systems can fail. When a septic system fails, the polluted water it releases can pose a human health risk, an expensive repair and a water quality problem for groundwater, streams and lakes.

Over the past three years, HRWC led a team of researchers and public health managers in pursuit of a new approach to detect failed septic systems that may reduce pollutants entering the Huron River in Michigan and yield a cost-effective approach for county health departments to monitor and rectify problem septic systems. Pollutants from failing septic systems — pathogens and phosphorus — play a role in the health of the Huron River and its tributary streams located in rural areas.

In fact, one of the more perplexing questions about water pollution in this river has been “how much of a problem are failing septics?”

The overall project goals were to 1) reduce the quantity of phosphorus and bacteria entering the middle Huron River, and 2) develop a cost‐effective approach for monitoring and rectifying problems with septic systems for County Health Departments.

Learn more about the study design and our findings.

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