Posts Tagged ‘University of Michigan’

New Way to Stash Your Boat on the Huron River

New boat locker in Ann Arbor (2017)

New boat locker in Ann Arbor (June 2017)

A unique amenity for users of the Huron River National Water Trail (HRWT) has arrived! Canoe and kayak lockers that secure personal boats, paddles, and life jackets at Bandemer Park.

This prototype, designed and manufactured in Ann Arbor, can accommodate a majority of canoe and kayak sizes as well as stand-up paddleboards. The lockers have six compartments that can fit up to two boats each depending on boat sizes. Each locker is modular so more lockers can be added as demand grows.

By giving paddlers a chance to secure their boats, the lockers offer recreationists entré to the shops and restaurants in the HRWT’s Trail Towns. Ann Arbor, which is one of the Trail Towns, was called a “(Next) Best Paddling Town” by Canoe & Kayak Magazine so it seems fitting that it is the first one to offer this key amenity.

The City of Ann Arbor accepted the lockers as a donation from the Huron River Watershed Council, and its Parks & Recreation Department will manage the lockers beginning this season. The lockers provide a convenient option for residents looking to enjoy paddlesports on the Huron River.

Creating the Lockers
Each of the six compartments can fit up to two kayaks, paddleboards, or canoes

Each of the six compartments can fit up to two kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards.

In 2014, I approached Jen Maigret of the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Michigan to see if her studio would design canoe and kayak lockers. We had to charter new territory in the field of paddlesport recreation to offer the Trail Towns functional lockers with a design aesthetic appropriate to prized waterfront public spaces.

Jen and her design partner Maria Arquero de Alarcon were a perfect fit for this project because they had already shaped their design studio –MAde Studio – to explore new ways of connecting people with water through design. They enthusiastically took up the challenge. Then followed many months (years, really) of meeting with local parks and recreation professionals, paddlesport aficionados, and fabricators to find a practical, yet appealing design worthy of a riverfront view.

Jen describes their process: “We approached the design of the lockers with two goals in mind. First, the lockers should contribute to a “regional” identity for the Huron River watershed and the significant designation as a National Water Trail. Second, the lockers should also allow for a unique expression of each of the 5 water trail towns to enhance the sense of place in each location.”

Hosford & Co. fabricated the lockers at its location just a few steps away from the Huron River. In May, their crew delivered the first lockers to Ann Arbor’s Bandemer Park.boat-locker-signage

As a Trail Town on the 104-mile Huron River National Water Trail, the City of Ann Arbor offers scenic riverside parks, exciting cascades and placid stillwater trips for trail users. The new lockers are a key amenity that offer safe and sturdy storage for residents with their own boats looking for on-the-water access. HRWC, through the private-public partnership called RiverUp!, is pleased to donate the prototype storage solution for the HRWT Trail Towns with a vision of more lockers from Milford to Dexter, and Ypsilanti to Flat Rock. These other lockers may operate with a different rental option by providing hourly and daily storage options. Plans are currently underway with the other Trail Towns to host and maintain the lockers.bandameer

Would you like to see lockers in more places on the Huron River? Contributions to HRWC’s RiverUp! initiative are needed to provide day-use lockers in other riverfront communities.

What Does Adapting to Climate Change Look Like in Cities?


Touring in style, UM students learn about climate adaptation.

On a dreary Halloween morning a group of 20 intrepid University of Michigan students, boarded a trolly for a whirlwind tour of locations in Ann Arbor that show how one city is preparing for a changing climate. Guided by myself and two colleagues from the City of Ann Arbor, Jen Lawson and Jamie Kidwell, the group heard stories and learned of strategies for protecting homes from flooding, trees from dying, and residents from suffering from heat and cold related health issues and high energy costs.


Jen Lawson talks about stormwater in West Park

As a society we still need to do everything in our power to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling global climate change. At the same time, we are already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate which are certain to continue into the future even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow.

In the Huron River Watershed, arguably the most potentially damaging trends we are seeing in our weather patterns are larger rainfall events and more frequent and longer high heat events. Larger storm events cause flooding and overburden or damage important infrastructure (stormwater systems, dams, water utilities, roads, homes and businesses). Consecutive high heat days are a significant threat to human health and can cause droughts and brownouts. Actions that reduce the impact of these changes can be considered climate adaptation actions, or actions that build resilience to climate change.

Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County have started making investments now that help prepare for these changes. A few examples:

  • The City has conducted a detailed analysis predicting where flooding is likely to occur which is helping prioritize stormwater management decisions like where pipes need replacing and where green infrastructure (like rain gardens) can help
  • Washtenaw County has recently adopted new rules requiring additional infiltration and detention of rain water for new and re-developments protecting our river from erosion, pollution and risk of damaging floods
  • Ann Arbor’s Green Rental program is helping improve energy efficiency in low income areas making staying cool or warm during extremes more affordable
  • The Urban Forestry and Community Forest Management Plan identifies areas that are in need of shade trees to provide cooling and recommends species likely to survive more climate extremes

The City of Ann Arbor has recently released a series of climate videos that share more about why this work is a priority and what is being done. Here is the one on extreme storms:

Check out all four videos at

The students learned a lot about what is going on in their own backyard.  I hope these links help you do the same.  All aboard!


Climate Variability in Action

Winter just can't get a foothold

Here we are in mid-January, and the ground has yet to freeze this winter and the snowfall measures a scant few inches. This week’s forecast continues the pattern of the past several weeks with a few days below freezing interspersed with 40+ degree F days. It seems the comments that I hear from others fall into either the “so pleased not to be shoveling” camp or the “yep, it’s climate change, alright” camp. In my house, these camps are represented along with the increasingly high-pitched “when can we go sledding?!” kids camp.

Is the weather thus far this winter related to changing climate trends? Difficult to say since the difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time. We’re not the only ones wondering. Our friends at River Network also blogged recently about the weather weirdness with an eye on the western states.

For some perspective, we have the benefit of working with the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) Center, the NOAA-funded collaboration between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. At the December kickoff of HRWC’s year-long project to assess climate adaptation needs for key sectors in the watershed, I invited Dr. Jeff Andresen, state climatologist and GLISA faculty, to share his insights on climate trends in Michigan.

While I suggest you spend some time on the GLISA website for the context and explanation of the data, here’s a summary of Jeff’s main points (emphases mine):

  • Overall, mean average temperatures in Michigan rose approximately 1.0ºF during the past century. Warming of about 2.0ºF has occurred between 1980 and the present, much of it concentrated during the winter season and at night
  • Milder winter temperatures have led to less ice cover on the Great Lakes and the seasonal spring warm-up is occurring earlier than in the past
  • Annual precipitation rates increased from the 1930s through the 1990s but have leveled off recently
  • Most recent Global Circulation Model simulations of the Great Lakes region suggest a warmer and wetter climate in the distant future, with much of the additional precipitation coming during the cold season months
  • Projections of future climate change in Michigan suggest a mix of beneficial and adverse impacts
  • A changing climate leads to many potential challenges for dependent human and natural systems, especially with respect to climate variability

In the coming months, we will engage our partners in watershed communities involved in infrastructure, in-stream flows, and natural resources decisions to discuss what type of climate resources they need most to incorporate climate adaptation into decision making.

The Start of Something Big

In the summer, HRWC will launch a new project called RiverUp! with the Wolfpack, an action-oriented group of conservation-minded leaders who operate together under the auspices of the National Wildlife Federation and Michigan League of Conservation Voters. RiverUp! is nothing short of a renaissance for the Huron River that encompasses three broad objectives —

  • Invest in Recreation on the Huron
  • Improve the Ecological Health of the Huron
  • Turn our Riverfront Communities toward the Huron
  • You’ll learn more about this ambitious project in the coming months. We have a long list of projects that need to happen in order to make paddling the 100 miles of the Huron River an awesome experience (learn about the Huron River Water Trail). But we began small this past weekend with opening up the portage trail at the Superior dam in Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti.

    Our friends at Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, Alpha Phi Chapter (University of Michigan), helped us kick off RiverUp! by volunteering their afternoon to improve the neglected portage trail at Superior dam. The students used loppers and handsaws to clean out overgrown branches and remove small stumps; raked the trail; marked the edges of the trail with logs found onsite; and removed litter. Their youthful enthusiasm powered them through the afternoon until the job was complete.

    The work day was Phase I for the Superior dam portage. HRWC and Wolfpack are working on Phase II, which will bring much-needed improvements to the take-out and put-in. To learn more about the efforts at Superior dam portage, the RiverUp! project, or how to become a steward of the Huron River Water Trail, contact HRWC Watershed Planner Elizabeth Riggs.

    Thanks to the City of Ann Arbor Natural Areas Preservation (NAP) program for loaning tools and gloves; St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital for meeting and parking space; and John Carver and Ray Pittman for pitching in.

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