Each year, HRWC is honored to recognize a few special stewards for their outstanding service to the Huron River watershed. We are inspired by and appreciate their efforts in watershed restoration and protection

Please join us to celebrate the many achievements of these river stewards at our Community Open House and River Givers Gathering at HRWC’s Headquarters for the Huron in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, March 6, at 5:30pm.

Hall of Fame • Alan Heavner

Alan Heavner by Colleen Robar
Alan Heavner at the Huron River in the Proud Lake State Recreation Area. Photo by C. Robar.

Alan’s mom Stella Heavner started Heavner Canoe & Kayak Rental, at Proud Lake State Recreation Area in Milford in 1953. Alan grew up hiking in the woods and canoeing on the Huron River, working in the family business until 1969when he took the helm. What drives Alan is his commitment to the principle of “no child left inside.” He is passionate about getting people of all ages outside to experience nature and has played a significant role in making it possible for many to paddle the Huron River. Under Alan’s leadership, Heavner Canoe was one of the first outfitters to offer Huron River trips to school groups, partnering with the Metroparks, HRWC and others to incorporate river ecology lessons and team-building activities into student outings. Heavner has made affordable, safe, pop-up paddling for community organizations and events a priority. Alan’s nephew Bruce and his family have stepped in to transition the business to the next generation of Heavners, carrying on the tradition that started with Stella.

Volunteer of the Year • Kay Stremler

Kay Stremler by Ron Sell
Kay Stremler at the North Channel (the body of water along the north shore of Lake Huron). Photo by R. Sell.

A proud “science geek” growing up in Michigan, Kay became a biological chemist, researching biotechnology medications for cardiovascular and immune system diseases. She connects to the Huron River every day, paddling or walking along it at her riverside home. Kay has volunteered with HRWC’s River Round Up, Stonefly Search, Chemistry and Flow Monitoring, and Change Makers programs. Inspired by what she learned at the Change Makers Boot Camp, Kay joined Webster Township’s Planning Commission and became the Township’s HRWC board representative. As a planning commissioner, Kay has shepherded a multitude of ordinance and master plan improvements. Not satisfied with that, she spearheaded the formation of the Webster Township Natural Features Committee, which will build upon Webster’s efforts to protect Arms Creek. “For more than half of my life, I lived in cities where water came out of the tap and went into the pipes. Moving to a more rural area in 2006 was an eye-opening experience for me! And in every year that passes, I understand more about the interconnectedness of woods, wetlands, natural areas and waterways in supporting the rural character of our community.”

Big Splash • Washtenaw County Rain Garden Program

Washtenaw County Rain Garden Program
Rain Garden Program Coordinator Susan Bryan (center) with a group of Master Rain Gardeners. Photo by Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office

This year, in a first for HRWC, we recognize an entire program for the positive impact it has had on the river and its people. The Rain Garden Program at the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office started in 2005 with a grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Harry Sheehan worked with a few interested homeowners to design and build the first residential rain gardens in the county. Susan Bryan began coordinating the program in 2010 and along with Catie Wytychak who joined in 2013 grew it into what it is today. The program has taught and supported residents in planning, designing and constructing over 2,000 rain gardens, which capture and treat the rain that runs off their roofs and driveways. Beyond the county, Susan teaches others how to start their own rain garden programs. Thus far, 16 new ones have started in Great Lakes states and provinces. And the county program plays a big role in a regional collaboration called the Rain Catchers Collective. “I love that the program has grown into a coalition across Southeast Michigan now,” Susan says. “It is so rewarding to see what people are doing in their own yards.”