FLINT TWP. — The Flint River has gained national notoriety for its role in the Flint water contamination crisis but there is a movement underway to boost the image of the 78.3-mile-long waterway that flows through Lapeer, Genesee and Saginaw counties.
The Flint River Water Trail (FRWT), National Water Trail Designation Planning Project is seeking a National Water Trail Designation for the river that would promote and protect the river. Spearheaded by the Flint River Watershed Coalition, the project aims to foster a positive image of the river as an educational, recreational and tourism resource. It seeks to improve river access sites, forge partnerships and attract grant funding for the long-term conservation of the river.
Water trails are an aquatic version and complement to land trails, said Sondra Severn, project coordinator, who made a presentation to the township board Monday night seeking its support as a Project Partner.
The township’s Riverview Canoe Landing, aka the Mitson Canoe Landing, is one of more than 20 Flint River access sites. It is located south of Flushing Road, via Mitson Boulevard and south of Gray Avenue.
If the Flint River gains the national designation, Mitson would be included in a network of public access points to the river supported by community partnerships.
Lapeer city and county have signed on, as have the city of Flushing, Montrose and Genesee County, Severn said.
The resolution unanimously approved by the Flint Township Board gives it support to a new public/private collaborative, called the Flint River Water Trail Partnership, being formed for a variety of reasons including to:
• Attract more funding for conservation and restoration of non-motorized use of the river
• Improve community awareness of the recreational and environmental value of a healthy river
• Encourage development of canoe/ kayak launches at new facilities along the river
The resolution also stated that the partnership does not obligate the township financially or otherwise beyond its current management of the Mitson site.
Some advantages to the partnership include better competitiveness to attract grants, if the national designation is achieved.
For example the township board, if so desired, could seek funding to add a textured walking path to the muddy Mitson launch, or perhaps add lighting, a shelter or a portable restroom. “It makes it more attractive to funders to have us working together,’” Severn said.
The national designation will be sought through the United States Department of the Interior.
There are 22 designated water trails in the United States and about two in Michigan including The Island Loop Route National Water Trail of St. Clair County, which became the first one in Michigan in 2014.
More information about national designations is available online at www.nps. gov/nts/NWTSbrochure.pdf To learn more about the Flint River Project, visit online at flintriver.org/blog/?s=water+trail
The website includes links to an interactive map designed to guide users along the river. It shows access points offering advice including the best launch sites for beginners and those for advanced users, Severn said.
She added that it is possible to paddle the Flint River from Lapeer through Genesee County and ending at the Shiawassee Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County.
Water sports is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the nation, according to Doug Schultz, water coalition board chairman, who joined Severn in the project presentation. From an economic development stand point it has surpassed soccer in terms of the number of participants, he said.
The Flint River Project aims to improve community ties and build on an asset the community already has to maximize tourism, he said.
Severn added that the coalition is seeing heightened interest in its paddling program in which participation has doubled over the past two years. She expects to see that participation continue to grow.