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September 18, 2013

Public invited to share ideas for water trails

By Sarah Wojcik
C & G Staff Writer

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The Clinton River, as pictured flowing through Sterling Heights in July, will be part of an extensive water trail for paddlers, along with portions of Lake St. Clair, thanks to $82,000 in grant money.

UTICA — The Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC) wants to hear residents’ input to help with the new master plan for water trails along the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair.

The CRWC is hosting an open house at the Utica Public Library from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 18 to gather ideas from residents about two water trails that will be constructed, thanks to a grant.

Executive Director Anne Vaara said the federal Coastal Zone Management program awarded half the total amount on July 1, 2013, and it will be available for a year. Several agencies and volunteer donations supplied a match for the $41,000, so a total of $82,000 will fund the water trails.

Water trails are paddling routes along a river or coastline.

The two water trails are slated to run from the Clinton River’s headwaters in Oakland County to its mouth in Harrison Township and along the coast of Lake St. Clair from St. Clair Shores to Anchor Bay.

The project will be developed in conjunction with the Land Information Access Association of Traverse City and will partner with municipalities all along the water routes.

Vaara said the water trails are part of a CRWC project called Water Towns, which celebrates the use of water from community to community, using their own resources and trying to find ways to explore their value as it relates to the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair.

At the open house, the public will be able to view maps, inventory data and share their thoughts  pertaining to the improvement of paddling amenities along local waterways.

The CRWC is interested in identifying opportunities and challenges with the help of the public to make the new water trails a premier regional paddling destination.

“We want to hear from people that use the trails now, as well as from the ones that don’t use them and why — what it would take for them to use the trails, so we can enhance them and make them more user-friendly,” Vaara said.

Nina Ignaczak, the CRWC’s event planner, said she is also hoping to get input from elected officials about safety issues and amenities they feel would make the water trails a better experience.

The water trails will be marked with signs with both directional and safety information so paddlers will know where they are along the 81 1/2 miles of Clinton River and Lake St. Clair coastline, Vaara said. She added that the CRWC would try to knot all of the water and land trails for a maximized user experience.

“(Municipalities) love it and (received the project) very positively,” she said. “It’s fun and welcoming, and people are really interested in the subject matter.”

Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood said he thinks the water trails are a fabulous idea, going through Shelby Township and Utica, and that the CRWC is doing a nice job of unifying the Clinton River.

Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said she is 100 percent behind the initiative and also appreciates the backing that the CRWC has supplied for the joint trail projects that Shelby and Utica are working toward.

The Utica Public Library, a central location along the Clinton River watershed, is located at 7530 Auburn Road in Utica. To RSVP, email nina@crwc.org.

For more information about upcoming CRWC events and water safety awareness, visit www.crwc.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at swojcik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.