Fenton may be known for its lakes, but local organizers are hoping to transform a less crowded body of water—the Shiawassee River—into a paddling destination.
This year, the river will see new signage and kayak launches as well as an expanded schedule of events offering area residents even more ways to enjoy this local resource.
“Our goal is to provide paddle/recreational opportunities as well as the economic vitality of businesses along the river,” said Sue Julian, president of Headwaters Trails, Inc., the local non-profit organization responsible for establishing a paddling trail along the Shiawassee (from Holly to Fenton) and organizing annual river events.
Keepers of the Shiawassee is a group of volunteers that grew out of the efforts of Headwaters Trails to develop and promote the river. The Keepers have organized cleanups and secured grants for installation of signage and canoe/kayak launches.
A new interpretive sign was placed in Bush Park this April. The sign was illustrated by Gayle Vandercook and made possible through a generous grant from the Fenton Community Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and contributions from the Bush Park Committee of Fenton Rotary. The grant was awarded to University Outreach at the University of Michigan—Flint to create signage, a brochure and develop a canoe launch.
“We are pleased to be working Fenton Rotary and the Fenton community,” said Sara McDonnell, program coordinator at UM-Flint. “The enthusiasm and support that the Bush Park Committee of Fenton Rotary has lent to the Shiawassee River has taken the project to the next level.”
“These artistic signs are a beautiful way to not only celebrate the Shiawassee River but also our local history,” said Margaret Yerman, a key organizer of Keepers of the Shiawassee.
Mile markers will be added along the river in May.
Launches in Bush Park
Through a $3,500 grant from REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) and additional funds from the Fenton Rotary Club, two new launches will be installed in this spring. One will be upstream and the other will be an eighth of a mile downstream.
“We hope to celebrate the completion of these launches on May 22, weather and construction permitting,” said Julian. “We’ll need lots of help on May 21 to get them built.”
The launches will provide a safe, educational area where beginning paddlers, including families with children, can practice their canoe or kayak skills from one launch to the other near the park’s parking, restrooms, playscape and picnic areas. Southern Lakes Parks and Recreation will offer classes for children and adults using this stretch.
For more information about assisting with the launch construction at Bush Park, call Sue Julian at (248) 634-3513.
Kayak/Paddle Board Demo
On May 14, the Keepers of the Shiawassee have invited Brighton’s Summit Sports to host a kayak/paddle board demo. Participants will have the opportunity to test the kayaks and paddle boards and pick up a few tricks and techniques.
“Buying a kayak isn’t as easy as you’d think,” said Yerman. “In some ways it can be more complicated than buying a car! You need to consider a kayak’s weight limits, stability and movement in the water. This is a good way to see what is best for you.
“Paddle boards have recently started becoming more popular. You stand on these and use a paddle to go downriver.”
To sign up for the demo, contact Margaret Yerman at (810) 735-9570.
This year’s annual Shiawassee River Race/Pleasure Paddle will be held on June 5. The 7-mile canoe/kayak race begins at Water Works Park in Holly and finishes at Strom Park in Fenton. Participants can choose to compete against other racers along this route or leisurely paddle at their own pace. Canoes are available onsite for rental through Heavners Livery.
For registration information, map of the route, race categories and start times, see http://shiawassee-river.blogspot.com/2011/03/2011-shiawassee-river-race-and-pleasure.html.
To prepare this stretch of river for the race, Headwaters Trails is organizing a clean up for May 15 from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. beginning at the Waterworks Park in Holly. Bring canoes, cold water work gear, gloves, boots and a chainsaw (if possible).
“We’ll need lots of help clearing out the winter debris,” said Julian.
Headwaters Trails is organizing a Dash & Splash biathlon on June 26. Racers will begin at the Academy Road Bridge and run three kilometers to Waterworks Park where they’ll jump on their kayaks or canoes and paddle back to the start.
“The morning of the race, we’re providing a free, learning experience for teens with limited-health risks by opening the course to them to try out,” said Julian. “This is possible through a grant we received from the Brooksie Way. It’s a great way to get young people outdoors and moving!”
In addition to the two races, several pleasure paddles will be held throughout the spring and summer seasons:
- May 16: Full Moon Paddle (Linden’s Mill Pond)
- June 13: Full Moon Paddle (Linden to a local restaurant)
- July 18: Full Moon Paddle (Linden to a local restaurant)
For times and specific locations, visit Keepers of the Shiawassee.
To rent a kayak or canoe, contact Linden’s Fairbanks Canoes & Kayaks at (810) 287-9618.