More to explore: Community paddles aim to get more people on the water

Enjoy navigating the blueway trails via kayak during upcoming community paddles.
With summer weather finally on its way, many residents and visitors to the St. Clair County area are looking for ways to enjoy a plethora of outdoor recreation activities and events.

One group hoping to bring more awareness to the natural habitats and water trails in the area is the Blueways of St. Clair, Explore the St. Clair County area from different communities during planned paddles this spring.comprised of members of the St. Clair County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) and the St. Clair County Parks and
Recreation Commission (PARC).

With grants from the Michigan Coastal Management Program, the group will bolster and protect the environments surrounding the water trail systems along the St. Clair River corridor.

"Blueways established the first National Water Trail in Michigan," says Lori Eschenberg, a planner with the MPC. "We're a recreation state, and the number one trail state."

Led by historians and naturalists, the Blueways of St. Clair will host six paddling events in five different cities in the county, starting at the end of May and continuing into June.

The events will revisit Trail Towns, a project from a 2014 MCMP grant that brought communities together to make destinations along water trails safe and desirable to tourists.

"The Trail Towns grant involved 10 different communities from Algonac to Port Austin," says Eschenberg. "Groups in each community were tying events to their trails, to make it more welcoming, whether that meant better restrooms, accepting credit cards—just to be more welcoming for recreation.”

Check out the view from the water in a kayak.Eschenberg also makes sure to mention that there are eight handicap accessible kayak launches in the area, the most of Michigan's 83 counties.

"St. Clair County Parks and Recreation will buy one for any community for free, that promises to maintain them," she says. "These launches are between $25,000 and $30,000 each."

Grant funds will pay a consultant to draft a masterplan for projects related to the trails for the next several years, and which could include sprucing up and adding water access points, purchasing handicap launches—whatever is best.

"We want to have these paddling and bike events to bring people to the community,"  says Eschenberg. "There are a lot of events already—the Fishfly Festival, Pickerell Festival, Blue Water Festival—we want to add recreational events that highlight our water trails, and to make the entire population stay."

For a $10 fee, paddlers will meet at certain kayak launch points and paddle up and around areas such as the Black River, St. Kayaking is a great way to explore waterways.Clair River, and the Pine River.

Afterward, paddlers will meet at a designated area restaurant for dinner and drinks.

There are 33 spots available at each event. It is recommended to bring a hat, sunscreen, and non-alcoholic beverages.


Participants must wear a life preserver, and children from 6-17 must be accompanied by adults or guardians.

For the schedule and more information, visit http://www.bluewaysofstclair.org/.

"Paddling is a great activity for the family, for your friends, it gets you outside and exercising, and anyone can paddle," says Eschenberg. "It's easy, and you can enjoy the natural resources of where you live."
 
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