2009-11-01 / Front Page

Celebrating river revitalization

Dedication ceremony today

CHESANING – From her office in the Chesaning Public Library, Erin Schmandt has the perfect view of the rock rapids that were constructed in the Shiawassee River next to Cole Park last summer.

After witnessing the large crowds that gathered to watch the $1.7 million project take shape - and those who continue to visit the area - Schmandt sees more than a revitalized waterway when she looks out her window.

“It’s clear that this is a huge point of pride for everyone, as it should be,” she said. “The project generated a lot of excitement and interest – it’s such a positive move for the community.”

Shiawassee River Restoration Committee members and village leaders plan to recognize that community support and enthusiasm with a special river dedication ceremony from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1.

“We’re so thankful for the support that we’ve received at every level – from Senator Roger Kahn directing us to the DNR grant, to the people who donated rocks and made pledges,” said committee member Denise Ebenhoeh. “This project truly was a group effort, and it turned out beautifully. It’s so exciting to see people enjoying the river and everything it has to offer.”

The river improvement project, completed in September, included the removal of the community’s deteriorated dam and the construction of a 300- foot-long rock ramp just north of the M-57 Bridge over the Shiawassee River.

The project restores fish passage, creates a natural river habitat, and eliminates the long-term liabilities associated with a failing dam. Man-made rapids in the form of a rock ramp with boulder arch weirs have reestablished the river’s historic connection with the Saginaw River and Lake Huron by opening an estimated 37 miles of upriver habitat. The removal of the dam also provides an opportunity for several species of nonjumping fish to safely move up or downstream.

Organizers say the benefits of the river restoration aren’t limited to water enthusiasts and wildlife. The site has become not only a popular village attraction, but a symbol of re-energized community spirit and pride.

“When our committee met this week we talked about disbanding, but we feel like our work isn’t done yet,” said Ebenhoeh. “We’re going to keep our eye on enhancement projects and other ways that we can build on what we’ve accomplished. We hope the river project inspires people in our community to do the same.”

A $900,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Quality's Clean Michigan Initiative was critical to the project’s completion. Community fundraising efforts generated more than $96,000 in donations from businesses, community groups and private individuals, and 1,500 yards of rocks were donated by area residents and farmers.

Other organizations that partnered with the DEQ and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include the Village of Chesaning, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Saginaw Community Foundation, and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network.

The project was designed and managed by Detroitbased engineering consulting firm Wade Trim. Pete's Contracting was the project contractor.

During the November 1 celebration, committee members will share a brief overview of the project and its history and thank supporters, including State Senator Roger Kahn, donors, the Chesaning Chamber of Commerce, funding agencies, Wade Trim, Pete’s Contracting and other key partners. They will also discuss how the public can be involved in maintaining and enhancing the project through volunteer projects and donations.

Posters charting the project’s progress will also be displayed, and pledge forms will be available. Donations will be used to help cover the local commitment portion of the project’s total cost.

Following the presentations, a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on the west side of the river at the end of Pine Street.

Free appetizers, pizza and beverages will be served at the Riverfront Grille after the ribbon-cutting, thanks to funding from Damion Frasier/Shedd, Frasier and Grossman, PLLC, Pete’s Contracting and Wade Trim.

River Restoration Committee members are Denise Ebenhoeh, Tom Meder, David Duey, Robert Corrin, Michael Maier, Marlene Schultz, Neil Pullman, and Robert Bloom.

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