Spending a day by the water in Bay County is about to get a little easier.
This week, during the Faces of Philanthropy event, the Bay Area Community Foundation (BACF) announced grant awards for three Bay County projects that will make a lasting impression on the community by utilizing our unique natural water resources to attract and retain residents and business.
Through the Foundation’s Community Impact Initiative and Healthy Living funds, $300,000 will be awarded to Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, Fraser Township, and Monitor Township.
“Waves lapping at the shore. The sound of a fishing line as it plops into the water. Summer days at the beach and strolling along the riverbank. These all evoke a sense of well-being and create a strong and enduring connection to place,” said Bay Area Community Foundation President & CEO Diane Fong.
“Communities with a strong sense of place prosper. They attract workplace talent and business. We want to help harness the potential of these natural resources that Bay County is so lucky to have.”
The three projects detailed below will improve access to Bay County’s waterfront, open up recreational opportunities, and use natural resources in smart and sustainable ways, Fong said. The Community Foundation details the projects in a YouTube video.
The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy (SBLC) received $100,000 for its Riverbend West restoration project. The project will open up visual access to the only undeveloped, natural piece of property along the Saginaw River in Bay City.
The SBLC plans to remove invasive plants, reintroduce native species, and construct a new universally-accessible trail to allow residents and visitors to discover the natural history of Michigan and take in the beautiful river scenery, said SBLC Executive Director Zachary Branigan.
According to a podcast on SBLC website, the Riverbend West project is eight acres of land on the West Side of Bay City. About an acre of the land is open water and another three acres are wetlands. It’s located on the west side of the Saginaw River, just north of Liberty Bridge and the iron railroad bridge. Many people refer to it as the Dwan Property as the city purchased it from the Dwan family about 20 years ago. The city is adjacent to the Bay County Riverwalk and Railtrail System.
Branigan said the site is unique in that it’s never been developed. Still, before any work begins, the SBLC will evaluate for contamination. Once that is done, and any necessary remediation is completed, planting and trail building can begin. The trail planned for the site is made from recycled tires. It is designed to allow universal access to the site without inhibiting water from percolating through the ground and pathway.
“It’s literally the last undeveloped site on the Saginaw River in Bay County. It has conservation characteristics that make it amazing,” Branigan said.
Linwood Scenic Point will grow to include a picnic area as well as a portable fishing dockLinwood Scenic Point
The end of Linwood Road in Fraser Township, called Linwood Scenic Point, provides the only free access to the Saginaw Bay in that community.
The township’s project will transform what is now essentially a parking lot into a destination with added green spaces for families to enjoy the shoreline, picnic, fish, and launch kayaks and canoes. Added amenities will include a portable fishing dock and ADA-accessible kayak launch.
Fraser Township Supervisor Mark Galus said efforts to improve the property go back to at least 1994. At that time, Fraser Township, Kawkawlin Township, and Linwood Civic Improvement leaders proposed creating a space for people to fish off the shore. In 1995, they tore down a house and built a parking lot for Phase 1 of the project. A year later in Phase 2, they put in a small boat launch.
“After that, we were going to put in a pier so people could walk out and fish, but Phase 3 was never completed,” Galus said.
With the $120,000 Community Foundation grant and a $27,000 Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (Saginaw Bay WIN) grant, Galus hopes to expand outdoor recreation opportunities in his community.
“I grew up fishing off the bank of Nayanquing Point. We just wanted to find a place for people to bring their kids or grandkids to fish,” Galus said.
Now that the grants are in place, Galus expects to pull together representatives from Kawkawlin Township and Linwood Civic Improvement to help Fraser Township finalize plans for the space. He hopes to add a 50-feet-long roll-out pier as well as a green space with picnic tables.
The pier will allow people to finish in the spring, summer, and fall. Crews will remove it in the winter to allow access for ice fishing. The picnic tables should encourage people to sit and enjoy the view. “A lot of people go out there and eat their lunch, but they sit in their cars,” Galus said.
In Monitor Township, the Bay Area Community Foundation money will improve the Herbert W. Steih Memorial Park near the Kawkawlin RiverHerbert W. Steih Memorial Park
In Monitor Township, the Herbert W. Steih Memorial Park provides access to the Kawkawlin River for kayakers, canoers, snowmobilers, and fishers. The effects of Mother Nature, along with the park’s continuous use, require steps be taken to preserve the space. This project will stabilize the riverbank, preserving the natural resources for future generations to enjoy in addition to adding an expansion of park amenities.
Monitor Township Supervisor Ken Malkin said the $75,000 Community Foundation grant is one piece of the first phase of plans to improve the park. Recently, the township used a Saginaw Bay WIN grant to commission a conceptual plan for park improvements. That plan calls for $200,000 worth of work including soil erosion control, improving the kayak launch, and adding fishing access points.“More long term, we hope to upgrade our parking lot and perhaps add picnic tables, barbecue grills, and maybe a pavilion or gazebo,” Malkin said. “We’ll need other funders for that. We’re applying for other grants.”